For the last 8 years I have been a listening volunteer with the Samaritans at their Hitchin branch, this involves taking calls from people whose lives are troubled in one way or another, troubles both physically and mentally, both of which on the rare occasion have lead to suicide.
The Samaritans are a purely listening service, they never judge or give advice, it is a fact that most Samaritans have experienced a lot of the issues callers talk about and so this provides the experience and the empathy to listen and understand without judgement.
The training for each volunteer listener is stringent, the course lasts for 12 weeks so real commitment is required thereafter the listeners go into the ops room and are supported by a mentor who listens in and advises where necessary if the call is complex and difficult, thereafter another 12 week of training ensues if the trainee is assessed as competent they are allowed to become freelance probationers working without a mentor although You are still considered very much a “probationer” it is not an automatic assumption to succeed. Once the probationer has worked successfully under their own devices a further meeting of “Leaders is held and if they are then still satisfied the candidate becomes a fully fledged Samaritan. However training as in all walks of life is constant and you must commit in order to remain, you can also train in other areas too such as becoming a prison visitor.
I have now decided to stand down as a volunteer listener but It does not mean I will be ending my volunteering, far from it. I might have hung up my listener hat but I have put another hat on in it’s place - I will now be involved with the “ nuts and bolts” side of the organisation as a friend of the Samaritans. This hat will be to raise the profile of the Samaritans and to raise much needed funds. There is a large band of us(including listeners) who spend time at local hospitals, schools, remember it is not just adults who struggle with life-far from it! Each Samaritan branch is responsible for raising it’s own funds, so there is great reliance put on the “Friends” of the branch. Volunteers usually work in pairs rattling tins outside supermarkets on very cold mornings, or on a railway platforms at ungodly hours they go to fetes, town centres you name it they have done it!
To close. I feel very privileged and proud to call myself a Samaritan but more so I am “HUMBLED” I hope just by listening I have given hope and courage to others but if I have only helped just one person I would still be deeply grateful for having made a difference , indeed listening to their problems has helped me understand and deal with my own so much more.
I cannot imagine life without my branch in Hitchin it has brought me so much pleasure, joy and gratitude.