‘What I love is, when I am on the phone to callers, it’s not about me, it’s all about them. I’ve learnt the ability to truly listen and not speak about myself’.
Volunteers Week, just celebrated, was a timely reminder of Samaritans’ increasing importance during these post-lockdown times.
The annual event, that concluded on June 7, was a wonderful way to thank and celebrate the contribution of the nation’s volunteer force for sterling work undertook by these unsung heroes of the community.
It is their dedication that keeps a public service spirit thriving, no matter what.
Samaritans is a charity that really appreciates the amazing work that volunteers do.
How many volunteers are there?
The charity relies on a network of 22,000 amazing people who give their time for free 24/7 to ensure the service is there for anyone who is struggling with life’s ups and downs.
Their selfless contribution is inspirational.
One such Samaritans hero is Rich Holliday, aged 46. He says he volunteers because it can feel like you’re helping out.
“What I love about Samaritans when I am on the phone to callers is, it’s not about me, it’s all about them.
I’ve learnt the ability to truly listen and not wait to speak about yourself.”
He added: “I can now listen without any pre-judgement at all.
“I decided to sign up to become a Samaritans listening volunteer.
“I completed the training in September 2019 and then began taking calls.
“I was helping callers throughout the pandemic from the Huddersfield branch.
“I’m now the deputy director of the branch there.
“I’ve been able to get out of the house and do something other than my day job in the rail industry.
“I feel like Samaritans were one of the emergency services throughout the pandemic, and it’s been an honour to be there for people.”
Proud to be a volunteer
He further added: “I’ve made some really good relationships with people thanks to my volunteering too.
“My current shift partner and I are from very different backgrounds, but we get on really well and I love finding out about each other’s views and perspectives when we’re chatting between calls.
“In January 2022, I was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list after being nominated by my employer, TransPennine Express.
“It was a brilliant way to start the new year and be recognised in that way.
“As well as my voluntary work for Samaritans, I received the award as recognition for my contribution to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
“I’ve even been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate.
“Another big inspiration for me to sign up to volunteer, is the fact that I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.
“I’ve had it for a number of years, but was only diagnosed around seven years ago – when it became a bigger problem and affected my life.
“I was over-thinking and excessively worrying.
“It is a pain to deal with, but I do manage it very well now – through medication, lots of exercise, a good work/life balance and talking openly about it and not hiding it.”
All kinds of help given
Answering calls for help is not the only way to help support local Samaritans’ branches as Sandeep Saib, aged 33, from Ilford knows.
She signed up to be a Support Volunteer during the pandemic and she says it’s a great way to put her skills and expertise to good use for a great cause.
She said: “I work full time so being a Support Volunteer is so flexible and works around my work and personal commitments.
“I find that while I am helping the charity, I’m gaining skills too by learning from others.
“I have a few projects I manage, from looking after the branch Twitter account to building up a database of contacts for outreach work.
“Support Volunteers are the crucial backbone for the branch and make sure everything ticks along nicely.”For some, volunteering is just one way they support Samaritans.
Running along the right track to help
Self-confessed “sub-standard” runner Rashi Wright not only volunteers at the Chilterns branch by taking calls but she also decided to take on 12 marathons in 12 months to fundraise.
Starting her challenge last October, after a few false COVID-related starts, Rashi laced up her trainers in Manchester.
She then headed for a hilly marathon in Dorset, which she describes as “scary”.
Since then, she has been to Liverpool and she has also been to Reading on her runs, with other marathons also run in between those two monumental runs.
Rashi sadly lost her dad to suicide so that by making sure there are funds to run the service for anyone who needs support is really important to her.
Rashi said: “My dad used to enjoy jogging and I think he would be proud of this challenge.
“My local branch is amazing, it is run by kind hearted volunteers who provide support around the clock to those in emotional distress.
“The Chilterns branch is an incredibly wonderful and an incredibly caring team.
“On average, the Samaritans answers a call for help every ten seconds. Just imagine if they were all life saving calls! Now that is pretty amazing.”
Anyone who wants to donate to Rashi’s incredible challenge can visit the www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rash12in12 website.