Welwyn Hatfield volunteers talk about working for the Samaritans

PUBLISHED: 09:50 06 February 2019

L-R: Andrew from Cuffley and Tim from near Datchworth are both volunteers for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the Samaritans

L-R: Andrew from Cuffley and Tim from near Datchworth are both volunteers for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the Samaritans

supplied by the Samaritans

Two Samaritans volunteers living in Welwyn Hatfield tell what it is like to be part of the emotional support network for people at their time of greatest need.

Tim from near Datchworth is a volunteer for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the SamaritansTim from near Datchworth is a volunteer for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the Samaritans

Welwyn Hatfield’s nearest branch of the Samaritans, based in Ware, has over 110 people contacting them daily by phone, email, text or in person, all seeking crucial support.

Accountant Tim Somers, who lives near Datchworth, became a Samaritan two years ago.

The father of two said: “I have had real conversations with real people about their innermost fears and feelings and it is an absolute privilege.

“Allowing the callers to have a voice and really listen to them is a real enabling tool for the vulnerable caller.

Andrew from Cuffley is a volunteer for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the SamaritansAndrew from Cuffley is a volunteer for the Samaritans in Ware. Picture: supplied by the Samaritans

“It also teaches you a lot about yourself, your life and your own problems, not least by adding a sense of perspective to things.”

Tragically, his mother took her life when he was young, and a colleague died by suicide aged 31 when Tim thought he “had the world at his feet”.

“My own experiences with suicide brings home to me the value of what we do and the fragility of human life,” said Tim, 55.

“I witness this every day in people I listen to as a volunteer and through those that are close to me.

“Being a Samaritan has enabled me to deal better with my own life.

“It has also really taught me the meaning of empathy, and how to listen and why we need to listen.”

Both Tim and his colleague, volunteer Andrew, spoke of the support the charity gives to its volunteers in response to the demands of the role.

“My fellow volunteers are pretty much without exception lovely, caring people and it is such a supportive organisation,” said Tim. “We obviously support our callers and visitors, but also really support each other.

Andrew, a retired banker from Cuffley, has been a Samaritan for 20 years.

When he first walked through the door, he had no idea what to expect, but thanks to Samaritans training he progressed to become deputy director and even branch director.

He is now a branch visitor, checking in on other branches.

He said: “When I retired early, I knew I had to do something useful, something to keep my brain active, and something to ensure life had meaning.

“I wasn’t entirely sure I knew what Samaritans did. Didn’t they talk to people on the phone about suicide? It has turned out to be so much more.”

He learned more about what’s entailed at a selection day. “What a surprise awaited me,” he said. “Not only did I meet some really pleasant and interesting people, I had the most stimulating day.

“I now understand that Samaritans isn’t for everyone, but quickly realised this was for me, and a few weeks later I started training.”

Twenty years on and Andrew is still proud of what he has contributed - and what he has got back. “I didn’t realise just how much I would get out of volunteering,” he said.

“I didn’t know just how well trained I would be; the Samaritan training alone will change your whole approach to life.

“I found it a safe place to learn where no-one ever judged me if I took a bit longer to get to grips with something.”

While the basic expectation is to do one shift per week, the timing is flexible, he said, and he is able to swap shifts with the 130 other volunteers working there. “I can fit it in around the rest of my life,” he said.

The first step to becoming a Samaritans volunteer is to go to an information session and meet others at the branch.

The next sessions at 1 Cross Street, Ware. are on Thursday, February 7th and Thursday March 25th, both at 7.30pm.

You can just come along, or there is more information here:

www.samaritans.org/branches/herts-and-essex-ware-samaritans/ware-branch-information-sessions

• Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is free to call and will not appear on your phone bill), or you can email jo@samaritans.org

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