The local branch of The Samaritans is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, and though it is now based in Taunton, it started out in Bridgwater.
I asked Bob Cornes, the Director of the Taunton and Somerset branch, to let us know a little more about who the Samaritans are and what they do.
The Samaritans are an important part of the community, providing a service which can not only change people’s lives, but save people’s lives.
The biggest problem that we face is not that so many people are ending their lives, but that these people felt that they had nobody to talk to. There still seems to be some stigma around discussing your feelings, particularly with boys and men, but we need to see this end, as the outcome is a disaster for those who end their own lives, but also for those around them, their friends and family.
This year we are celebrating 50 years of service to the community by Samaritans of Taunton and Somerset. Founded in Bridgwater in 1968, within five years the volunteers had found a permanent home in Wood Street, Taunton.
Everyone has heard of Samaritans, but do you really know who we are and what we do?
WHO WE ARE?
Our branch is run entirely by volunteers. We have no paid staff and we receive no funding from either the government or the local authority. We raise every penny of the £35,000 it costs annually to run the branch ourselves.
There are 100 volunteers in the Taunton Branch. Most are Listening Volunteers. We are ordinary people from all walks of life and we have all been through the same rigorous training course, allowing us to listen to our callers and give emotional support when they are finding life hard.
Our Support Volunteers help to raise the funds we need each year to keep the branch running. They also run events, maintain our terraced house in Wood Street and manage the complex IT systems without which we could not operate.
WHAT WE DO?
Listening Volunteers answer phone calls, texts and emails. We are there for our callers every single day of the year, including Christmas Day. So what do people talk about? Everything really. Relationships, money worries, work pressures, school pressures, mental and physical health issues, bereavement ….. whatever affects them emotionally and makes life tough. We don’t tell callers what to do but we know that allowing someone the opportunity to talk through their worries and problems in a safe environment can, literally, be life-saving.
At some time in our lives we all have to cope with something that stretches us to the limit. And this applies to all ages – so we get calls from children, teenagers, adults – anyone who wants to talk.
Last year we took 35,000 calls and answered 2,000 emails and 2,000 texts
We are open to visitors at 16 Wood Street, Taunton, from 9am to 9pm every day of the year and a fully trained Samaritan meets with anyone who calls in to the branch wanting to talk.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A LISTENING VOLUNTEER?
Our Listening Volunteers on average do one four-hour duty a week. Working in pairs, they support one another and also have another Samaritan as a Leader to call on at all times. So there is always support available to those on duty, enabling them to undertake this demanding role. Being a Samaritan feels very much like being in an extended family. As one of our volunteers said in a recent survey,
‘Being part of Taunton branch continues to not only feel rewarding but very worthwhile, underpinned by terrific leadership and support from everyone.’
Our newest volunteer describes her decision to become a Samaritan,
‘I decided to join Samaritans because I know, from personal experience, how talking to someone and being able to voice your feelings in a safe space can uplift your mood and help you to see things more clearly. I wanted to be able to offer that support to those who feel they have no one else to turn to. I felt so welcomed, and the training I completed was so amazing that I felt very positive and very well prepared. I am so glad that I decided to join Samaritans.’
If you wish to join the Samaritan branch in Taunton, you can come along to one of our Information Evenings which take place at 16 Wood Street at 7pm on the first Thursday of every month. No appointment is needed. For further information call 01823 289456.
Director, Samaritans of Taunton and Somerset