As Patron of the Samaritans for more than twenty years now, I particularly wanted to mark this year’s Volunteers’ Week by sending my warmest possible thanks to all those who dedicate their time to helping others.
The current crisis has made us appreciate the importance of volunteers more than ever. In all walks of life, people have risen to the challenge in the most inspiring way, ensuring that help can be given to those who need it most.
In the Samaritans’ mission of preventing suicide, your incredible network of over 20,000 volunteers is a shining example of all that is best about our voluntary sector - providing a listening service day and night, 365 days a year. Every year, Samaritans volunteers spend more than a million hours responding to calls for help. They do all this in the strictest confidence and they listen always without judgement.
However, Samaritans volunteers are, of course, not only there for the moment of crisis – they also help prevent the crisis in the first place. With 201 branches across the U.K. and Ireland, they are connected with local communities at every level.
During this pandemic, resilience and flexibility have been very much in evidence – while some volunteers have had to step back due to self-isolation, others have stepped up to provide cover and take on more shifts. All this at a time when one in three calls for help to Samaritans are currently about Coronavirus as people find themselves dealing with all kinds of health, employment and relationship issues.
Crucially, Samaritans are also helping to look after those who are looking after us, by launching a new confidential support line for N.H.S. and social care workers, making sure that someone is there to listen to frontline workers if they have had a particularly tough day, if they are feeling worried or overwhelmed and need to talk it through.
Now, more than ever, it is so important that we continue to support each other – so this brings my special gratitude to every Samaritans volunteer for all you have done and are doing. It really does make the most incredible difference to so many lives.