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Do any MNers volunteer for the Samaritans?

(4 Posts)
MadreInglese Tue 02-Sep-08 13:37:04

I've applied to volunteer for the Samaritans organisation, just wondered if anyone had any experience and how did you find it? Are you expected to give up many hours (after the training period) and are the shifts flexible? Do you enjoy it (if enjoy is the right word), and is it what you expected?

Would appreciate any advice/info, thanks.

millicent1000 Thu 04-Sep-08 13:33:37

I have been a volunteer for the last couple of years. It's been a wonderful experience. Harrowing at times of course but overall incredibly rewarding.

It's probably not quite what I expected as I wasn't expecting the huge amount of regular callers that we get - often people ring every day which helps keep them ticking over and is literally a life saver for them.

Sometimes things are very sad - people will ring you when they have taken an overdose and don't want to be alone in their final moments. As a Samaritan you have to respect a person's choice if they want to commit suicide. You can ask them if they can think of any alternatives to suicide, or if they want you to call an ambulance etc, but ultimately it is their decision.

You don't get many of these calls, but when you do it stays with you for a long time. It is hard sometimes but the fact that you have been there for someone in their loneliest moments and they know that they have been cared about and supported and listened to can really help them. (Sometimes they ring back afterwards to say that they are OK and someone found them or they phoned for an ambulance and to say thank you so much - which is wonderful!)

There are also many many "end on recognition" callers who are people banned from using the service because they have been abusing it in some way - either being consistantly abusive to volunteers or because they are "TMs" ("telephone masturbators!" - there are a LOT of those!!). They are quite frustrating because you feel they are wasting the time that could be spent speaking to someone genuinely in need. However you do have to remember that they are people in distress too - otherwise they wouldn't be doing with this - and stay polite but firm when ending the call. Some of the things you hear can be eye-poppingly sordid or downright scary but if you have a good regular shift you will go out afterwards for a drink and debrief and you find ways together to laugh about these things!

I'm not sure where you are based because it might be different for each branch, but I am with the Central London branch. They like you to do two day/evening shifts a month and one night shift as well a month.

Night shifts are either from 10pm - 3am or 3am - 8.30am. They are the worst in terms of tiredness but the best in terms of the sort of calls you get - often people are at their lowest in the dark hours of the morning and you can have amazingly in depth and moving conversations at that hour.

However there are people that simply can't do a regular shift or a night shift and I know that they work out ways round it - some people just do shifts on an "ad hoc" basis as and when they can do them - but they probably have to commit to a certain amount per year.

Hope that helps! Sorry about writing such an essay! There are ups and downs but I haven't regretted doing it for a single moment!

Janni Thu 04-Sep-08 13:45:22

I did it for a couple of years before I had children and I found it immensely rewarding. I found there was great camaraderie among the volunteers and that the preparation course was good. I would definitely consider doing it again.

MadreInglese Mon 08-Sep-08 09:22:32

Thanks millicent & janni (hadn't even considered the 'TMs' - how naive am I?!!)

Well I had my selection morning on Saturday and they called in the afternoon to say I've been selected so training starts in a couple of weeks (eek)

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