Make a New Year’s Resolution that will make a difference in your area

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January – the start of a new year and, for most people a time to look forward to what the year will bring us. Many of us even make New Year resolutions – go to the gym more often, eat more healthily, give up smoking – and so many of them last for about 6 weeks! Could this be, perhaps because they are about us, as individuals? Making decisions about improving our own health and lifestyle are really important, but maybe we’d better maintain our resolve if we set out to make a difference to the lives of other people?

Making a difference to the lives of other people is exactly what Samaritan volunteers do – answering over 450,000 phone calls in one month alone last autumn. In the first six months last year here in Hastings and Rother, your local branch helped nearly 8000 callers, over half of whom telephoned the Samaritans. These stalwart volunteers (only 51 of them) also replied to over 1000 emails and over 1700 text messages.

Why do people contact the Samaritans? Many individuals are experiencing overwhelming feelings of emotional distress or despair and, for all kinds of reasons have no-one to talk to. Samaritans believe that offering these folk the opportunity to be listened to in confidence, and accepted without prejudice can alleviate their feelings of despair.

So, why not resolve this year to make a difference? Joining the Samaritans means you will join a team of over 21,000 people all over the UK and Ireland supporting vulnerable people. Volunteers usually do one shift a week and a late evening or overnight shift once a month. Unsurprisingly, most calls to the Samaritans are made overnight and, this is also when there are fewer volunteers available, meaning that a percentage of calls will go unanswered. Perhaps you’re a night owl who would like to make a difference and help local volunteers field some of those calls?

All prospective volunteers go through a brilliant training programme and then six months’ supervised probation all designed to develop the skill of listening. Because that’s what Samaritans do – listen. There are group discussions, role plays and simulations all designed to help develop those listening skills and to understand callers’ feelings and emotions. Volunteers are shown the importance of body language (even on the phone!), tones of voice and not to be afraid of silence.

Could you join the Hastings and Rother community of Samaritans and make a difference to someone else’s life? Why not come along to an information session (daytime or evening) and find out more about the training and the caring support all volunteers receive from within the branch? Telephone 01424 436666 and leave your contact details. Don’t worry if you get through to another branch – it just means the local phones are busy! Leave your details anyway, and that branch will phone them through to Hastings. A local volunteer will then get in touch with details of the next session.

If the New Year is not a positive time for you and you’re feeling low, please call Hastings and Rother Samaritans - the local phone number is 01424 436666. You can also call free on 116 123, or email – jo@samaritans.org

Hastings and Rother Samaritans is a charity registered in England and Wales no 233437