Volunteers give the gift of listening this yuletide

Roy Lovell volunteers with Hastings Samaritans
Roy Lovell volunteers with Hastings Samaritans

While you are busy unwrapping your presents or tucking into turkey this Christmas Day, a band of dedicated volunteers will be giving up their free time to provide a listening ear to those who may not be filled with tidings of comfort and joy this yuletide.

Samaritans is a nationwide listening service, available 365 days a year around the clock, for people suffering from emotional distress.

Roy Lovell volunteers with Hastings Samaritans

Roy Lovell volunteers with Hastings Samaritans

Nationally the charity receives more than five million calls for help a year.

Over the Christmas and New Year period, demand for the service rockets as the pressures of the season take their toll.

Samaritans responded to more than 400,000 calls for help during December 2017, by phone, email and text throughout the UK and Ireland.

Despite all the festivities, more than 11,000 of those calls for help and emotional support came in on Christmas Day.

Hastings and Rother Samaritans

Hastings and Rother Samaritans

Based on previous years, around 1,500 volunteers in total will give up their time to be on shift at some point over this vital 24 hour period.

New figures reveal that one in three calls to the Samaritans on Christmas Day are from people who feel lonely or isolated.

The festive period can be a challenging time for some and that is why Samaritans volunteers from Hastings and Rother will be helping to keep the service running for those in need throughout the Christmas break, even on Christmas Day.

Among the band of volunteers who will be manning the phones at 26 St Andrew’s Square this festive period will be experienced volunteer Roy Lovell.

Roy has always volunteered at Christmas and this year will be no different.

Roy said: “Until you’ve sat in the Samaritans’ phone room and taken those calls over Christmas, you have no idea how tough it can be for a lot of people.

“Some people assume Samaritans are just about suicide prevention, but there is so much more to what we do, so many issues we deal with on a daily basis.

“Christmas feels like a condensed version of that, people’s problems seem to be turned up a notch at this time of year.

“It can be tough but it also makes it extremely rewarding.

“For me, not to be answering the phones over Christmas just isn’t Christmas at all.

“The best present we can give someone is our time to listen.”

Volunteer Yvette Harris, who also runs the Hastings and Rother branch, will also be on duty over Christmas.

She is encouraging those who may be finding the holiday all a bit much to share their feelings.

Yvette said: “If you are feeling like its all too much, let someone know, don’t hide your feelings.

“You can always call the Samaritans.

“Whether you are on your own, or alone in a crowd, feeling lonely and isolated can be exacerbated at this time of year.

“If you are having a good time at Christmas, make time to listen to others if it’s not so great for them.

“Just having someone to listen to can be a huge relief and make things easier.”

In fact, Samaritans are urging people to ‘give the gift of listening’ this Christmas, by encouraging friends and family going through a difficult time to open up and know that it is OK not to be OK, even at Christmas.

To make it easier, the charity has produced a set of vouchers to download from the Samaritans website, offering time to listen as a present.

As the charity points out, a pair of novelty socks won’t save a life, but listening can make a huge difference.

A spokesperson for Samaritans said: “You can download Samaritans’ Give The Gift of Listening vouchers for free at http://www.samaritans.org/christmas2018 .

“You can also give the gift of listening with a donation to help ensure that Samaritans’ services are there for anyone who needs them this Christmas and every single day of the year.

“You can follow the campaign on social media #GiveTheGift.”

The Samaritans’ listening service will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all through the Christmas period.

If you are in need of the Samaritans service, please call 116 123.

The number is free to call from landlines and mobiles and will not show up on your bill.

You can also email jo@samaritans.org or call into the Hastings and Rother branch, at 26 St Andrew’s Square, during opening hours to speak to a volunteer face to face.

SUPPORT YOUR BRANCH IN 2019

Samaritans is a charity and relies on donations from the public and more than 20,000 trained volunteers nationwide to keep going.

There are a number of ways you can support the Hastings and Rother Samaritans in 2019.

1) Volunteer

The branch is always on the lookout for new volunteers to help answer calls, emails and text messages from those who are experiencing emotional distress or despair.

Information sessions for anyone interested in volunteering will take place on Tuesday February 5 at 7pm and Saturday February 9 at 10am.

Both sessions will take place at the branch at 26 St Andrew’s Square, Hastings, and will last about 90 minutes.

Those who are selected to join will be given in-house training before starting their volunteering duties.

There are also opportunities to join the branch as a support volunteer, with roles including fundraising, administration, IT support, financial management and building maintenance.

2) Fundraise

Have you thought about doing something to raise some much needed money to help keep the Hastings and Rother Samaritans up and running?

From a sponsored parachute jump to a charity cake sale, the branch would love to hear about it - contact hastingssamsfundraising@gmail.com

3) Donate

Look out for volunteers with collecting buckets out and about around Hastings and Rother in 2019 and don’t forget to give generously.

If you would like a Samaritans’ collecting tin for your business, please email hastingssamsfundraising@gmail.com

Find out more about how you can support the branch by emailing hastings.director@samaritans.org or call 07841 978632.

Meanwhile, you can keep up to date with the latest news from Hastings and Rother Samaritans by following the branch on Twitter - find them @hastingssams