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Brierley Hill Samaritans still going strong after 40 years
9:00am Sunday 18th August 2013 in Local
RIDDLED with debt, relationships coming apart at the seams or a victim of abuse, whatever the issue, it can be difficult for some people to see their way out of a bad situation but that is where volunteers at the Brierley Hill Samaritans step in.
For the last 40 years, the volunteers have worked around the clock to lend a sympathetic ear to people on a downward spiral and help them explore their options.
Based at Beryl House on Albion Street, a 70-strong team assist around 600 people per month on the telephone and answer 100 emails from people desperate for help.
Chairman of the branch, David Chambers from Halesowen, has been a volunteer for 12 years.
He decided to get involved with the charity after his next door neighbour committed suicide: “It was quite a shock and I thought if there was something I could do to stop this happening to someone else, I would do it.
”Volunteers must keep the content of every call and email confidential but Mr Chambers said lately there has been a pattern in calls.
He told the News: “We have recently had calls about financial problems including loss of jobs, bedroom tax, a reduce in people’s income and also general loneliness, particularly amongst older people.
“Very often people are distressed when they call us. As a volunteer you get training as to how to encourage people to calm down so they can express what they are actually feeling. We try to sound calm and supportive and give people time to collect their thoughts and be able to talk.”
He said that even after all this time, he can still be affected by the calls he receives but there is a strong support system within the charity to help volunteers cope with what they hear.
Explaining what he finds difficult, Mr Chambers said: “I find it distressing if I speak to a young person who is extremely distressed and perhaps has suicidal feelings. Their whole life is ahead of them if they can just get past this particular crisis.”
The team is looking to expand and Mr Chambers would encourage anyone who could spare between three and four hours of their time per week to get in touch.
He said: “I certainly would emphasise that volunteers can’t be too judgemental. They must be very accepting of people for what they are and listen to them no matter what their issues are. The difficult one for a lot of people is if someone says they are a paedophile but you have to be prepared to put your own thoughts aside and deal with that person there and then.”
But being a Samaritan can be very rewarding, he said: “Most of the time you don’t know what happens after the call you have taken, that is a downside but at times, people will say ‘thank you, it has been a big help’ and that is a reward in itself.
“You also learn quite a lot about yourself, what you are capable of doing and that changes your perception of things and you bring that back to your own relationships.”
Anyone in need of support or wanting more information about volunteering can call 01384 78111.
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