South Cheshire Samaritans - call handler

Volunteers for the Samaritans of South Cheshire have been playing a vital support role for people struggling in an unprecedented year.

The pandemic has left many with feelings of despair and more than ever before have been turning to this essential service for help.

But like all other support organisations, it has been hit hard by Coronavirus in terms of funding and volunteer staff.

In September 2020, volunteers at the base on Hall O’Shaw Street in Crewe spent 144 hours on phone, taking 510 calls and responding to 186 e-mails.

This was an increase from August 2020 when volunteers spent 123 hours on phone, taking 384 calls and responding to 221 e-mails.

The service costs more than £1,500 a month to run, so more than ever it is relying on donations as face to face fundraising has become much more difficult due to lockdown and social distancing.

Howard Sinclair, the branch director, told Nantwich News: “Since the onset of COVID-19 our branch phone lines and e-mail service have been busier than ever.

“Understandably feelings of isolation and loneliness and strains on relationships have been much exacerbated by the current pandemic.

“However, throughout the pandemic and despite the effects on our own volunteers, we have been able to successfully ensure that whatever the time of day or night, a Samaritans volunteer has been there for our callers.”

South Cheshire Samaritans building
South Cheshire Samaritans

The Samaritans offer a confidential listening service and emotional support by phone and email to people going through a difficult time.

By talking through, exploring and sharing feelings, they can help people in despair reach a better understanding of their situation and the options open to them.

Volunteers are drawn from many different backgrounds and occupations including teaching, NHS, IT, farming and full time students.

There are 60 listening volunteers and nine support volunteers who help with fund-raising and supporting branch activities

“We don’t tell people what to do though, or give advice,” added a spokesman.

“We don’t judge, and respect our callers’ right to make the right decision for them.

“Giving people time, undivided attention and empathy meets a fundamental emotional need and reduces distress and despair.

“We take calls from people affected by bereavement, mental and physical ill health, isolation. Loneliness, abuse and neglect, relationship issues and many other things besides.”

Like all charities it relies entirely on donations from the public and businesses or groups.

Volunteers are often collecting in Nantwich town centre, at Sainsburys and in Crewe and Sandbach.

But due to Coronavirus, face-to-face fundraising has become much more difficult and they are building links with local organisations and business networks.

A new “Text to Donate” Service has been set up – text CREWESAMS to 70085 to donate £5 (with the option of setting up regular payments).

They also welcome payments through a Virgin Money Giving secure online portal

“We welcome volunteers of all ages (minimum 18 years) and backgrounds and regularly hold “Virtual” information evenings where you can find out more about being a Samaritan-either as support volunteer helping with fundraising and running the Branch, or as a listening volunteer.

“Due to Coronavirus the majority of training is now delivered digitally, before our new volunteers (who are each mentored and supported by an experienced volunteer) start taking calls on their own.”

People can ring Samaritans free anytime on 116 123 or email [email protected]

And if you would like to help by volunteer, find out more here

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