Our President Gill Harnett informed those present of Maureen Waterson having passed away the previous Sunday and shared a few memories as Maureen had been a member since 1990.  Maureen was a keen gardener and made wonderful arrangements.  Her and her husband had a wonderful marriage as he would do the cooking, whilst she gardened.  Maureen was fantastic with a paint brush and at the Co-operative Competition lots of fun was had.  She always kept herself up to date and enjoyed nothing better than an interesting discussion, especially with differing views.  A one minute silence was held in memory of Maureen. Speaker - Our guest speakers this month Libby Dolloway and Lesley Fleming from The Samaritans were introduced by Gill H. The ladies introduced themselves followed swiftly by a brief history of how the Samaritans inadvertently began back in 1953 in London by Chad Varah. Varah began to understand the problems facing the suicidal when he was taking a funeral as an assistant curate in 1935, his first church service, for a fourteen-year-old girl who had committed suicide because she had begun to menstruate. He later said "Little girl, I didn't know you, but you have changed the rest of my life for good." He vowed at that time to encourage sex education, and to help people who were contemplating suicide and had nowhere to turn.  The Samaritans was founded with the stated aim that it would be an organisation "to befriend the suicidal and despairing." He soon realised that whilst people were in the waiting area they began to chat to the ladies there serving tea and biscuits and that others could indeed help.  This developed further to include a phone line and the number of calls increased substantially after publicity in the Daily Mirror in the December 1953. The Samaritans were rebranded in 2004 and became an emotional support rather than emergency line.  Nowadays they also receive texts and emails.  There are over 200 branches nationwide with over 12,000 volunteers and they are also established internationaly although not as The Samaritans. The whole emphasis is based upon having someone to talk to.  There are c.100 volunteers from the branch in Hereford, taking 2000 calls per months, in addition to emails andSMS messages; there are not many face to face callers into the office nowadays.  Whilst the service is 24/7 not all branches are and the calls are shared. The phone number was changed to be Freephone a year ago, previously being a ring back service.  There is no way to trace the call, the control is therefore always with the caller.  Everyone is treated anonymously.  Full training is given and all volunteers are buddied up, with a supervisor to escalate areas of concern to; in the case of children for instance. The ladies talked over their training and gave a role play depicting two friends meeting up and one obviously in some distress over family issues; with the other, whilst asking questions was too eager to talk over the answers about good news happening within her family.  Followed by another with the same scenario where the friend listened, empathised and acknowledged. This illustrated how the Samaritans work, by focusing on the caller; never telling them to do anything, not offering advice, not being limited to time and often using the only tools that they have available to them being their voice and silence.  Sometimes the caller feels more able to deal with life once they have verbalised what they feel.  The volunteers are mainly retired ladies, although in some areas there are some younger.  A rough split is 75/25 female to male volunteers. They are completely self-funding, no government assistance and funds are raised by each branch individually.  Having outreach programmes such as the partnership with Network Rail; the first time last year suicide rates on the rail network went down; through training of the staff to notice those in distress. The vote of thanks was delivered by Gill Sumner, who remembered her parents talking about the phone line as she was in her teens.  Gill said that it has been most interesting to be brought up to date.  The talk served as a salutary reminder to us all to listen more and that it can be just as useful to come away from a conversation without saying much and without actually giving any advice.
Brampton Bryan March news report