Christmas is a joyous occasion for many but it can also be a time of loneliness or hardship for others. It’s for this reason that Preston Samaritans will be open over the festive period to offer listening and support to people in need.Advertisement
Samaritans is a national charity that is dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation that can lead to suicide. The Preston branch, which is celebrating its 50th year, will be open between 9am and 9pm on Christmas Day for anyone who needs a face-to-face chat.
People can also ring Samaritans on 116 123 on Christmas Day, when the phones will be open 24 hours and answered by a volunteer at one of 201 branches nationally.
Having started life in the Lune Street Methodist Church, the Preston branch moved to its current home at St Wilfrid Street around 50 years ago.
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One of the volunteers working on Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be Jamie Brogden, the Preston and District Samaritans Branch Publicity and Fundraising Manager.
Jamie said: “December and its festivities brings untold pressure on people to be happy, be social and at times spend monies we do not have.
“Samaritans will be there for when the need to talk is there. It is so difficult at times to speak to our families and friends about our fears as we are scared of ruining their days.
“Tis the season to be jolly – but only if you want to be. The message will always be ‘It is good to talk’, and ‘It is okay not to be okay’.”
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One of the main sources of funding for the Preston Samaritans is their shop in Plungington Road. There are currently ten volunteers, but more are needed to meet the charity’s aim of keeping the shop open for six days a week.
Jamie said: “We need more volunteers in the shop. Just two to three hours per week will allow us to open the shop as much as we want to do.
“It is a wonderful shop serving the community. All the staff have a feeling of togetherness where everybody does their best to make everyone feel at home.
“All the monies we make in the shop go straight back into keeping the branch open, and it is one of the many ways we look to fundraise.
“We have reached out to many areas of Preston such as libraries, festivals and the railway station, and we’re hoping to open up in the bus station in the coming 12 months.”
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Things may have changed for the Samaritans in many ways including technological advances, however the 24/7 phone services have remained consistent, giving callers the opportunity to talk and to be listened to without judgement in a confidential manner.
It is the simplest yet most effective way the majority of people still contact the organisation nationally. The Preston Branch also gives people the opportunity to speak to someone face-to-face.
Jamie said: “Samaritans staff aren’t counsellors, but they are however active listeners. Active Listening is a powerful tool that Samaritans use every moment of their shift.
“They believe that the stigma of talking about issues needs to change, especially for men.”
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Every six seconds, Samaritans answer a call for help. This makes the work they do vital. However, they are unable to do this without the support from their valued volunteers.
Jamie said: “There are lots of ways you can volunteer for the Samaritans. You could become a listening volunteer helping to answer calls and messages from people who need some support.
“Our volunteers do a number of roles, not just caller contacts, we do all our training and recruitment in house with volunteers using their experience to recruit the best volunteers.
“Some volunteers do not want to go on the phones so we can place them as support volunteers to look at different areas that are essential to keeping a branch open, such as health and safety, IT, recruitment, interviewers and fundraisers.
“Every volunteer is so important. Even though we have titles such as Directors and Deputy Directors there is no real hierarchy, we treat each other the same and this is one of the great things about volunteering. We always need more volunteers.”
Samaritans is the only charity that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for anyone struggling to cope. Between 1 December 2018 and 1 January 2019, the charity responded to more than 300,000 calls for help nationally.
Whatever you’re going through, you can call the Samaritans at any time, from any phone for free on 116 123.
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