Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow branch of Samaritans celebrates its milestone 40th anniversary in 2012. The local charity was inaugurated on 20th January 1972, to become the 128th branch of Samaritans in the UK.
Samaritans itself was founded in 1953 by Chad Varah to offer support to anyone experiencing distress, including feelings which may lead to suicide. The first branch was opened in Walbrook, London. Following successful publicity, interest in the organization grew leading to the emergence of other branches around the country.
Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow branch, which featured on one of the very first of John Peel’s ‘Home Truths’ programmes, was established as a result of growing evidence of the need for a presence in West London. At the time, statistics unearthed from other branches in the London region suggested that a high volume of callers were coming from this area. The local branch was initially expected to operate a 12-hour befriending service; however plans for a 24-hour service were promptly put into place following advice from general office.
In its first year the branch received 1200 calls. This figure grew quite rapidly and by 1975 volunteers were handling in the region of 20,000 calls per annum. The latest annual statistics reveal that in 2011, over 31,000 calls were received whilst 187 visits were made to the branch by people wanting to talk to a volunteer confidentially face-to-face.
There have been many changes to the way the branch operates and the service provided since its inception 40 years ago. Sue has been a Samaritan at the branch for 31 years and recounts her experience: “A lot has changed during my time as a volunteer. We used to go out on 'car call' from 11.00pm to 7.00am - not something we do anymore - and we went out to seriously suicidal calls.”
Despite the changes, one thing that has remained constant is the commitment of the unpaid volunteers who give up their spare time to offer a listening ear to people in crisis; accepting callers without prejudice and judgment. Over 1600 volunteers have passed through the doors of the West London branch; ordinary people from all walks of life.
Branch Director, John Royle says: “Reaching this milestone is a great achievement for the branch. What makes this anniversary so important is that every aspect of running the branch is dependent on voluntary support; from the recruitment team who regularly scrutinize candidates to select the next batch of volunteers; trainers who diligently put them through their paces to prepare them for calls; to the rota staff, fundraisers and other volunteers who take on additional duties to keep the service running smoothly.”
Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow Samaritans will be holding a special event in May to mark the anniversary. The local Samaritans are keen to hear from ex-volunteers or members of the community who played an integral role in setting up the branch who would like to attend the event. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org