Samaritans volunteer Stella Hayes MBE

Samaritans volunteers given MBEs in Queen’s birthday honours

Two Samaritans volunteers have been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. Their awards recognise the contribution Samaritans volunteers make to society, and the value of Samaritans’ Prison Listener Scheme.

Stella Maris Hayes, 71 years old from Preston, has been recognised for her services to prisons in Preston and Lancashire. She has been a Samaritans listening volunteer for 27 years and HMP Preston was one of the first where volunteers like Stella began training prisoners to offer emotional support to other inmates who may be at risk of suicide. This scheme has since been rolled out across the UK and Ireland.

As well as supporting inmates to listen to others who may be struggling, Stella mentors new recruits and is a shift leader, supporting other volunteers, at her local branch in Preston. Last year Stella received a British Citizen Award for her 25 years of supporting Samaritans’ Prison Listener Scheme.

Stella Hayes said: “I got involved at Preston Prison after going to a speech by a psychologist around the times of the Strangeways riots in Manchester in the late 1980s. It was hard at first. We used to walk the wings and give out Samaritans cards, and try and encourage people to speak to us. To begin with, prisoners would come up and ask why we were there - they were worried about our safety. Gradually though, things changed and inmates started looking forward to our visits.

“I was totally surprised but absolutely delighted to be given this honour. It’s a wonderful endorsement of Samaritans’ work and the difference we all make together in prisons and across our communities.”

Volunteer Eileen Brierley, who is Director of Samaritans’ Preston branch said: “I am thrilled to see Stella recognised in this way for her long-standing commitment to Samaritans. She’s an inspiration to others, sharing her wisdom and making things happen, quietly, but with enormous impact.”

Also honoured is Samaritans volunteer Charles Gething-Lewis, who is 77 years old and from Ross on Wye. He has been awarded an MBE for services to Samaritans and the community in Herefordshire. Charles began his role as chair of trustees at the Hereford branch in 1972, helping not only to set up the branch but also building its success over the last 45 years.

Charles has offered a wealth of business expertise and experience, to ensure the branch is there for people in need. During his 45 years of support, he’s had a range of roles, raising the profile of the branch through local media and helping to secure crucial funding to keep it running for the community.

Charles Gething Lewis said: “It’s a huge honour to receive this award and I will be sharing it with my branch. This showcases the hard work from my co-chairs, listening volunteers, support volunteers and the branch director in ensuring that the Hereford branch supports anyone who is struggling.”

“I’ve worked with and met so many wonderful people, who give up their time for free to help others – you cannot put a price on the value that brings to the service. Each has helped us to benefit the community and, with a growing awareness of mental health issues in the media as well as Samaritans’ work to make our line free to any caller from any phone, the demand for our services has never been greater. Our volunteers provide essential support and I’m determined to ensure that the branch grows in strength.”

Volunteer Liz Dolloway, who is director of Samaritans’ Hereford branch, said: “Charles has been a wonderful supporter for more than 40 years, and is so well deserving of this accolade.”

The actress Julie Walters CBE, who is a Samaritans supporter and Patron if its Horsham and Crawley branch, becomes a Dame for services to drama. Volunteer and branch director Roger Dugdale said: “I would like to congratulate Julie on behalf of everyone at Samaritans. She is a terrific supporter of our work and always keen to help us promote our work, whether that’s through attending local events or talking to helping to inspire new volunteers. She is of course a national treasure, but also one of the most warm and down to earth people you could meet. We treasure her too.”

Three times more people take their own life than die in road accidents. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK and of men and women aged 20-34. Samaritans has more than 20,000 volunteers based in 201 branches across the UK and Ireland, responding to more than 5.7million calls for help a year.

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For more information, and interviews, please contact the Samaritans’ press team on 020 8394 8300 or 07943 809 162 (out of hours) or email press@samaritans.org

Samaritans volunteer Stella Hayes MBE

Samaritans volunteer Charles Gething Lewis MBE

Photo captions:

  1. Samaritans volunteer Stella Hayes MBE
  2. Samaritans volunteer Charles Gething Lewis MBE.

Notes to Editors