Volunteer story - Eva

Eva saw an early TV programme featuring Chad Varah’s new Samaritans organisation, and was accepted as one of the earliest volunteers.

Eva’s training consisted of attending six lectures:

“In those days, our training consisted of weekly lectures. The main difference with today’s training is that there was no role play.

"In our first lecture, we were told we were no different from callers; that you could be a volunteer one day and a caller the next. This is something I have never forgotten and is as relevant today as it was then.”

In the early days of Samaritans, contacts were more often face-to-face than by telephone:

“We would go into the vestry of St Stephen’s. There was a big urn set up in the middle, so that the clients could get themselves a drink and a biscuit whilst they were waiting or talking to us. If they wanted a bit more privacy there were cubicles around that they could go to.”

“We were encouraged to meet the clients in pubs, cafes, or even in their homes. We were there to befriend.”

Eva says other things have not changed as much:

“The problems are the same, except maybe now there is greater unemployment. There is still a lot of human misery, especially in relationships. These are always at the forefront.”

Eva has recently stood down as a volunteer with Barnstaple Samaritans, but retains a firm belief in the organisation’s key principle of listening without judging and of allowing callers to make their own decisions.

Eva will be deeply missed by her colleagues in Barnstaple Samaritans, where she was recently awarded a long service award from the national organisation. One of those colleagues referred to her as “the Samaritan we all aspire to.”