To celebrate our 50th anniversary a formal ceremony took place at the Woodbridge Road branch last Monday with 35 guests including both Mayors of Guildford and Waverley, Patrons Penelope Keith CBE DL, Sir Richard Thornton KCVO OBE JP and Sally Varah DL who as daughter-in-law to the late Dr Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans, unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. Founding members of the branch attended together with volunteers who have given 25 years plus service to the branch.
Samaritans was founded by Dr Chad Varah in 1953 “to befriend the suicidal and despairing”. Dr Varah served as an Anglican Clergyman in the City of London and after conducting the funeral of a 13-year-old girl who had killed herself because of a sense of shame due to the onset of menstruation, he vowed to help people overcome ignorance and a lack of education. He recognised the stresses of everyday life which many of his parishioners faced and through his position he found an opportunity to share those stresses, chiefly through a telephone helpline – the first of its kind.
Samaritans now has 201 branches in UK and Ireland – Guildford Samaritans was amongst the first to open in 1963. The branch currently has 160 active volunteers who are available 24/7 to offer confidential emotional support to members of the community of Guildford, Woking and Waverley. Those who make contact represent all ages and lifestyles, from the unemployed to the captains of industry – redundancy, bullying, bereavement, abuse and debt are just some of things people need to talk about. Samaritans are there to listen in confidence, without judgment.
Guildford branch has recently been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services.