In a ground-breaking initiative to support the local community, Ventnor Winter Gardens and Isle of Wight Samaritans have agreed to work together to provide help for people in distress or despair in the Isle of Wight.
The partnership will see a higher profile for the Samaritans on the Island, with volunteers attending events at the Winter Gardens - who will also provide fundraising and outreach support for the charity.
The partnership was conceived by Winter Gardens General Manager Teri Wood and Assistant Tanya Smith.
"We are keen to play our part in, and support, the local community," says Teri Wood. "We felt that the Samaritans was a perfect match because they offer support to everybody in need, 24 hours a day."
Tanya Smith says there's a strong local need for emotional support. "As well as the ongoing problems of isolation and loneliness, depression and anxiety, there have been a number of tragic deaths recently which have rocked the community," she says. "We want to do everything we can to help, and partnering with the Samaritans is one of the most positive ways we can start doing just that."
Isle of Wight Samaritans is part of the national network which takes phone calls, emails and text messages 24 hours a day from those in emotional difficulty and despair. They also take personal callers at the branch headquarters in Newport, and work actively in the prisons on the Island.
"We aren't only there for those at risk of suicide," says John Trotman, Director of Isle of Wight Samaritans. "We're there to provide a listening, supportive ear to anybody in need of emotional support." The service is highly confidential - callers can be completely anonymous and talk freely.
Both parties are keen to emphasise that this partnership is a long-term one and intended to develop over time. At first the emphasis will be on raising people’s awareness of the Samaritans, what they do, how they can help and how to contact them. In the longer term, as the relationship develops, there’s the possibility of offering confidential drop-ins at the Winter Gardens as well, and opportunities for people considering becoming a Samaritans volunteer to find out more. And, of course, there’ll be ongoing fundraising activity in support of Isle of Wight Samaritans.
To symbolise the partnership they have adopted a green ribbon emblem which can be worn by anybody to indicate their support. These can be obtained free of charge from the Winter Gardens and show your concern for those in need of emotional support.
"We're delighted to be working alongside the Winter Gardens," says publicity officer Toby Wallis. "They’re ideally placed to attract the local community, and since we have a local presence as well as a role in the national organisation, we're very aware of the particular needs of Islanders. We're here to help and support everyone."
Anybody with a pressing emotional problem can ring the Samaritans at any time on the free, confidential number: 116 123. Lines are open 24 hours a day.