The Origins of the Branch
The Medway, Gravesham and Swale Samaritans Branch opened at 3pm on 6th June 1966 at the Methodist Church, Chatham - now the Central Theatre and its first Director was The Reverend David Cox. Of course in those days telecommunications wasn’t what it is now. There was an ‘office’ telephone number and an ‘emergency’ number and when the evening duty shift ended, the Operator would have to transfer calls to the home telephone number of one of the Volunteers.
Following on from the Methodist Church the Branch moved into Council owned rented premises (£100/year) but in 1971 when this building was due to be demolished, the Branch had the extremely difficult task of raising the necessary funds (£5,000) to purchase their own premises. Funds were very limited but after considerable and exhaustive efforts to raise the capital, the Branch finally moved into a house in Ross Street in November 1972.
On the 25th May 2000 the Branch moved to its current location in Priory Road, Strood where we continue to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those feelings which may lead to suicide. We are now able to offer contact by telephone, email and on most days are open between 9.00 am and 10.00 pm for personal callers. However we work with all the Samaritan branches to ensure 24 hour availability across the UK and although operating under the auspices of the nationwide Samaritans organisation, the Branch is an independent registered charity.
We also maintain the Listener Scheme in HMP Swaleside and HMP Rochester with a dedicated Prison Team who select, train and support Listeners. We are further committed to extending the support we offer to those in our local community by developing Outreach Programmes and working in partnership with local agencies who are serving the most vulnerable.
All the members of the Branch are volunteers, the majority of whom are listening volunteers who carry out the core work of the Branch. We have a small team of support volunteers which we are looking to expand, who assist in organisational functions.