Welcome to Herts & Essex Samaritans
At Samaritans we are doing our best to protect you and our volunteers from the risk of Coronavirus. For this reason we regret we are unable to see face to face visitors with immediate effect, until further notice. If you need emotional support, please call our freecall number 116 123. This is available 24 hours a day.
Branch director Susannah Fenton reports on life in our branch
It has been, as it has for everyone, a very different spring and summer for the 180 Samaritans volunteers working in our branch. The Covid-19 crisis has brought us opportunities to support NHS and frontline workers as well as continuing to be there for all callers who need care at this time.
We have had to take measures to keep our branch in Ware safe to take calls in. Even with a third of our 180 volunteers from across Hertfordshire and Essex self-isolating, we have managed to fully staff our usual pre-Covid 24/7 rota, which we didn’t dream would be possible at the outset. Certainly our callers still need us there. Early on, volunteers were given key worker status. We’ve answered nearly 8,000 calls and emails in our branch since the crisis began. Nationally, we take a call every six seconds.
Life is certainly different in the branch. Night and day our volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of keeping our lines open with none of the usual comforts such as a cup of tea and a biscuit, and a chat with the next shift. Instead they are greeted by the smell of disinfectant and rigorous hand washing and wiping down procedures.
Those who haven’t been able to travel to the branch have found other ways to stay involved such as volunteering for a pioneering, dedicated helpline set up in response to the particular stresses being faced by NHS workers. Our local volunteers are also part of Our Frontline, an initiative sponsored by Prince William, to support other key workers.
Has the nature of our calls changed during this period? Yes and no. Around a third of the calls that we’re receiving relate to Covid-19, although that’s a difficult category to ring fence as for some, existing or underlying isolation and relationship problems have been exacerbated by the virus and the stress of lockdown.
At the end of Volunteers’ Week at the beginning of June, Prince Charles, patron of Samaritans, kindly paid tribute to the whole charity for its work during Covid-19.
In a video message, he said: “The current crisis has made us appreciate the importance of volunteers more than ever. During this pandemic, resilience and flexibility have been very much in evidence – while some Samaritans volunteers have had to step back due to self-isolation, others have stepped up to provide cover and take on more shifts.
“All this at a time when one in three calls for help to Samaritans is currently about coronavirus, as people find themselves dealing with all kinds of health, employment and relationship issues.
“Crucially, Samaritans are also helping us to look after those who are looking after us by launching a new confidential support line for NHS and social care workers, making sure that someone is there to listen to frontline workers if they have had a particularly tough day, if they are feeling worried or overwhelmed and need to talk it through. It really does make the most incredible difference to so many lives.”
Sadly, the coronavirus has put paid to the outreach work we do in schools, colleges and universities and at railway stations. And our fundraising has been badly hit. Much of it is done outdoors – organising events, attending fetes, collecting at shopping centres – and that has all had to stop. If, reading this and the words of Prince Charles, you would like to support us financially, there is a ‘Donate’ link below. Our volunteers, and especially our callers, would be extremely grateful.
You can help support our branch when you shop at Amazon Smile.
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