Press Release: Prince of Wales looks to Samaritans' future

Prince of Wales looks to Samaritans' future as charity starts 60th celebrations

- For Immediate Release - 

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Patron of Samaritans, hosted a reception for distinguished guests and volunteers to launch the celebrations marking 60 years since the charity received its first call in November 1953.

Speaking at the 60th Anniversary reception at Clarence House last night (Wednesday 1 May), His Royal Highness commended Samaritans’ bold vision for the future. He highlighted that the challenges of reaching isolated people at risk of suicide, whether it be in rural or urban areas, or even online, are a priority for the charity moving forward.

Among those present at the reception were some of Samaritans’ high profile supporters, including Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Geoffrey Munn, Baroness Buscombe, Lord Grade and Baroness Wheatcroft.

Earlier today, His Royal Highness visited the offices of Central London Samaritans in Soho, where he unveiled a portrait of the charity’s founder Prebendary Dr Chad Varah CH CBE, and met volunteers, staff and donors.

Felicity Varah Harding, the daughter of the founder, was among those present to meet His Royal Highness. Felicity was an early supporter of her father’s work. More recently she has been heavily involved as a Samaritans Ambassador and Special Adviser to the Chief Executive.

Others present included Allan Toogood, a long serving volunteer, Duncan Irvine former caller and volunteer to the service, David Lock a committed fundraiser and Peter Gibson, volunteer and Director of Central London Samaritans. 

Felicity Varah Harding, daughter of Samaritans founder, Chad Varah, said:

My father began Samaritans, with just one telephone. It’s wonderful to see how the charity has grown and flourished over the 60 years since he took that first call in 1953. The challenge now is to look to the future. As the way people choose to communicate changes over time, we need to continue to evolve, combining technology with compassion, to reach people who still so desperately need our help.

Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of Samaritans said:

For 60 years, Samaritans has been there for people with nowhere else to turn. Over that time, more than 127,000 volunteers have answered over 115 million calls for help. But despite this marvellous work, more than 6,500 lives are still lost unnecessarily to suicide each year. 

Everyone has moments in their life where they struggle to cope and Samaritans is available for them, round the clock, every single day of the year. As a charity we rely on voluntary donations, in the next five years it is vital we double our income to achieve our ambitions including delivery of emotional support in the online environment.

For more information about the work of Samaritans, or to arrange an interview please contact Samaritans’ Press Office on 07943 809 162 or email press@samaritans.org

- ENDS -

Notes to Editor:

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 08457 90 90 90 (UK) 1850 60 90 90 (ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch. 

Samaritans:

Samaritans was founded in 1953 by Dr Chad Varah CH CBE. It was the world’s first 24 hour telephone helpline and has expanded from one man and a phone, 60 years ago, to 20,665 volunteers, in 201 branches, answering more than five million calls for help, today.  Someone makes contact with Samaritans every six seconds

The charity’s vision is that fewer people die by suicide. In 2011, 6,045 people across the UK took their own lives. Last year volunteers answered more than 650,000 calls for help from people with suicidal feelings.

Samaritans volunteers also work with homeless people and with prisoners. There is a partnership with Network Rail to reduce suicides on the railways, links with local schools and the provision of training to outside organisations. 

Central London Samaritans:

Central London Samaritans (CLS) is the oldest branch of the organisation and remains the largest. Now located in the heart of Soho, CLS was founded at St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London, where the first call was taken on 2nd November 1953. 

The CLS operations room has remained open for 60 years, answering the telephone, emails and texts around the clock, with almost 500 volunteers answering more than 100,000 calls for help each year. Central London Samaritans supports people face to face every day, without the need for an appointment, through visitors to the branch and outreach work in the local community.