A green-fingered Samaritans Scotland volunteer is looking forward to marking the charity’s 70th anniversary at the Chelsea Flower Show after recently celebrating her own 70th birthday.
Ann Stephenson, Branch Director at Dumfries Samaritans, was delighted to discover she had been chosen to attend the world’s greatest flower show as a Samaritans steward.
A unique Samaritans Listening Garden has been created for this year’s show – which runs from May 22-27 - by award-winning gardener and Samaritans volunteer Darren Hawkes.
Designed to mark Samaritans 70th anniversary, it is inspired by stories of those who have found the courage to reach out to the charity for help over the last seven decades.
Ann said: “My main hobby is gardening - it’s something I have always loved.
“We have a wildlife garden with ponds and I spend as much time as I can in the garden. It is my space for thinking and planning and getting away from the laptop.
“I have always wanted to go to Chelsea but have never had the opportunity until now. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the incredible show gardens that I normally only see on TV and soaking up the atmosphere. It will also be really lovely to get the chance to talk to people about Samaritans.”
Ann joined Samaritans in 2019 after seeing the devastating impact suicide had on families.
As well as being a listening volunteer, Ann has been a deputy director for recruitment and selection, and became the Dumfries branch director in April 2021.
She said: “I know of three people who have taken their own life in recent years and felt I wanted to try to support people who were feeling so desperate.
“I started my Samaritans training in February 2019 and took over as director two years later, at a time when the branch had not had a permanent director for over four years so it almost felt like starting from scratch again.
“As well as taking on this important role we also needed to move from our unsuitable offices which obviously brought huge challenges too!
“Watching the branch grow, both in terms of numbers of volunteers - although we are still a small branch – is really rewarding. I am passionate about getting out into our local communities and spreading the word about what support is available from Samaritans.
“Many people think we are only there for people who are feeling suicidal so it is important to stress we are there for anyone who needs to talk. It is also lovely working with such a fantastic group of people and I have made lots of lasting friendships.”