After attending an informal Information Evening at my local Samaritans branch, I left feeling hopeful, reassured and inspired. My preconceptions of Samaritans, I have to say, were a little orthodox - think call centre floor with partitioned booths taking back to back calls! However, this couldn't be further from the truth. What really struck me was the support available to volunteers. It felt like there was a sense of belonging and camaraderie, a common purpose and a genuine desire to make a difference to the lives of others.
A good call
This was harnessed further through the excellent training I received. Throughout the training, there was lots of opportunity for discussion, questions and practicing the skills needed for the role. The trainers shared their experiences and often talked about taking 'a good call'. Whilst I understood this in a theoretical sense it wasn't until I stepped in to the Operations Room for the first time, that I really understood what this meant. The realisation came when Peter, my mentor, took a call during our first training together from a very smart, articulate young gentleman who talked about experiencing suicidal feelings. Thirty minutes later, the tone of the call changed and I could sense the proverbial weight lift from the caller's shoulders.
The call ended and as Peter replaced the handset he uttered, 'that was a good call' followed shortly by 'I've got something in my eye'. It was a slightly overwhelming moment and we shared a little silence.
Making a difference
There were times during the training when I felt drained and uncertain, there were even times when I questioned my own belief system and whether continuing was the right thing for me to do. I'm so glad that I persisted; the more skills-practice I gained, the more confident I became and the more I wanted to help. I no longer feel daunted by the thought of taking my first call. In fact, I look forward to receiving that 'good call' and taking quiet comfort in knowing that on that day, perhaps in the smallest way, I made someone feel better about themselves.