Volunteer story - Elaine

Elaine has been a volunteer for 5 years at Leicester branch. She is a medical secretary.

Why did you join?

30 years ago, I picked up a book by Chad Varah, the founder of Samaritans. After reading it I knew I wanted to be part of his organisation. But it wasn't until 25 years later that I actually joined.

What keys thing did you learn that helped you to answer calls?

I learned the importance of listening without interrupting, without judging, without giving advice and without prejudice. I was also taught the importance of confidentiality which is fundamental to Samaritans.

Why do people call Samaritans?

Often the reason for the call is obvious at the beginning of the conversation. Other times it isn't and takes patience to build up trust so that the caller will say why they have phoned.

How do you feel when you answer the phone?

I still experience the same feeling of apprehension every time I am on duty and the telephone rings. I hope that that continues. if there's a time when I don't ask myself "did I give the best to that caller?" I'll know it's time for me to leave Samaritans.

What sort of calls do you get?

A call may last a few minutes or an hour, or longer. Sometimes there is silence, sometimes I can hear quiet sobbing.

The caller has complete control of the call and I won't judge, counsel, advise or repeat what they say to me and they may end the call whenever they wish. I'll never know who the caller is and it is doubtful that I will know how their life has turned out, but whoever you are, I'm glad you phoned and if you need to talk again there will always be someone here.

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