Whilst this can be a difficult role, it is really rewarding to know that no matter what the situation, the caller didn’t have to go through this alone, and they had someone to listen to them in their time of distress.
Read about why Steph has chosen to be a Samaritan’s volunteer, what she enjoys about the role and why she thinks you should join their team of volunteers.
Name of volunteer: Steph
How did you get involved in volunteering?
I come from a background of competitive sport but when I stopped competing I wanted to use my free time to help support an organisation I believe in. The Samaritans really appealed to me because of the very practical volunteering role, as a listener on the phone, and because I felt the extensive training and support provided by the Samaritans would prepare me well as a volunteer.
What does your volunteering involve / describe a typical volunteering session?
My role is being a ‘listener’ on the phone; I am there to pick up the phone when someone calls us in distress. A typical shift lasts for 4 hours, and I volunteer once a week. The shifts are varied, and you can find yourself talking to all kinds of people, from all over the UK. Whilst this can be a difficult role, it is really rewarding to know that no matter what the situation, the caller didn’t have to go through this alone, and they had someone to listen to them in their time of distress. The phone lines are busy, but when I get a chance it is great to catch up with one of my fellow volunteers – I’ve been able to meet a whole range of people, and it is a very supportive environment.
What difference do you think you make through your volunteering?
Our service is simple, in that whilst we don’t offer advice to our callers, we try to get alongside them as they face whatever challenges there may be in their life at the moment. My shifts always feel worthwhile because I know that I’ve helped someone feel less alone in a time of need. People call us for all kinds of reasons, and I am very proud of our service for being able to offer a non-judgemental listening ear to our callers.
What do you get out of your volunteering?
This role has given me the confidence to speak to all kinds of people, and to cope with difficult and sometimes stressful situations. I think these skills have been useful not only in my volunteer role here but also in the rest of my life. Equally I am very grateful to be getting to know the fantastic group of people that volunteers with the Samaritans in Oxford. My fellow volunteers definitely brighten my day and always have me looking forward to my next shift.
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?
Whilst this may seem like quite a daunting role to start off with, the training and support that is put in place for volunteers means that the role becomes much more manageable than it might originally seem. The Oxford branch runs some great Information Evenings where you can find out more about what it’s really like to be a Samaritan. If you are at all interested, I would encourage you to just go and find out some more!