Celebrating volunteers

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A word from our Acting CEO, Brad Webb:

It is National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is:

Give a little. Change a lot.

At Samaritans, we are blessed with nearly 550 individuals who volunteer their time and expertise to support a diverse range of services including Samaritans Shops, Friendship House, Kinship Care, Emergency Relief, Disaster Recovery, Temporary Care, and our many Christmas activities.

From a few hours to a regular weekly commitment, our wonderful volunteers embody the spirit of volunteering that allows us to stretch our resources and make the maximum impact.

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to meet with many of our volunteers, including one of our longest serving volunteers, Pat. Pat has taught me a lot about the history of Samaritans and the critically important contribution of volunteers to our services.

Pat has dedicated herself to Samaritans Emergency Relief for more than a quarter of a century, she has worked with Disaster Recovery teams, and also sat on the Samaritans Board. I asked Pat to share with us why she volunteers at Samaritans:

“I’ve always found it important to give back to the community where I live. It’s my community and if I can do something to make it better and help people to live a better life, I will.

When I think back, even at school I got service awards for looking after the garden before anybody was doing that kind of thing. I can’t imagine my life being any other way, I’ve just always been this sort of person. Volunteering brings me a satisfaction that I’ve helped someone be better off in life. 

I’ve been doing Emergency Relief volunteer work at Samaritans for 27 years and our job is to help people to help themselves so that they can have a better life and not need us anymore. I’ve always said the reward I get is seeing piles of paper from old case files shredded. This means we haven’t seen the family in over 18 months and it means their lives are back on track and they don’t need us anymore.

There are sad stories you hear about what the circumstances are that bring someone to us. The stories I hear these days are more complicated than they used to be because the cost of things for families are going up. I can’t believe what some people have to pay just for rent. Late last year I’d been told about a man living in his car beside the railway station. I went down after I finished the school breakfast club and I found the car but no one inside. For me it was important that this person know Samaritans cared enough and I wanted to give them a flyer to Emergency Relief. At the same time I was there an elderly couple pulled up and began looking as well. It turned out it was their grandson who had been living in the car and when I explained I had come to offer help they were taken aback and so grateful. They couldn’t believe someone in the community had noticed and wanted to help.

I learned soon after that the young man was back with his mother and getting help for his mental health issues. Somebody had a hand in making sure that I was at that car at the same time as those grandparents. Knowing that I was from Samaritans and there to offer help gave them peace to think that people in community do care. I love what I do and I believe in what Samaritans stands for. As long as someone wants me there and I’ve got a role, I’ll be there.”

What an extraordinary philosophy Pat bring to the Samaritans. Her passion and dedication is clear for all to see, and it is common across the volunteers I have the privilege to meet in my role.

On behalf of Samaritans I acknowledge and celebrate our volunteers and everything they have done for us. It has been said before, but we really couldn’t do it without them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.