A retired Chief Executive who has dedicated the past 21 years to volunteering with the Samaritans has spoken of the satisfaction he gets from helping people as a national awareness week is underway.
Andrew Good, who is a Public Governor with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, has shared his experiences in the hope it will encourage others with a few hours to spare to think about volunteering during Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1 to 12 June.
Mr Good spends around four hours a week working with the Samaritans in the charity’s Colchester office, where he answers calls, talks through people’s problems and, where appropriate, signposts them to further sources of help. Answering emails and texts are also part of his duties, and give people a choice in how they make contact.
Alongside his fellow volunteers, he also plays a key role in keeping the charity afloat by raising around £40,000 each year to pay for the running costs of his branch.
“I decided to volunteer with the Samaritans after a work colleague’s husband passed away and I felt I hadn’t dealt with the situation as well as I should have done,” said Mr Good, who lives in Suffolk.
“We receive calls for all sorts of reasons. People may have had a bad day at work, recently lost a pet or had an argument with someone they love, while others may be very anxious or depressed. In other cases, they may be actively thinking about suicide or in the process of taking their own life.
“We listen and respond by talking though their anxieties and the options with them, and can signpost them to one of the many organisations we work closely with, if that would be appropriate. The one thing we don’t do is give advice – that is not what the service is for.
“All of our volunteers are local people from all walks of life with a few hours to spare. It’s really important to have empathy, as is the ability to relate to others and listen to them without being judgmental.
“The training is very extensive, and takes six months to complete when you first sign up. We also receive ongoing training each year, as well as fantastic support from our fellow Samaritans, which is really important.
“I would thoroughly recommend it and obviously get something from it otherwise I wouldn’t have done it for so long.”
In addition to his work with the Samaritans, Mr Good took on a second voluntary role – as an NSFT Governor – three years ago, where he reflects the views of the Trust's members, helps decide its future direction and holds its Non-Executive Directors to account.
He explained: “The main reason I decided to stand as a Governor was as a result of the calls I take as a Samaritan. More than half face mental health challenges, whether through having an illness themselves or by caring for someone else, and a lot of these people are very vulnerable and have no one else to talk to.
“Working with both organisations allows me to inform myself about mental health while also feeding back learning from the Samaritans to the Trust with the aim of driving through improvements.
“Lots of my fellow Governors are also volunteers, and use the knowledge and experience they gain from those roles to help inform their work with the Trust, which I think is really vital.”
A wide variety of volunteering roles will soon be available at NSFT, from meeting and greeting service users and carers to helping out in occupational therapy sessions or working in the gardens.
To register an interest in volunteering with the Trust, please contact Eve Edwards, Voluntary Services Manager, on 01603 421348 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. NSFT will begin advertising all of its voluntary opportunities on its website later this year.