A couple about to mark their 35th Christmas volunteering for the Samaritans say it is important for them to be there for people who want to hear a friendly voice.
Julia and Gerald Ginns are two of the volunteers who will be working at the Samaritans’ Northampton branch, in St Michael’s Avenue, over the festive season, and are preparing themselves for a busy time.
In total, 85 of the 110 volunteers from the town branch will be on duty answering calls around the clock, from people struggling to cope this Christmas.
Nationally, the helpline is preparing to answer 15,000 calls a day from people in the UK and Ireland.
Mrs Ginns said: “Christmas is an anniversary like any other, and people find it difficult to cope with that.
“We feel it is important to be there for people who have no-one, and just want to hear a human voice.
“We are here all the time and people don’t always realise that. At Christmas, it is often assumed that it is an answerphone, but Samaritans prides itself on being here all the time.”
Mr Ginns said: “I think it is the run-up to Christmas as much as Christmas itself which worries people. People are concerned about things which have happened in their lives.
“It is a time of joy and celebration and they are not feeling like that. It is quite common for people to say they are dreading Christmas.
“We have wonderful family and friends, but have always been aware of the pressures on people who have no one to share their innermost feelings with. This made us realise that maybe we could be there for them at times like these.
“Those precious few hours of being there for others is almost our way of trying to make their day a little less unhappy. After our shift, we go back to our family, we have a meal and good times.”
The town’s branch of the Samaritans can be contacted by calling Northampton 637637. The national helpline is 08457 909090, and the website address is www. samaritans.org
Northampton Samaritans say the demand on Christmas Day itself can vary, as it does on any day.
Volunteers are trained for between six and 12 months before they take up their roles.
Asked what makes a good volunteer, Mr Ginns said: “You need two things on the side of your head. You need to be a good listener, interested in people and the other person.”
Stephen Hoddell, chairman of Samaritans, said: “This time of year can be an incredibly difficult time and we want to let people know that Samaritans is here if things are getting to them. When many other services shut down for the holidays, our volunteers are available, answering calls round the clock.”
You can make a £3 donation to the Samaritans by texting SUPPORT to 70123.