On June 8, Sker WI president, Nora Williams, welcomed 35 members.
It was an unusual meeting because the usual room was being as a polling station for the general election, so the group had to relocate next door.
The members received sad news that Muriel Stubbs, newly-appointed treasurer, had to pass the baton onto Wendy Williams, formerly welfare officer, due to personal reasons. Sker WI sends best wishes to Muriel and thanks Wendy for stepping in to the role.
Following the usual mix of business and communication, Nora introduced the guest speakers, Gwen and Bill, two long serving volunteers with the Bridgend branch of the Samaritans.
Gwen and Bill (not their real names) told us that Samaritans began in 1953 in London, founded by a vicar called Chad Varah.
Throughout his career, Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners and wanted to do something more specific to help people struggling to cope and possibly contemplating suicide.
Although the founder of the Samaritans was a clergyman, Gwen and Bill stressed that the Samaritans have no religious or political affiliations. They are a registered charity and are wholly dependent on donations.
Although there is a small professional team working nationally in areas of fundraising and raising public awareness of the Samaritans, everyone working ‘hands-on’ in the local branches are volunteers.
The group was told that Samaritans listen to those in need, try to alleviate stress, help people to explore options open to them and assure people of their right to confidentiality in their dealings with the Samaritans.
Gwen and Bill explained that the Samaritans do not offer advice as they believe that people have a right to find their own solutions to problems. However, people will be offered human contact via non-judgemental conversations.
With suicide rates increasing nationally, the Samaritans continue to provide a valuable 24-hour emotional support service to those with thoughts of suicide.
As well as the Freephone telephone number, people can also make contact via text and emails.
People contact Samaritans UK from many other countries as there is no other organisation like it anywhere else.
Gwen and Bill gave us some thought provoking statistics such as every six seconds, someone makes a call to Samaritans UK. We were also told that currently more men in the age bracket 45-59 commit suicide in the UK than women.
Another number that Gwen and Bill shared was that in Bridgend alone, the Samaritans need 160 volunteers to meet their need, but they currently only have 86! They went on to explain that Samaritans offer a structured training programme for people interested in volunteering.
As well as working from the local branches, the Samaritans have an outreach service working in prisons, schools and colleges. They are also in partnership with Network Rail, providing post-trauma support following incidents of suicide on the railway tracks, and their Step by Step programme working with the families of those who commit suicide.
Their Feet on the Streets Initiative sees local Samaritan volunteers walking among revellers on the streets of Bridgend on Saturday nights.
It could be suggested that the work of the Samaritans fits well with the national campaign adopted by the NFWI ‘Alleviating Loneliness,’ and a vote of thanks was given to Gwen and Bill and their teams of professionals and volunteers who all combine to provide this valuable and often unsung service.
Sker WI meets at 7pm on the second Thursday of the month at St David’s Church Hall, Nottage Village. Visitors are always welcome – come along and say hello!