Marking their half century next month, the local branch of Samaritans has helped tens of thousands of distressed people over the years

Fifty years of Samaritans expertise has taught volunteers that just listening is the greatest gift they can give, and that it can save lives.

Offering support to more than 35,000 people each year, the Samaritans of Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a host of events.

The celebrations will launch on 12th May with an Open Day and will continue throughout the year with the three-fold aim of raising the profile of the organisation highlighting the work they do, raising money in a bid to make their premises a disability friendly workplace and to recruit more volunteers as the demand for the Samaritans service increases.

The Blackburn-based branch has more than 80 volunteers who answer calls and respond to emails and texts from those who need emotional support – the volunteers are there for anyone going through difficult times.

“There are now many more ways of communication, other than telephone calls and face to face visits,” explains volunteer Judith Houghton who is Director of the branch.”

“We are busier than ever – while the same emotional and relationship problems remain we are also seeing more financial worries. They are definitely on the increase.”

“We get calls for help from every age group and over the years we have also seen the suicide rate rise particularly among young men.”

The branch also takes part in events across the region, visiting local organisations and schools raising the profile of the work of the Samaritans.

“We were heavily involved in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, supporting those who visited St Ann’s Square and also had a presence at the Manchester Pride event,” adds Judith.

The branch also supports a Listener Scheme at Garth Prison. This is a peer support scheme whereby Samaritans volunteers select, train and support prisoners to offer confidential emotional support to their fellow inmates.

Training inmates to become listeners takes place twice a year but support is ongoing with Samaritans volunteers visiting the prison on a regular basis to support the listeners.

Keen to recruit new volunteers from all walks of life, the Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley branch holds regular information sessions where potential volunteers can find out more about the service: “Potential volunteers can come in and find out what to expect as a volunteer and if it’s right for them,” explains Judith.”

“We want to support people through difficult times and to do that our listening volunteers need to be carefully trained.”

Training as a listening volunteer takes around nine weeks, however there are many other ways in which volunteers can help as there are roles in administration, fundraising, IT support and building maintenance. Whatever your interests, experience or skills, Samaritans will have a role for which volunteers will receive training and mentoring.

The branch is also fortunate enough to have actors Steve Pemberton and Peter Gunn as branch ambassadors.

Steve who was born and raised in Blackburn, is well known for a number of acting roles including being in the award winning comedy The League of Gentlemen and also playing Mick Garvey in Benidorm. He is also a well-known producer, performer and writer.

Peter has lived in the area for the past 20 years and has worked in film TV, radio and theatre. His TV roles have included Brian Packham in Coronation Street and Len Cosgrove in Born and Bred.

Both ambassadors work with the branch to raise awareness of the valuable work Samaritans do on a daily basis throughout the region.

Operating in Blackburn since 1968 and from their New Park Street headquarters since 1973, Samaritans will be involved in a host of events to mark their half century.

50th Anniversary Open Day: 12th May 2018 10am-3pm – 105 New Park Street, Blackburn BB2 1DF
Great Harwood Show: 28th May 2018
Concert/Social Event: 15th June 2018 – Rishton Golf Club
Sarah Millican Show: 16th June 2018 – King George’s Hall, Blackburn
Royal Lancashire Show: 20th-22nd July 2018
Clitheroe Food Festival: 11th August 2018
Michael Jackson Tribute: 14th September 2018 – Thwaites Theatre, Blackburn
Cliff Richard Tribute: 15th September 2018 – Thwaites Theatre, Blackburn
Dinner Dance: 13th October 2018 – Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Clayton-le-Moors
Quiz Night: 19th November 2018 – Dog & Otter, Great Harwood

For more information go to: www.samaritans.org



Tedd Walmsley

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