Monmouthshire Provincial Grand Master supports the new Samaritans' office in South Wales

Tuesday, 01 March 2022

The Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire Richard G Davies, recently called into the Samaritans’ new office in Newport as part of the official opening of their new premises in Baneswell, Newport

Monmouthshire Freemasons have been long term supporters of this charity, donating over £7000 over several years. One donation by the province helped keep their office open after a flood that damaged the telephone lines, which would have prevented them offering their services. Each Samaritans office is financially independent and must raise money locally to provide their services to those in need in the Newport and Gwent area. The Newport branch alone needs in the region of £15,000 a year to stay open, and this is even though there are no paid staff, just volunteers. The team even had to use their own cars to move to the new offices.

The Samaritans just seem to be one of those charities that has always been there and like many things in life, you don’t take notice of them unless you one day find you need their help or just someone to talk to. Visiting the new office provided a small insight to how the charity works on a local basis.

Sharon Beckett the Director of the Newport branch and Jeff Mitchell, one of the 7 trustees for the office took us on a tour of the new premises. Also present was Jay Cox, Deputy Director and outreach worker. It was fascinating to hear Jay talk about taking their services into the custody suite of the local police station to offer support to those who needed it. There is even an initiative for training prisoners in Usk Prison, who can then offer help to other prisoners when they want it.

It was inspiring to learn that Jay also attends fresher week at local colleges. Many students have never heard of the Samaritans and what they do, but leaflets, posters and cards are there to remind them when they start to feel the pressure of being a student in today’s pressurised society.

Although the new offices have 3 stations where trained listening volunteers can take calls 24 hours a day, only two are in use at any one time. Despite there only being two people, no calls will be missed as if the local lines are busy the call will get directed to a central call centre that will re-route the caller to another office where someone is available.

During the visit to the call centre, we met Hazel who has spent 20 years taking calls and supporting those at the end of their tether. The training to be a volunteer takes 8 weeks and there is a further requirement for ongoing training for all those involved. Hazel told us that not all the calls are from desperate people, sometimes she takes calls from those who are desperately lonely and just need to chat so someone.

The new offices are only a temporary home for 12 months whilst the previous premises, which was bequeathed to the charity, is sold to allow them to purchase a more suitable, accessible office, which is particularly important as one of their volunteers requires wheelchair access.

The Samaritans’ website states the following:

  • During 2020, more than 20,000 people volunteered their time for Samaritans
  • Over 16,200 trained listening volunteers responded to calls for help
  • Over 3,200 volunteers supported the running of 201 branches
  • Over 1,000 prisoners volunteered as trained Listeners

It is also a sobering fact that less well-off middle-aged men are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

Monmouthshire Freemasons are proud to have supported this worthwhile charity in providing these essential services to those in need within our Province.

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