Leicester and Rutland Samaritans were glad to receive £4,281 from The Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation to start their SMS service.
This will go towards their target figure fall of £15,000 needed to create a computer work station to use the vodaphone system in the centre.
The Leicester and Rutland Samaritans is a humble setting for some remarkable work, and some incredible facts. Like all branches nationwide, this one is a charity in its own right, and is housed in a semi-detached property on the Stoneygate side of the London Road in Leicester.
Despite being tiny – essentially one training room downstairs and an upstairs contact centre, the staff comprises a staggering 161 volunteers. They devote their time to maintain the service round the clock, seven days a week. Jenny Burrell, one of the three paid, part-time office staff and like the others, also trained to work in the contact centre, says ‘Some of our volunteers have been doing this valuable work for more than forty years.’
This branch has on record 40,000 contacts made by phone, face-to-face, via email – and now, by text. Last October, Leicester and Rutland Samaritans launched their text service. You might guess that the need for this service has arisen among the younger service users. ‘Many children cannot use the telephone or the computer in the home to contact us,’ Jenny says, ‘often the most private means of communication they have is their mobile phone’. Everyone can see why this is very important.
The money is needed for the computer system; some ergonomic chairs to prevent back injury; lighting and some sound-proofing of the room where there will be two volunteers at any given time.
As a whole, the cost of keeping the branch afloat each year amounts to around £80,000, most of which is raised through legacies, grants and fund-raising events, but none of it is guaranteed. Jenny and her colleagues have to be one step ahead of the game at all times.
In addition to the 24/7 telephone service, the branch funds the training and support of three ‘listeners’ at local Leicester prisons. These are themselves prisoners who volunteer to assist their fellow prisoners by lending their ears in privacy and confidentially. The Leicester and Rutland Samaritans have also trained members of a group in the county called ‘Lost For Words’ based in schools, which was started as a result of a spate of suicides among young people in Melton Mowbray. They view this as ‘outreach work’ and within their remit as a service to both county and city.
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