Samaritans in cash crisis

Gill Graper: says Samaritans desperately needs money to continue to offer listening service to those in crisis. Photo: SG281112-114NG
Gill Graper: says Samaritans desperately needs money to continue to offer listening service to those in crisis. Photo: SG281112-114NG
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Recent publicity surrounding accusations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile have brought back unpleasant memories for many people living in the district.

As a result the listening charity Samaritans has experienced an increase in the number of people calling its helpline.

Numbers were already high – last year, the Peterborough branch which covers this area received about 2,500 calls a month on average, as well as emails and text messages.

Holbeach Clough volunteer Gill Graper says it is now urgent that they raise a lot of money to ensure there is always a volunteer there to answer the telephones when someone in crisis phones.

She said: “It costs just over £40,000 a year to run a branch like Peterborough and it is entirely run by volunteers and we don’t get any government funding and have to raise that money ourselves.

“We are in a situation where it is fairly urgent we raise quite a lot of money because we are short of funds.”

The volunteers have come up with the idea of having a Huge Nearly New Sale at Peterborough Arena on the East of England Showground this Sunday (10.30am to 1.30pm), with 25 per cent of whatever is sold going to the charity, and Gill hopes many people will support it.

Gill, former deputy head at what was the George Farmer School in Holbeach, has been volunteering for the Samaritans since she retired three years ago, and explains that volunteers are committed to giving 18 hours a month as well as a six-hour overnight shift.

She says: “It’s important because Samaritans as an organisation is 24/7 so if people phone there will always be someone who picks up the phone. I would say there are a lot of people calling on us because of the economic recession and also because I think there has been so much in the news about abuse, abusive and violent behaviour, and the Jimmy Savile case has brought back a lot of unpleasant memories for people. But we get a huge range of calls, from the lonely, the bereaved, the mentally ill and obviously the suicidal.

“It has certainly opened my eyes to the number and range of people who have tremendous problems they can’t cope with, and often those problems have gone on for years and been bottled up and suddenly, for some reason, they feel the need to talk, but very often cannot talk to family and friends because they would be emotionally involved.”

The Samaritans is a totally confidential service; volunteers do not offer advice and are non-judgmental. Gill explains: “To give an example, a paedophile might ring wanting to talk about what they have done, but we don’t judge. We are there to listen, to help people explore their feelings about what’s happening to them and in doing that we are allowing people the chance to think about the choices they have. Whatever is said to us is completely confidential and that’s what’s really important to people. We are there to listen and we are there because people are in emotional distress and cannot talk to anybody else.”

As well as needing funds, the Samaritans is always looking for more volunteers who would have to go through fairly arduous training over six to eight months: about eight training sessions over several weeks before they can go on the telephones, accompanied by two experienced volunteers, followed by more training.

Trained volunteers also go into Peterborough prison to train prisoners to be listeners, and give talks to local groups about the work of the Samaritans. For instance, Gill went into Ikea’s distribution centre at Peterborough to talk to staff about their work – Ikea is supporting the nearly new sale.

Gill adds: “We also have links with Network Rail workers in Peterborough who have been trained to recognise people who might be in distress at the railway station. A lot of suicides take place on railway lines and bridges so Network Rail has taken this on board.”

• The Huge Nearly New Sale is being held this Sunday (10.30am to 1.30pm, with items dropped off for sale between 8am and 9am and unsold items/cheques collected from 3pm). Visit to register to sell online, for sale information, live ‘for sale’ updates and post ‘wanted’ items.

All about Samaritans

• It’s a 24-hour helpline for people who want to talk about their feelings, provided by 18,500 volunteers.

• There are four ways to contact Samaritans: by phone, email, letter and face-to-face meetings in branches, at festivals and other events.

• Contacts are: telephone 08457 909090; email:; or write to Chris, PO Box 90 90, Stirling FK8 2SA. The Peterborough branch is at 32-34 St John’s Street, Peterborough PE1 5DD.

• Each year Samaritans receive more than 5 million contacts.

• Around 20 per cent of the people Samaritans speak to express suicidal feelings.

• People who self-harm are more likely to take their own life. Each year, around 25,000 young people go to hospital after self-harming.