Volunteer Samaritan celebrate 40 years of saving lives in Milton Keynes

From the Samaritan’s inauspicious offices on Fishermead, a volunteer is celebrating an important milestone – four decades of helping to save lives in MK.

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 3:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:51 pm

Josephine started volunteering for the charity in 1982, when it operated from a small terraced house in Wolverton’s Church Street.

It was a telephone service only, with limited hours, and a large shop-style window that had to be blocked inside for privacy.

Upstairs, the small telephone room (fondly known as the ops room) held two phone booths side-by-side, forcing volunteers to whisper in an attempt to keep confidentiality.

The Samaritans are based above a shop in Fishermead

But the humble scheme followed the same principles that had moved Chad Varah to initiate The Samaritans as the world’s first crisis hotline. in 1953 – to support the suicidal

Josephine quickly learned that there were many reasons for despair and that some people with serious issues are not immediately ready to share them at the time they call.

Each day, dozens of people who are lonely, desperate, or struggling turn to MK Samaritans in search of compassion and support.

To answer their call for help requires a team of more than dedicated 50 volunteers like Josephine, working around the clock in shifts every day of the week and every week of the year.

Every call answered by a Samaritans Volunteer is life-changing,” said a spokesman for the local group. “Those in need reach out to us in times of crisis and receive judgement-free support from strangers who dedicate hours of their free time to do so. Every hour our volunteers give to Samaritans is selfless and important and the charity wouldn’t exist without them.”

Josephine saw the branch through many changes, both with the Samaritans charity as a whole and within MK itself. In the1980s the branch moved to Fishermead, where the larger space allowed training to take place as well as the installation of new technologies to improve and expand the service.

For the first time, branches were grouped and coordinated centrally, so callers to a branch where all lines engaged would be diverted to another with a free line.

"Incredible as it seems, callers used to receive a recorded message apologising that the lines were busy and asking them to try again later,” said the spokesman.

As Samaritans moved with the times, an email service and Live Chat were introduced. Suddenly there was a need for different skills and time management on shifts to meet the new forms of communication needed to be met.

But, despite the advent of new technology, Josephine says the basic needs and problems of callers have not changed over her 40 years of service. They still need someone to listen, show compassion and give them support.

The spokesman said: “Today Josephine continues to be an integral member of Milton Keynes Samaritans and we are incredibly lucky to have her. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our callers and for our branch, Josephine.”

Another Samaritan in MK has completed 37 years of service. A celebration to honour both volunteers will be held on Saturday and the Mayor of MK Mohammed Khan, who is regional director for the Samaritans, will attend.

You can call the Samaritans any time on 0330 094 5717116 or, free of charge from any phone, on 116 123.