Samaritans in Exeter, Mid and East Devon is celebrating Volunteers Week this year by bucking the trend and attracting a raft of new and younger volunteers as well as more experienced ones.
“Volunteering is often associated with older people with spare time and plenty of life experience. Those are vital to our organisation, of course, but they’re not the only demographic to find volunteering rewarding and satisfying” explains Mel Whittock, director of the local Samaritans branch.
One example is Izzy Kumik, a 19 year old Met Office apprentice who first worked with the charity as a support volunteer three years ago.
“When I was younger my Mum passed away and we had a lot of support just when we needed it most - from friends, family, teachers and others” explains Izzy, who lives at Christow, south west of Exeter.
“People from the hospice where my mother was took us on days out and created memory books. That was really wonderful support that helped so much.”
Now Izzy feels she can do the same for others by volunteering at the local Samaritan branch, based near Exeter city centre.
”There’s nothing quite like it. A phone call starts with someone in distress but by just listening you can end really cheering someone up. They’re immensely grateful that you have the time to listen to their problems” Izzy explains.
“The training is fantastic and the time required fits in perfectly with my life so it’s not a commitment that only older people can make. It’s hugely rewarding” she adds.
The Samaritans service is available 24/7 365 days a year by phone, email and letter.
In 2021 the Exeter Mid and east Devon branch responded to 31,417 contacts - 27,787 were telephone calls, 2,689 were emails and 941 webchat contacts.
“We have 120 volunteers who as well as running these helpline services, undertake fundraising, publicity, administration, training and much more - everyone is unpaid. We also do outreach in the community, provide support to schools and the university and the prison, and work with other organisations throughout our area” explains Mel.
Anyone who feels they have something to offer can email
firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on the branch admin line on 01392 496649.