London, and has become known all over the world for Its service of befriending the suicidal, depressed and There are 169 local branches throughout Britain, each with a local number displayed prominently in telephone directories.
The service is manned entirely by volunteers, who are carefully selected and trained. In Britain 20,000 volunteers deal with more than 230,000 new callers a year, besides the number of clients who make more than one call.
It does not require difficult skills to become a Samaritan volunteer — it simply requires a particular sort of person, says Chad Varah in his book "The Samaritans in the '70s".
An applicant's first approach is with a 'phone call to offer his services on the same number as anyone would use to call for help. The Samaritan helper who
answers the call has all the information needed to make a start in his locality.
Applicants who get through the "vetting Interview" attend at least six preparation classes. These continue the organisation's selection procedure. The classes are about befriending.
The preparation classes not only teach a great deal that will be useful in the work later on, but also show up any attitudes which may make someone unsuitable for work as a Samaritan volunteer.
Observation duty follows for those who emerge successfully from the preparation classes — to see what goes on, of course, but also to be observed by experienced Samaritans. The new volunteers then start in the probationary category of helpers.
As soon as it appears likely that the helpers have the Samaritan qualities, and are also still keen, they are promoted to members.
Initial enquiries about volunteering to work with the Samaritan service should be made by 'phone on the local Samaritan number. Chad Varah's book "The Samaritans in the '70s" is published by Constable at £1.95.