The Samaritans who will spend Christmas Day helping others

Emma Gale, who will volunteer with the Samaritans this Christmas Day. Photo: Chris O'Donovan

Emma Gale, who will volunteer with the Samaritans this Christmas Day. Photo: Chris O'Donovan - Credit: Archant

For plenty of people around the region, Christmas will not be an easy time.

Figures from the Samaritans show that one in three calls the charity receives on Christmas Day are from those who feel lonely or isolated, with 400,000 calls made during December last year, and 11,000 of those on the 25th.

An army of volunteers man the charity's centres over the Christmas period, including a dedicated team at its Norwich office.

And in the build-up to the Christmas season, the Samaritans is asking people to give the gift of listening by encouraging family and friends to open up.

They have launched a set of vouchers, which can be downloaded from the website, offering time to listen as a present.

Among the volunteers who will be supporting callers in Norwich is Alison, who regularly volunteers at Christmas.

She said: 'This is what being a Samaritan is all about – caring for others and keeping the phone lines open every day of the year.

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'For me it has always been a special time, when I leave the festivities and drive through the deserted streets to spend a few quiet hours being there for people who may find Christmas almost unbearable. It brings me down to earth.'

Bob Kuczma has volunteered with the Samaritans for more than 10 years, and now runs the Norwich branch.

He said: 'This Christmas and new year, Norwich Samaritans will respond to hundreds of callers by phone, email and face-to-face in our city centre branch.

'Our volunteers leave their families and friends to spend a few hours talking to our callers who are distressed or suicidal. That is the true spirit of Christmas.'

Emma Gale was inspired to volunteer with the Samaritans after years of undiagnosed health problems.

She said: 'In the run up to Christmas 2016 I was sent home from hospital. I felt ill, very lonely and a burden to everyone around me. I decided my family would be far better off without me and made plans to end my life. After driving to a quiet spot, I decided to call Samaritans for the first and only time in my life. I just needed someone to talk to, so I didn't feel so alone.'

She said it was life-changing, and the following day she went to hospital and was finally given a diagnosis. She will spend her Christmas Day volunteering for the first time.

To download the Samaritans' Give the Gift of Listening vouchers for free, click here.

Or to donate, click here, or find out more about volunteering, click here.

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