The Samaritans’ Samaritan: La Gente charity special

EVER wondered what help there is to support the Samaritans; the people who tirelessly spend their time volunteering to help others? The answer lies in Pamela Russell.
As branch representative for the Samaritans in Spain, Pamela is the listening ear for the other Samaritans, offering support to them for any personal problems or when they have had a particularly difficult call to deal with: “There are always two people on duty on the phones and in the drop-in centre, so you can speak with others directly after speaking with someone to help unload the issue, but sometimes you need someone else to talk to.”
This is a relatively new post that has arisen within the charity to help primarily the volunteers themselves, but Pamela has been a Samaritan for four years in Spain: “The same problems tend to pop up here as in the UK but there are then the added problems of being homesick and not speaking the language that can escalate a problem.”
Pamela joined the Samaritans in the UK in 1986 when running her own curtain shop. She had recently become a widow and her sister-in-law thought she would be good at it. Pamela thought she could use her own experiences to help others and she has never looked back.
Moving to Spain in 2001 she had no plans to carry on the work until she heard of Samaritans in Spain and went through their training programme to offer her assistance once more, but is she surprised at how many people call the Samaritans line?
“What actually surprises me is that more people don’t call. We know there are a lot of people struggling to cope and we believe it must be a very small percentage who actually pick up the phone.” Pamela adds: “The Samaritans is not just for people with suicidal tendencies, we want to encourage people to call to have a listening ear at the end of the phone to stop it getting to that level.”
With her soothing, calm tones, it is understandable to see how Pamela can offer that supportive voice at the end of the phone and to think she has helped someone is her greatest reward for the voluntary work she does.
However, the hardest part is also not knowing if, or who, she has helped: “We rarely get feedback and that can be hard. If you receive a call and someone is on the brink of suicide our role is to let them know they are not alone, but it can be hard when you wonder what the outcome was and how that person is. We do offer follow-up calls and ask them if we can call them in the morning to see how they are, but it is difficult.”
For more information on the Samaritans in Spain visit or for those needing to talk, call the free phone number on 900 525 100. All calls are treated with total confidence within the Samaritans movement and no details of names or telephone numbers need to be given unless a call back is requested.

If you know a charity worker with a story to tell, email [email protected]

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