What does this space know?

Some thoughts from Rupert Meese

  • Advertisements

Samaritans selection day

Posted by Rupert Meese on September 23, 2009


I recently volunteered as a ‘listener’ for the Samaritans. The Samaritans do amazing work and change the lives of thousands of people each year, often changing lives means saving lives, through the simple act of listening. Their philosophy and understanding, that advice is not the answer, is so in line with the principles that I work from as a Symbolic Modeller that I could not ignore my sense of a call to duty that I got whenever I considered volunteering. And so, I want to write about the selection process to encourage anyone else considering volunteering.

The Samaritans selection process starts online at (here) or by calling the special volunteer line (UK: 08705 62 72 82). Samaritans local branches are interested in anyone volunteering over 18 with the ability to listen and remain open minded. A comprehensive program ensures that volunteers are fully trained and supported in the role that they take on and no formal training is needed before applying. Volunteers are expected to put in

When you apply on line you fill in a simple form and the local Samaritans branch get in touch to let you know about the next information day. This is a chance to visit the Samaritans local office, talk to volunteers and get to know the whole philosophy and approach. This is a really interesting and informative day in itself. When I went it was to the office in an old terrace on the outskirts of town. The building was basic and the atmosphere that it gave was somewhere between cool and neutral, and somewhat institutional. I was a little unsure what to expect, but the four volunteers that hosted the day were each warm and enthusiastic about the service that they offered, and in that I had the clear sense of the value that they got from volunteering. Rosie, one of the volunteers, took us through the typical journey of a trainee volunteer: six weeks of training follow selection, mostly, in our case, on Tuesday evenings with a couple of Saturdays thrown in for good measure. Much of the training, she says, centers on ensuring that volunteers are actively listening rather than attempting to give advice. I know very well the power that listening with attention can have. In my circles we call keeping the listener/facilitators stuff out of an interaction being ‘clean’. Following the training, during which volunteers gain experience through roll-play and exercises, the volunteer starts on a rota, attending the office to answer phones and e-mail around once a week and including around one night shift a month. The trainee is far from ‘let loose’ however. At this point they enter a six month probationary period during which the trainee is supported by a mentor. Initially the trainee shadows the mentor listening to the mentor answer calls, then taking calls with the mentor close at hand, then having the mentor available to offload following any difficult calls, and so the process of becoming a fully fledged ‘listener’ is supported all of the way. That support does not stop at the end of the probationary period either. After every shift a duty officer is available to turn to following any particularly difficult or harrowing calls.

I left the information day with a very clear sense that the work being done by the Samaritans was too important to ignore and so I completed my application form, including two referees and was delighted to be given a date to attend the selection day, which the branch run three times a year.

The day started at 10 in the same building as before. Around twelve of us attended along with four Samaritans who’s job it was to make the judgment about admitting each of us into the fold. Having said that, the day was largely relaxed and informal. After some presentations about the work of the Samaritans we got to work with group exercises. These were largely designed to get us talking in the group, giving the selectors the chance to hear our voices and opinions and so get to know us a little. It was, in fact, a very gentle process. The final exercise after lunch was great fun – we were tasked with deciding, in groups, which six out of nineteen candidates should survive the end of the earth, the remaining thirteen perishing along with the rest of the population! The final part of the selection day was for each of us to be interviewed by two of the selection panel. This was also relaxed and enjoyable, with wide ranging and interesting questions.

All in all it was a considerate, well structured experience managed well by committed volunteers and I look forward to starting the training.


2 Responses to “Samaritans selection day”

  1. Weescyday said

    Excuse me for writing OFFTOPIC but what Word Press theme do you use? Looks awesome!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: