Wednesday, May 02, 2007



A blogging friend – Kath ( see side bar) mentioned in her post that she was thinking of doing some voluntary work – giving something back she said - and it reminded me that for the first time in decades I am not doing any. Way back in the seventies I was at a low ebb spiritually, mentally and physically. Common sense told me to find some one in a worse state than I was and do something about it, so I became a Samaritan.

The Samaritans was started by Chad Varah - a very unusual man:-

“It had been 18 years since I made my debut in the ministry by burying a 14 year old girl who'd killed herself when her periods started, thinking it was VD. I'd done nothing about suicide, but got myself labelled a dirty old man at 25 by seizing every opportunity to teach young people about sex, and finding that it led youngsters to join my youth clubs and young couples to come for marriage preparation, and couples drifting apart to seek marriage guidance before it was invented.”

He started a sort of clinic at St Stephens, Walbrook. London where people who were desperate and often suicidal would drop in. He had volunteers who would make drinks and talk to the callers and he found that often this did the trick – a sympathetic listener was all they needed. So he started The Samaritans where phones were manned for 24 hours to help the needy.

I wonder if, in today’s climate, he would have been allowed to do the same again. Then - there would surely have been many more deaths by suicide. It certainly took my mind off my own problems and I continued to do it until I changed my life completely and went to live in another part of the country.
Here I found myself in a position not unlike the nameless heroine in ‘Rebecca’ with too much time on my hands.

My next voluntary job was working with children with cerebral palsy and Riding for the Disabled. This was enjoyable and rewarding and helped me to overcome the loneliness I felt at having left my familiar surroundings.
Then we retired to the South West and a shop was just opening to support the local Hospice so I worked there for a number of years. After running my own business with staff it amused me to be a simple shop assistant who made the coffee.

I did this for about five years and then was invited to read for Talking Newspaper where a team of readers read from the local newspaper, an engineer recorded it and volunteers distributed the tapes to people with sight problems - or the visually challenged – whatever is the correct description nowadays.

When Bluebell, my car, expired I looked on it as an omen and after having done about fifteen years decided to call it a day. By the way I am not looking for Brownie points; I have gained far more than I have given over the years.
Will I do something else? At the moment I am enjoying freedom from any commitment. I have a large family, house and garden and I choose not to have any help as our privacy is our luxury. Also it isn’t necessary to join an organisation to do useful work.

I am very pleased that one of my younger friends has been inspired to join Talking Newspaper and someone very close to me is becoming a Samaritan. If you have any leanings towards this sort of work – and I have only mentioned a fraction of what is available – jump in! You won’t regret it.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I've always done voluntary work. I feel as if something's missing without it.

Drama Queen said...

I'm a big cliche who wishes she has more time for it. Or at least spoke better French to really make a difference. . .

apprentice said...

I do some too, with two chaitable trusts. I think it is the most rewarding work you can do, as you're there because you want to be. I gain far more than I put in.

R. Sherman said...

Thanks for the prodding, dear. Some of us need to be reminded about that, now and then.


Dandelion said...

Chad Varah and the Periods! I haven't heard this story since Religious Studies in school! Happy days!

PI said...

Ouch Randall - i didn't mean to prod:)

Dandelion: you put it so succinctly!

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

This last 5 years with the girls has left me with little time for volunteer work but, without trying to sound all worthier-then-thou, I used to be a keen volunteer. Mainly 'cos I just liked feeling useful. I taught English as a second language; delivered hot meals to HIV/AIDS patients in the Twin Cities; rehabilitated orphaned baby birds at a Wildlife Centre and have done countless collections, coffee mornings and grocery-bagging stints. Like you, Pat, I feel I got out more than I put in, and have treasured the variety of experiences volunteering has brought me. I've had loads of fun with it - far more then the rather stiff, self-sacrificing word "volunteering" suggests; I didn't feel i was sacrificing a blimin' thing, it was great - and learnt stacks but I haven't done anything for about 6 years now.

Just this morning I passed a sign at the library bookshop looking for volunteers. Maybe that and this post are signs to get my hand back in again.

PI said...

Sam: some people are just natural givers and carers and I suspect you are one of them. I found - with young children - I didn't do anything structured but - as a release - got very interested in the theatre. When you are amongst people there is always the opportunity to be kind and helpful. God I'm sounding like Mary Poppins or that saccharin little girl whose name escapes me.

kenju said...

I used to do much more volunteer work than I have been able to do since I started my business. I need to start doing some again!

Kath said...

Amazing post! I'm actually looking into military-type volunteering, I have a couple of things I'm getting more information on. What I'd really like to do is be available for those military wives and families! Thank you for this post

eg(scotland) said...

Pi - one of the things that I have regreted in recent years is that being so focussed on work and letting it absorb so much of my time meant that I had no time to do voluntary work. I've been thinking about this a lot recently and have thought that I should find time - even if only a few hours a week. Thank you for providing the inspiration to get up and do something.

My niece, who is 16, did voluntary work during her easter school holidays working at a playgroup for autistic children. She has already signed-up to work 5 weeks out of her 6 weeks summer school holidays to do the same again. I am so proud of her.


Nea said...

In a way you are still doing Samaritan work. Reading and commenting on our blogs, letting us know there is somebody listening. You are the most prolific commenter I have seen so far, always sympathetic and with kindness.

Just wanted you to know that it is appreciated.


I have religiously supported any number of breweries over the years thereby ensuring gainful employment to many hundreds.

Does that count?

(Proud of yer babe x)

PI said...

Judy: read Nea's comment. It certainly applies to you.

Kath: good luck with it. I'm sure it will be interesting and look forward to hearing about it.

eg: don't stretch yourself until it feels right. Your niece reminded me that when I was at grammar school a bunch of us went to the local poor law hospital in the summer holidays to help with the old people. I suppose most of them had what we now call Alzheimer's disease. I still remember the smell of pee and custard. Well done your niece!

Oh thank you Nea but I do enjoy it:)

PI said...

4d: yes it does honey because I know the sort of man you are:)