The Samaritans helpline was founded in 1953 by a Church of England reverend, Chad Varah, at the parish of St Stephens Walbrook in the City Of London. He set up a ‘999 for the suicidal’ which he initially intended to operate on his own. However, following Daily Mirror publicity, demand was such that he soon needed help from additional volunteers who were there to make tea and coffee and sit with people while they waited to speak to Varah. He observed that many of his visitors would tell their troubles to these volunteers while they were waiting and would remark on how much better it had made them feel: they often didn’t need Varah’s own help after that. The simple act of talking to an empathetic stranger was enough to ease their burdens. From this observation he laid down the principles which the Samaritans have operated under ever since: listening, confidentiality, non-judgemental, self-determination and human contact. He also separated the organisation from the church. It has now grown to a national charity with about 20,000 volunteers, responding to over 5.7 million contacts every year.
These are some of the longest serving Samaritans in the country: with at least 30 years service each.