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The Gift of Listening

Jenni McCartney

Jenni McCartney (@SamaritansJenni) has been a volunteer at Samaritans for more than 30 years, and in 2015 was elected Chair of Trustees, representing the charity’s 21,000 volunteers.

As part of her role she writes a blog for Samaritans’ internal website, delivers speeches at the Council of Samaritans and at branch AGMs, and spends time travelling round the 201 branches dotted throughout the UK and Ireland to meet with volunteers and help spread the word.

In recognition of these efforts, Jenni has been awarded the CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award for her work engaging with volunteers, and for representing Samaritans in the media.

In today’s episode we learn about the history and formation of Samaritans, how and why Jenni first became a volunteer and, more importantly, why she decided to stick with it for more than thirty years.

We explore the most common reasons people turn to Samaritans, how it evolved from a suicide prevention line into an emotional support service that anybody could call for any reason, why Samaritans policy is primarily to listen without giving advice, and how this approach can often be more effective in helping callers find the answers they’re looking for.

We also explore what it’s like to be a volunteer answering calls, what’s involved in the training process, what you actually say and do when a call comes in, how you learn to help other people deal with their negative life experiences without letting it affect your own emotional well being, but ultimately, how listening to other people’s problems is, more often than not, a rewarding experience for both parties.

 

Recommended Links

Samaritans – Home Page

Samaritans Volunteer Sign-up Page

Books Mentioned in This Episode

 

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Image courtesy: Alon