Lorna has been an active Samaritans volunteer since 1980. In her 37 years of service she has undertaken a variety of roles, starting as a telephone listener and becoming what was then called a Director (now Shift Leader) in 1995. Lorna has recently retired from being a shift leader and looks forward to simply being a telephone listener in future.
Over a cup of coffee and cake in a Karori tea shop, Lorna reminisced about her experiences and all the wonderful things she had learnt as a Samaritans volunteer in Wellington.
”There was no technology then and we filled out a hand written case sheet for EVERY call, even the regulars – but there were fewer calls. We also had a lot of face-to-face contact with callers. We would get into our cars and go out to people in crisis. The police and ambulances do that nowadays. We never visited anyone on our own; we always went in two’s.
One memory of those times was when a call came in when Lorna was Duty Director (Shift Leader) from a caller who had already cut his wrists. Two Samaritans leapt into a car and took off at speed to Petone. The man in trouble didn’t want an ambulance called because he didn’t want the neighbours to know! Fortunately the Sams got the man to the hospital just in the nick of time to save his life, but the Sam’s car was covered in blood.
When Wellington Samaritans stopped visiting callers, Lorna felt it wasn’t a good move but came to realise it was for the best. “Mental Health services are better now, technology helps reach a much greater range of people. Also, there are more help lines and we don’t have the resources to continue that sort of personal contact.”
Another favourite memory form her time as D1 was, in 1996, going as an exchange Samaritan to Southport in England and to the Samaritans World Conference in York. The amazing trip, which gave Lorna opportunity to meet about 2000 Sams from all over the world, was funded by the Hyderabad Samaritans who donated some beautiful gold jewellery to Befrienders International, and was used to enable non-UK Samaritans to attend the conference.
Samaritans volunteers like Lorna are special people. They know how to listen and empathise. They are warm and patient. But most importantly, they care. They are people who are willing to volunteer their time to listen to people who need someone to talk to and give them the care and attention they need to get through the tough times in life.