A Samaritans volunteer who cycled 1,600 miles in a bid to recruit volunteers and raise funds for the charity reached the end of his journey this morning when he rode off the NorthLink ferry in Lerwick.
Steve Johnson, 66, was met by volunteers from the local branch and five members of the Lerwick Jarl’s Squad upon arriving in Shetland.
The Lerwick branch will be the 28th visited by Mr Johnson during his travels, which started at his local branch in Hastings, Sussex, on 15th April.
Samaritans is a charity which provides emotional support to people in distress throughout the country, often through their telephone helpline, but also by e-mail, text message, letter or face-to-face. Nationally the service is available 24/7 and people who phone the charity will speak to the next available volunteer in the UK. The Shetland branch of Samaritans, based at Charlotte Street in Lerwick, has 14 volunteers.
At each branch on his route, Mr Johnson has done a shift on the telephones before local volunteers joined him for a cycle part of the way towards his next stop. “If you like I’m the baton in the relay”, he said.
Explaining what inspired him to undertake the trip Mr Johnson said: “I just think Samaritans is an increasingly important charity for people whose lives are in crisis.
“We’re determined to support everybody, whether their problem. We just listen and we support and it’s an important lifeline for so many people.”
The local volunteers who met Mr Johnson as he rode off the NorthLink ferry this morning were: director of the local branch John Thomas, deputy director Glynn Wright and founder member of the Lerwick branch Edith Leask.
The trio said that they hoped to use Mr Johnson’s fundraising efforts to enhance the profile of the local branch and encourage more volunteers to come forward. The branch once had over 30 volunteers but now has less than half of that.
Explaining what volunteering for the Samaritans would entail, Mr Thomas said: “Listening, exploring options with people and sometimes, if appropriate, we will signpost them to an organisation that can help them.”
Mr Wright said people would find volunteering “very rewarding”. “It helps you understand and learn about folk”, he said.
That was echoed by Mr Johnson. He said: “I’ve learned to listen more to people and it has helped me with my own relationships and my work.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can find information on how to do so at the Samaritans website. Alternatively, you can contact the local branch by writing to them at Linda Rose Cottage, Charlotte Street, Lerwick, ZE1 0AB or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• More in next Friday’s Shetland Times.