As a young curate in 1935, Chad Varah officiated at the funeral of a 14 year old girl who had taken her own life because she had started to menstruate and feared she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The experience had a profound and lasting effect on Varah who later said, "Little girl, I didn't know you, but you have changed the rest of my life for good." He vowed to campaign for better sex education and to help people who were contemplating suicide and had nowhere to turn.
Years later in 1953, by then a vicar in central London and a writer/cartoonist in children's magazines, he opened a telephone helpline for people in distress, for people who had nowhere to turn to and who were perhaps contemplating suicide. From the first calls answered, he offered a non-religious, non-judgemental service and a listening ear. The Daily Herald ran a story on the service on 7th December under the headline 'Telephone Good Samaritans' and the name stuck.
A number of volunteer helpers soon joined him, also becoming listeners and today, there are 22,000 listeners operating 24 hours a day from 200 branches throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Samaritans answer a call every 10 seconds. They also work in schools, prisons, hospitals and communities, and have a long-running partnership with Network Rail.
Each of the branches around the UK - including Dorset's branch in Weymouth - is self-financing and volunteers have to spend significant amounts of time on fundraising activities in order to keep their branches open and maintain their crucial service.
Our fundraising enables our Samaritans to spend less time worrying about fundraising and more time on what they do best.
A Short History of Samaritans