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The only Branch of Samaritans in Cornwall, we celebrate our 50th Anniversary in 2020 and will be hosting the Samaritans National Walk to mark the occasion. We have been based at 19 Treyew Road, Truro, since 1970. Prior to that, we rented buildings, but it was agreed we would fundraise to buy a property – and the Branch was fortunate enough to receive a significant legacy to support this.
Nationally and at our Cornwall Branch, Samaritans provide a listening service for people in despair and distress. Samaritans’ vision is that fewer people die by suicide. We work to achieve this by making it our mission to alleviate emotional distress and reduce the incidence of suicidal feelings through the simple act of listening without giving advice or judgement, and providing a confidential opportunity to explore feelings and emotions.
The Branch currently has around 120 volunteers – mainly Listening Volunteers but also some Support Volunteers who assist with fundraising, finance and admin. There are no paid members of staff and all donations and funds raised go towards the running of the Branch and achieving our vision.
At Truro, we respond to around 53,000 calls, texts, emails and face to face contacts each year, keeping the Branch running almost 24/7 throughout the year. During August 2018 alone, we took 2699 calls, 425 texts and 430 emails. To do this, all Listening Volunteers agree to work the phones for around 4 hours per week minimum, including at least one night-shift per month.
We reach out into the local community, visiting various locations / organisations and talk to the people that need us, including A+E departments, schools, universities and British Rail. We also visit Lions, WIs, etc and use garden events/initiatives to help those that might benefit from more relaxing surroundings. This is all thanks to our volunteers.
The number of suicides in Cornwall continues to be higher than the national average, and the instances of self-harm and attempted suicide continues to rise; whilst some areas of our county are in the top 10% most deprived areas of the country. It is due to the dedication of our volunteers that we continue to be there whenever callers need us.
The Branch is totally self-funded and needs to raise over £50,000 a year to meet costs such as maintaining our premises, supporting outreach programmes, phone and internet services and bills, training and development, volunteer expenses and supplies of literature and awareness material.
A significant proportion of our funding comes from a stall at Par Market in St Austell, which is run by volunteers. It relies on the sale of second-hand clothing, games, books, etc donated by volunteers and supporters, raising around £24,000 a year. Other sources of income include donations and fund-raising events. We also apply for some grants and have been supported by local funders such as The Cornwall Community Chest. We have also been the Charity of Choice for local stores including Co-Op, Waitrose and Asda.
In 2015, as part of a Governance and Assurance process for Samaritans, we received a pre-arranged visit from two trained assessors, who reviewed our practices and location to ensure we were meeting the required standards.
Whilst the visit was full of praise for our operations, it found that we were not fully compliant with access requirements. We considered undertaking work to rectify this, but instead chose to have a full-scale review of our estate, to find out if there was a better way to utilise our building and ensure our Branch could continue to operate for a further 50 years. A Project Team was set up to explore three main opportunities:
• To do the bare minimum to become disabled-friendly.
• To build an extension on our current building to provide a disabled-friendly operations room, a face-to-face meeting room and bedrooms. This option also explored other uses for the top two floors of our building, particularly with income generation in mind.
• To sell our existing building and find/build an alternative that would meet all our requirements, plus also provide income generation through the subletting of office space or meeting space.
All volunteers at the Branch were surveyed in early 2018 and their response was overwhelmingly in favour of option 3 – selling and moving. It was generally felt that the expense required to make the Branch accessible was very high, and due to the age and construction of the building, making the top two floors available for rent was likely to be very problematic.
It was at this point the Branch Relocation Team was established, an agreed target of £200,000 was set and fundraising plans began.
New premises will enable us:
• To be there for more callers when they need us.
• To provide easy access for our walk-ins, providing a face-to-face service for more people.
• To maximise a location to raise awareness of our services – for both users and volunteers.
• To enable access and other improved facilities throughout the building for existing and potential volunteers with limited mobility or other disabilities.
• To attract new volunteers so that we can remain open more hours, embrace new technology and offer more outreach into the community.
• To enable volunteers to meet and work with other agencies in the field of preventing suicide, through space for meeting and collaborative working, to widen our reach.
• To offer quality training and meeting facilities for use by Samaritans.
• To offer training and meeting facilities for use by other community and voluntary bodies, enabling us to support other complementary organisations, whilst generating an income from room rental for meetings.
• To provide a low maintenance, cost efficient Centre, to ensure expenses are controlled and that funds raised are focussed on the provision of service and not on maintenance or overheads.
• To safeguard for the future by providing a source of steady income for the Branch, through renting out office/business space, so that we are not so reliant on current initiatives, donations and fundraising to maintain services.
We are currently exploring the opportunities to buy land and purpose-build, or find an existing building to convert, in the Truro area. This will enable us to achieve the space and facilities that we need to run our charity more effectively, with additional space that we intend to rent out to generate an income – making our charity more sustainable. Either option requires funds in the region of £625,000.
Our building at 19 Treyew Road has been valued at between £315,000 – £350,000 and we have raised £110k. We therefore have an appeal target of £200,000 and a time-scale of approx. 18 months. A full phased breakdown of costs is available on request.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, APPEAL PROGRESS, OR TO LEND YOUR SUPPORT, CONTACT… Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro – On: 07814 944492 / [email protected]
Website: www.samaritans.org/truro / Twitter: @cornwallsamari1
Contact us at: 19 Treyew Road, Truro, Cornwall TR1 2BY
With thanks to media partner – Cornwall Today – and all of the local press.
REG CHARITY NO: 1173481
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