IN ITS 3-yearly inspection by Samaritans General Office Inspectors (themselves previously Directors of Samaritans branches in other regions) the Samaritans branch at Weymouth has been commended for expanding its volunteer numbers and its work at a time when volunteering in many charities is in decline.

"The recent extensive recruitment campaign has increased branch membership by 40% in 12 months" the Report states (this being on the back of a similar increase the year before). The branch now has over 70 Listening' Samaritans, working on the phones and by email. "It is an excellent recruitment process" the Report concludes. (The recruitment process involves leafleting homes primarily in the Portland/Weymouth/Dorchester area, to try to find new volunteers not too far from the phones at Weymouth branch). A further leafleting campaign is currently underway, inviting people to learn more about Samaritans at 1-hour "Information Sessions" at the Weymouth branch on the evenings of 8th and 10th September. The leaflet follows the lead of the new national recruitment campaign by Samaritans and states "Probably everyone has it in them to be a 'Sam', further dispelling the impression that only a certain type of person has it in them to be a 'Sam'."

The Report suggests a few structural changes at the branch to spread the Publicity and Fund-raising work among more volunteers, and believes the 5 races at the Great Samaritans Race Day event on 7th September at Weymouth College will further "raise the profile of Samaritans in the area". Support Samaritans (ie those who are not Listeners) were seen to "make a valuable contribution to the branch" and the ongoing fundraising work of the "active Friends of Samaritans Group" was commended, as was "the enthusiasm of the Directorate and their teams".

"We were pleased to receive endorsement of the direction we are taking and there are some recommendations we will adopt" says Director Sara "but we all know that we want to achieve so much more: the need is out there, so we want to build up our volunteer base so we are in stronger position to go out more into schools, prisons, hospitals, youth clubs and social groups generally in the community. If anyone would like to learn more about volunteering, could they please phone me now on 01305-771777.

Samaritans offer a 24 hour-a-day service, 365 days a year, but currently our branch is closed about one third of the time and so about one third of calls to us have to be re-routed to other Samaritans branches: our aim is to get back to 100 Samaritans volunteers at Weymouth by early 2010, enabling us to stay open 24 hours, seven days a week."