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Samaritans launches new university hub in Chelmsford

Published: 5 December 2023 at 15:00

Samaritans volunteer in Chelmsford

ARU is providing student, staff and alumni volunteers to help the public

Samaritans has opened a new hub at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Chelmsford so that fully trained ARU students, staff and alumni can provide emotional support to the public.

ARU is the only university providing hub locations to Samaritans, the leading suicide prevention charity, and the hub at ARU’s Chelmsford campus in Bishop Hall Lane is the first of its kind in Essex.

A total of 30 volunteers across ARU campuses in Chelmsford and Cambridge are now trained to support people struggling to cope, either via its pilot online chat service and, in time, over the phone.

The groundbreaking partnership between ARU and Samaritans also sees students from courses such as Mental Health Nursing, Paramedic Practice and Social Work carry out one-week virtual placements with the charity, enabling them to gain a thorough grounding in the work of Samaritans, enhance their knowledge and skills around how to be a supportive and active listener, and build competence in having conversations with people who are struggling.

ARU staff member Louise, who volunteers at the Chelmsford hub, said:

“Becoming a Samaritan is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. It gives me the opportunity to engage with individuals from all different backgrounds, each with their own unique experiences and challenges. Being able to lend a listening ear is a genuine privilege.”

Lis Skeet, Executive Director of Operations at Samaritans, commented:

“I’m thrilled to launch our second university location at Anglia Ruskin University’s Chelmsford Campus. With more than 755 hours of emotional support already provided by Samaritans Hub volunteers at the Cambridge Campus, there’s clearly an appetite amongst students, staff and alumni to provide support to people who need it. As well as promoting the importance of positive mental health for those at ARU, we hope volunteering for Samaritans enhances their own experience at university and gives them skills they go on to use in their career and personal lives. 

“Samaritans is constantly looking for ways to make sure as many people as possible are able to give their time to help others during their times of struggle. Our partnership with ARU is really helping us ensure that our volunteers reflect the range of people who call us for help, as well as strengthening our service so that we can continue being there for anyone struggling to cope, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”

Professor Nigel Harrison, Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“We’re delighted to continue our partnership with Samaritans by opening our Chelmsford hub. It offers our staff and students the opportunity to give something back by providing support to people seeking support from across the UK and Ireland, and will in turn provide those students with training and experience. 

“And crucially, by providing additional volunteers from our student, staff and alumni community, Samaritans is able to reach more people that need them.”

Colin Hill, Service Director for the ARU hubs, said:

“It’s a privilege to be at the forefront of Samaritans’ latest innovation. At Samaritans, we are always busy and last year there wasn’t a single second that a volunteer wasn’t on the phone to someone in need. By working with Anglia Ruskin University, we’re able to build our volunteer base with people from all walks of life so we can continue to be there in the future for anyone who needs us. It’s great to share our expertise and help academic institutions provide its community with a greater insight into how we can all play a part in helping others.”

The Chelmsford hub builds on the success of Samaritans’ first university location at the ARU Cambridge campus. To date, both campus hubs have seen volunteers spend more than 755 hours, providing vital emotional support to people struggling to cope.