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October 4th 2021

Frank Bannister

Today our speaker is Peter Feeney, former Press Ombudsman.

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Oct 11th Polio Plus, the need to continue
Oct 18th Katrina Buckley, Men’s Aid
Oct 25th Public holiday – no meeting
Nov 1st Business meeting
Nov 8th Shabnam Vasisht - Digging up the Raj in Deansgrange cemetery.
Nov 15th Dr Richard Conway – Disorders of the immune systems – a mystery.
Nov 25th HE The Egyptian Ambassador

President Alexander was in the Chair last week. There were 19 members present.
Visitors and Apologies
Three guests were introduced by PP Bernadette Mulvey. Cormac Trant (soon to be a member), Nasir Barakzai, and Nazly ElFoayoumy from the Egyptian Embassy.
Apologies were received from 18 members: Rana Al Damin, Sinem Balta, Caroline Barnardo, Barra Emmanuel, PP Ethna Fitzgerald, PP Randal Gray, Dorothy Hannon, Alan Harrison, Hon Treas Dermot Knight, PP Paul Martin, Kevin McAnallen, Gerry McLarnon, Vasily Ogievsky, PP Tom O'Neill, Mary O'Rafferty, Roger Owens, Patrick White and Willie Widmer.

Rotary Rangers’ Schedule

Oct 5th Devil’s Glen, Ashford, Co. Wicklow
Oct 12th Paddock Hill, Laragh
Oct 19th Fananerrin Ridge, Glenmalure Valley
Oct 26th Black Hill & Sorrel, West Wicklow

Thought for The Day
The Thought for the Day was given by PP Derek Griffith and was on the theme of hope.

President’s Announcements
• President Alexander presented Cormac Trant with his prize from the fourth Duck Race.
• He would be circulating information about a Young Chefs competition. Our club may be interested in getting involved in this.
• He noted that District has been put on the Roll of Honour for contributing $180,000 to the Annual fund – an average of $103 per member. This is a record. Of the clubs in District, 16 out of 71 had met their targets for both PolioPlus and the Annual Fund. We are one of these (as are two other Dublin clubs).

Other Announcements
• PE David Booth said that he had been speaking with Ken Hunt’s son about Ken’s condition. Sadly, his condition is not improving.
• David has also been in communication with the Bonn club, 14 of whose members will be visiting Ireland the week ending 6th of November. They would like to do their own tourist thing while here including a trip to the Guinness Storehouse and Newgrange if possible. We will try to arrange a dinner with them one evening while they are here. David would circulate their programme by e-mail as soon as it is finalized.
• A cheque to the value of $5,000 has been presented to Linn Dara thanks to a grant awarded to Dublin Fingal, Dublin Central and ourselves.

Last Week’s Speaker
Our speakers last week were Maggie Hayden and Ben Dundon from the Samaritans. They were introduced by VP Delma. Ben spoke first, followed by Maggie. The primary mission of the Samaritans is the prevention of suicide, though the great majority of the calls they field are not suicide related. Many are from lonely people or people with specific problems. Even when suicide is not mentioned, the Samaritans will always ask whether somebody has ideas about suicide. If the answer is no, they move on to other things.

They run a 24/7/365 service and receive about 35,000 calls a month in 13 centres in the country. It is demanding work that can take a psychological toll on volunteers, many of whom, especially those on the night shift, are young. The key skill in the job is listening and listening in the right way. Volunteers never offer advice; they take callers through options and try to get them to work out the answers for themselves. Another key feature is that all volunteers receive the same training – a process that takes three months of teaching and mentoring. A repeat caller cannot expect to speak to the same person that he or she did last time. What they can expect is the same type of response so that continuity and consistency is maintained.

As well as the telephone service, the Samaritans provide help by e-mail and in person in their office in Marlborough street. They organise in-house programs for companies like An Post and Dublin Bus (many bus drivers suffer stress after abuse, often racist in nature, and/or have to deal with difficult situations in their vehicles). The Samaritans train company managers to help staff to manage their own mental health. For twenty years, teams of prisoners, trained as listeners, have been providing a much needed service as the level of suicide and self-harm is exceptionally high in prisons. Confidentiality is a second keystone. Full names are never asked and almost never known. Volunteers may not discuss their work except with colleagues or with their managers – not even with their partners at home. The only exception is where child abuse is suspected, in which case there is a statutory obligation to inform Tusla or the Gardai if they have sufficient information to identify a child at risk. However, the child has to volunteer his or her name and address. The third keystone is a non-judgemental attitude, that is accepting people the way they are, a behaviour that must be reflected in words and reactions.

The organisation gets some money from the HSE, but raises most of its own funds. They have one full time employee. Fund raising has been hit by the pandemic, but they are shortly launching a new initiative called Friends of Samaritans for people who wish to fundraise for the service.

In a short, but lively, Q&A it emerged that volunteers could be of any age over 18 - there is no upper age limit. Some volunteers stayed only a few days; other for many years. The Samaritans were founded in 1951 and, 70 years on, one of the founders is still working as a volunteer with no intention of retiring. Other organisations such as Aware, Alone and Pieta House provide similar, though different services. One key difference is the 24/7 nature of the Samaritans operations. Callers to other services outside their normal operating hours are generally offered the option to transfer to the Samaritans. They are thus the backstop for other services.

Jono Pim, himself a former (and maybe future) Samaritan of 24 years, proposed the vote of thanks.

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