Ashford Samaritans

It’s been a busy time for the Ashford Samaritans. Last year they welcomed a new branch director, Oonagh Williams, and this year they are celebrating 50 years of service.


We chatted with Oonagh to find out what plans are in store for this year.


Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m an Irish mum of two (my children are now 18 and 15) who moved to England in 1997 as I’d met my Ashford-born husband on holidays in Ireland. I work full-time for a company in London but from home since COVID hit. I love walking, golf, socialising, and weekends away with family and friends.


What was your background prior to joining the Samaritans?

I worked in Galway (west of Ireland), met my husband, and moved to UK where we lived in London for a couple of years. We then bought a house in Tonbridge, both working full-time while commuting to London. He started studying as well and it dawned on me that I could do more with the free evenings I had while he was studying. I saw a poster for Samaritans and did my training with Tunbridge Wells Samaritans.

We moved to Ashford in 2001 after getting married, and I transferred branches. I’ve been a Samaritan ever since – 21 years in April 2022.


What challenges have you faced in the role?

I took over as Director of Ashford and Tenterden branch on 30th September 2021, a role we take on for three years. It’s busy but I’m hugely lucky to have such great volunteers behind me, who, as well as being listening volunteers, have taken on responsibility for things like publicity, fundraising, training, and recruitment. Each branch has to raise all their own funds, which amounts to around £12,000 per year, which covers telephone bills, utility bills, insurance, maintenance, etc. Samaritans, throughout the UK and Ireland, answer approximately 10,000 calls and emails every day.


Does the Ashford Samaritans have any projects or events coming up in 2022? 

Ashford Samaritans celebrate 50 years in 2022. We also have a visit to our branch by the Mayor in March, a golf day at Ashford Golf Club on 13th May, and a music evening at Godinton House on 22nd June. We also have a tea and talk week and a sponsored walk coming up. All of these things are done to raise funds and awareness.


You can find the Ashford Samaritans on Twitter @ashfordsams or email them at [email protected]. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can visit the website for more information.

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