Samaritan volunteer completes Irish leg of walking tour

A Samaritans volunteer raising awareness for the mental health charity by traveling over 9,500 km (6,000 miles) from branch to branch arrives at the end of the Irish leg of his tour.

David Matthews Listening Walk visits the 201 Samaritans branches in the UK and Ireland to show people how the association’s volunteers are always there for them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He will arrive at Dublin Samaritans on Marlborough Street on Friday, having traveled approximately 1,500 km (930 miles) across Ireland in the past 10 weeks.

He said: “I really enjoyed the Irish leg of my walk. The people have been incredibly generous and friendly.

David Matthews, a Samaritans volunteer from Doncaster, pictured next to the Wicklow Gap road in Wicklow Mountains National Park, he currently travels 9,000 km around every Samaritans branch in Ireland and the UK Photo credit ; Damien Désireux / PA

“So many people stopped to talk about the march, and I lost count of how many vehicles whistled and waved as they passed.

“The off-peak periods are linked to the weather. There were days when it rained so hard that it was difficult to see which way to go. Traffic is booming and no one is stopping to talk about the walk.

“These are the tough times, the times you wonder what you’re doing, the times you want to give up, but you dig deep and carry on knowing that things will get better.

“Unfortunately, I have spoken to many people who know someone who has committed suicide. Some of their stories are heartbreaking, but it reinforces what I do: let people know that the Samaritans are there for them no matter what in their life they go through. This thought prompts me to move on.

These are the tough times, the times you wonder what you’re doing, the times you want to give up, but you dig deep and push knowing things will get better.

He departed from his hometown of Doncaster South Yorkshire in April 2019 but faced multiple delays due to the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns.

His 19-month walk, excluding breaks due to restrictions, took him through England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Ireland – where he visited Drogheda Newry, Portadown, Bangor, Belfast, Ballymena, Coleraine, Derry, Omagh, Sligo, Athlone, Galway, Ennis, Limerick, Tralee, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Arklow, Newbridge and Dublin.

He returns to the UK by ferry on Saturday morning ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

He still has 11 branches to visit before returning to Doncaster – on foot – on October 30.

Mr Matthews said the highlight of his trip were the people he met along the way, including branch volunteers and members of the public who supported him throughout his journey with accommodation, food, warm clothes and kind words.

While his goal is to raise awareness of the Samaritans and recruit new volunteers along the way, he has also raised nearly € 20,000 (£ 17,000) to date.

Samaritans is the only 24 hour emotional hotline covering the island of Ireland.

Marking its 60th anniversary in Ireland this year, it has more than 2,300 volunteers in 21 branches who answer more than half a million calls and emails per year from people in crisis.

Rory Fitzgerald, Samaritans Regional Director (RoI), said, “David has been a true inspiration to Samaritan volunteers and our callers, and we were honored to welcome and accompany him on his journey through Ireland.

Donations can be made at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidMatthews

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