Our History

From The Samaritans of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Story of Chad Varah and Befrienders.

“In 1935, as a young Anglican priest in England, Chad Varah officiated at the funeral of a 14-year-old girl who had killed herself when her menstruation started. She thought something dreadful was wrong with her. She had no one to turn to; no one to tell her it was a completely normal part of puberty. Chad Varah vowed at the time: “Little girl, I never knew you, but you have changed my life. I shall teach kids what I learnt when I was younger than you…”

For years this seed of conviction lay dormant, but he never forgot the little girl and the vow he made to her. Eighteen years after her death, he made a public announcement asking those who were suicidal to come visit him.

The response was greater than he expected. Those experiencing long waits struck up conversations with the attendants in his waiting room. He soon realized that a constructive interaction was taking place between those who came to talk and the volunteers helping him in his waiting room. By the time people saw him, their pain was eased, their suicidal impulses abated. He discovered that simply listening, caring and accepting, without expert advice from a professional counselor helped these people. This interaction he called befriending and these befrienders became known as Samaritans.

Since 1953, The Samaritans has spread throughout the world. Samaritans are called befrienders in other countries, and work with Befrienders Worldwide. The Samaritans are to be found in at least 43 countries of the world. “Samaritans, can I help you?” is quietly spoken into the phone across the world in a multilingual chorus of voices.”

The Samaritans of Rhode Island was incorporated in December 1977.

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