A Samaritans volunteer raising awareness of the mental health charity by walking more than 9,500km from branch to branch is coming to the end of the Irish leg of his tour.
David Matthews’s Listening Walk is visiting all 201 Samaritans branches across Ireland and Britain to show people how the charity’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 walked about 1,500km across Ireland over the last 10 weeks.
He said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Ireland leg of my walk. The people have been incredibly generous and friendly.
“So many people have stopped to talk about the walk, and I’ve lost count of the number of vehicles that have tooted and waved as they have driven by.
“The low times have been weather related. There have been days when it has rained so hard it’s been difficult to see the road ahead. The traffic thunders by and no-one stops to talk about the walk.
“These are the difficult times, the times when you wonder what you’re doing, the times you want to give up, but you dig deep and push on knowing things will get better.
“Sadly, I’ve talked to many people who know someone who has taken their own life. Some of their stories are heart-breaking, but it reinforces what I am doing: letting people know that Samaritans are there for them, no matter what they are going through in their life. This thought pushes me on.”
He set off from his hometown in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in April 2019 but has faced multiple delays due to coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns.
His 19-month walk, excluding breaks because of restrictions, has taken him across England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and 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 has 11 branches left to visit before returning back to Doncaster – on foot – on October 30.
Mr Matthews said the highlight of his trip has been the people he has met along the way, including volunteers at branches and members of the public who have supported him along the way with lodgings, food, warm clothes, and kind words.
While his aim is to raise awareness about Samaritans and recruit new volunteers along the way, he has also raised almost €20,000 to date.
Samaritans is the only 24-hour emotional support helpline covering the island of Ireland.
Marking 60 years in Ireland this year, it has more than 2,300 volunteers in 21 branches who answer over half a million calls and emails a year from people in crisis.
Rory Fitzgerald, regional director for Samaritans (RoI), said: “David has been a real inspiration for Samaritans volunteers and our callers, and we have been honoured to welcome and walk with him as he travelled across Ireland.”
Donations can be made at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidMatthews