This Firewalk came about because of a simple hello to a stranger at Ballintoy Harbour. I got chatting to Allana and it turned out she had recently taken part in a Firewalk with Ballymena Samaritans and was pretty excited to discover that there was a Firewalking company in Ireland. She swiftly passed on our details to Antoinette at Cork Samaritans and that was it pretty much booked.
We scheduled Friday 30th of January 2015 as the date and the actual Firewalk to place at 8pm in the Ambassador Hotel, Military Hill.
We arrived the night before and were warmly greeted by the hotel staff and then we were really spoiled when Antoinette and her husband, Tom, took us out to a local Indian restaurant. It was definitely a great welcome to Cork.
The sun was shining that Friday and the sky was blue so we went for a dander around the city before we began setting up the fire. We lit the fire at 5.30pm and by that stage a few of the volunteers had arrived and there was a steady stream of people arriving before the training started at 7.00pm. It was really good to chat with people before the training and to alleviate any worries and concerns that they had.
There were 41 enthusiastic volunteers in the training room and they were all “ready” to walk across the hot coals as a symbolic gesture signifying Samaritans availability and willingness to support anyone going through challenging and difficult times. The Cork Samaritans “will be there for people, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to listen to their stories, no matter what is going on for them”.
For many of those who call Cork Samaritans, January and February can be a tough time, it’s a bleak time of the year. The post Christmas slump affects everyone and at this time of the month Christmas bills begin to land on doorsteps. People can be very stressed and find it difficult to cope. Cork Samaritans want people to know that their volunteers are available round the clock, for anyone who is struggling. They are there to listen and to support callers, whatever their circumstances.
According to Samaritan Irelands Impact Report, Launched in December 2014 , over 478,200 calls came to the National helpline, almost 12,000 emails and over 8,000 texts were answered by Samaritans volunteers. The Cork Branch answered almost 50,000 calls in 2014. There were also just under 8,700 face to face visits to Samaritans branches across the Republic. The Cork branch received 1,100 of these.
Samaritans received an average of 1,310 daily contacts in the year to October — an increase of 266 calls a day compared to the previous 12 months. The numbers of calls have increased by 52% since the launch of Freecall (116 123) in March, with particular increases in Quarters 3 & 4. The volunteers are busier than ever and have increased the amount of listening hours they provide by over 38 per cent since the number was launched.
The issues which people contact Samaritans about have remained consistent over the last number of years. These include family and relationship problems; financial worries; depression and mental health problems; loneliness; stress and anxiety.
Knowing this and seeing the commitment of the volunteers was actually quite overwhelming and it was a fantastic opportunity to spend time with these wonderful people. It can be really humbling to deliver Firewalks for groups like this.
The training, as always, was really good fun, lighthearted and serious and with a couple of surprises for everyone.
Outside a fairly large crowd had gathered to watch the brave Firewalkers. They were joined by PJ Coogan of Corks 96FM who was a very encouraging MC for the Firewalk. The Kinsale Drumming Group was there too and they provided some fantastic drumming for the Firewalkers; so much so that some of the Firewalkers almost danced across the Fire. The sky was clear and the stars were shining bright so it was a real surprise when we head a flurry of snow near the end of the Firewalk.
Most people walked across the fire 2 – 4 times and they were all buzzing by the time we went back inside to the training room to present the certificates. The rest of the evening involved finger food and fantastic music from Sugar Mountain from East Cork.
All in all it was a fantastic event. We are honoured to have been involved and look forward to working with Cork Samaritans again!
Thank you all!