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The Listening Walk: Samaritans volunteer takes on 6,000-mile trek

David Matthews Image copyright David Matthews
Image caption David Matthews is camping as he undertakes his two-year walk, either in his two-man tent or a motorhome

With Christmas the busiest time of year for the Samaritans, one volunteer is undertaking a walk to each branch of the charity in the UK and Ireland.

David Matthews, 58, has volunteered at each base he has visited since he set off from Doncaster in April.

He said: "Last year there was 10,500 callers on Christmas Day alone. It brings it all home."

Originally from the South Yorkshire town, he moved to Knoydart on the west coast of Scotland five years ago.

He has raised almost £9,000 so far, on the 6,000 mile (9,656km) mission which will take him two years to complete.

Mr Matthews is spending Christmas visiting friends but will be answering calls at the Samaritans in Doncaster on Christmas Day afternoon.

"I tend to always do a Christmas Day shift, I think it is so important when people are struggling," he said.

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He started volunteering with the charity, which offers free emotional support on the phone or email to anyone who needs it, about 12 years ago following his divorce.

Then five years ago he moved to a remote part of Scotland for a lifestyle change, and soon began planning his charity trek.

Image copyright David Matthews
Image caption He is about eight months in to The Listening Walk project

He started The Listening Walk on 14 April, heading north from Doncaster to Scotland taking in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides,

"All summer I camped in a two-man tent. I thought I'd go to Scotland in the summer while it's warm and dry, but we had such a wet summer."

He said the camping brought its own challenges, the worst being having to pack a wet tent and reuse it at night before it had dried.

Mr Matthews now has use of a motorhome which has sheltered him over the winter, but it means he has to get up early, drive to his stop and get the bus back to begin his walk.

He will now have a break over Christmas and resume walking on 2 January, going to Shropshire and Wales before travelling to Ireland in the spring.

Image copyright David Matthews
Image caption He has volunteered in each Samaritans branch he has visited (pictured here in Scunthorpe)

Mr Matthews said the best part has been meeting people along the way. "These meetings are the nuggets of gold which make you think it's worth it. It's those people who you meet who you give a bit of hope to, that's what the important thing is.

"I have had homeless people give me 50p for a donation, and you can't put a price on that, it's that human spirit coming out."

Getting help

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123

BBC Action Line has support and more information on emotional distress

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