Selfless Dorothy an inspiration to us all
The Samaritans has literally been a lifeline for countless desperate people who felt they had nowhere else to turn to in their darkest moments of despair.
It is a service, a listening and sympathetic ear, whose value can only ever be truly recognised by those who have found solace in those telephone calls made at times of crisis.
Anonymity is the key to the service, but today we report on one volunteer with the organisation whose name deserves to be widely known.
Dorothy Cooper has been given a Points of Light award for her outstanding work in volunteering with the Samaritans in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years.
That is four decades of caring about the lives of others. Four decades of listening to people who thought that no-one else cared about them. Four decades of encouraging them that life could be better. Four decades of trying to divert them from taking their own lives. Four decades in which she took more than 6,000 calls.
But Dorothy also made a wider contribution, training 1,600 volunteers and raising more than £20,000 for the Belfast branch of the Samaritans.
It was her own experiences in post-war Germany which eventually led her to volunteer with the Samaritans. Food was scare in that period because farmers were unable to work their land, and schoolchildren were only given one square meal a day during term time thanks to the generosity of American Quakers.
This, she regarded as an outstanding act of kindness to people in a country which was widely reviled because of the actions of the Nazis, and she was determined one day to repay it. The Samaritans was the vehicle she chose.
As one who experienced suffering around her as well as personal deprivation in those school days, she had a natural empathy for others in need. Nursing was her first vocation, followed by the Samaritans when she moved to Northern Ireland.
The work of volunteers with the organisation is not an easy one. It would take a heart of stone not to be touched by the plight of those who make contact, and their stories can linger long in the mind.
But there is also the great satisfaction of being able to help. Turning someone away from a planned fateful action or convincing them that their situation can improve and that help is available is a reward beyond price. And Dorothy has been that point of light at the end of many dark tunnels.