In Focus: Fiodhna OGrady,
Director of Operations for Samaritans of New York
From Irish Voice
November 20 - 26, 2002
By Georgina Brennan
Where do you come from?
"I arrived in New York from Dublin via Mallow, Cork, many
years ago (I wont say when!) having worked for one year after
a social science degree from UCD. The Celtic Tiger was not a creature
of my time, and many of my college mates were leaving for jobs abroad.
Then I landed in New York, and felt instantly at home. I have lived
I met my husband, Ernie Giordani, here in New York through a mutual
friend. At the time, in the 1980s, I was living large in the East
Village and he swept me off my feet on a blind date arriving from
the Long Island suburbs, which seemed like a foreign country at
the time. The rest is history and two fabulous kids later, Robin,
9, and Miles, 6."
Whats your job about?
"In Ireland the Samaritans is a household name akin to the
Red Cross or Salvation Army here. Its been an uphill battle
to get promotion for Samaritans. We wish we had that name recognition
here that we have in Ireland and in England.
Samaritans of New York is part of an international network with
over 400 crisis centers in 32 countries worldwide providing emotional
support through befriending. Here in New York, we operate a 24-hour
suicide prevention hotline at 212-673-3000, public education programs
in schools and non profit organizations, as well as support groups
for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The 100 volunteers
who operate the hotline are such a vibrant cross section of New
Yorkers of course that includes a fine quota of Irish immigrants
and Irish Americans and tend to be good listeners and communicators.
That makes working here lively, interesting and fun-filled despite
the seriousness of the topic. I had worked in advertising and fashion
prior to Samaritans, but working to help others really adds some
meaning to your daily life."
Can you describe a typical day?
"Contrary to popular misconceptions, a day in the life at Samaritans
is fun-filled, non-profit business life where people like myself
work behind the scenes in contract management, program planning
and fundraising. Then we have the hotline service right on site
which is about volunteers being there for callers in hard times
when family or friends might not understand or are not around, something
our new television advertisement captured quite well. Thats
a Samaritans day, being there when people need someone to talk to,
someone who will listen and take you seriously. We like to send
a message out that its okay to talk about your feelings, that
things like depression and anxiety are very real stuff and getting
help is a sign of intelligence and strength, not weakness. So, reaching
out to the non-religious Samaritans is a safe and confidential first
How can people get more information about the Samaritans?
"For those who think they would like to volunteer, they can
call our recruitment line 212-673-3041 or apply online at www.volunteermatch.com.
They can also visit www.samaritansnyc.org. And the hotline number
is 212-673-3000 where they can talk confidentially 24-
Back to The Citizen Page