A Samaritan volunteer has been handed a Community Hero award for his long-term dedication and involvement with the charity.

Mike Tunstall, 63, was put forward for the Watford Observer Community Heroes award by Victoria Wallace for his caring commitment towards his work.

Mr Tunstall, who lives in Chorleywood, is a listening volunteer for South West Herts Samaritans and picks up calls from people who need to be heard.

He began working for the Samaritan Nightline in 1974 whilst he was studying at London University following his flat mate who worked with the organisation.

He later joined the branch in Watford in 1977 and has taken on various roles since such as shift leading and looking after call volunteers, deputy director of training and acting director.

He said: “It’s a very equal organisation that doesn’t try to cure or fix people it just tries to support people or listen to them. It’s a case of awareness that everybody needs support at some point in their life.

“Often talking to a stranger in confidence who will listen is as good as talking to people around you that know you who may feel inclined to tell you what to do rather than listen.”

In 1980 he also became involved in the festival branch which sent volunteers to a range of festivals throughout the country such as Glastonbury to offer their services day and night.

Mike added: “It is challenging sometimes especially if there is echoes in your own life such as issues that have affected you in the past. It is hard to not make it your experience but the unique experience of the person calling you, you also gain some higher level of empathy.

“Talking to somebody with deeper issues or who is deeply distressed can affect you and we support each other when we come off the phone.”

When told about his award he said: “I am thrilled it is really kind of the people who nominated me. It is a recognition not just for me but all the ordinary people who sit on the phone and listen to callers in distress.”

The Community Hero Award gives the chance for people in the community to be nominated for their acts of good will. They are then rewarded by Watford Businesses.