Mum remembers nightmare evening her son's drink was spiked
PUBLISHED: 16:00 24 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:50 25 December 2018
Barbara Willingham and Pete Wood on duty in Ipswich on Saturday, December 22. Picture: SOPHIE BARNETT
It is the phone call no parent wants to receive.
But after being called to say her son’s drink had been spiked on a night out and that he had been taken ill, Barbara Willingham knew she wanted to do more to stop the same happening to others.
After her son recovered she volunteered as an Ipswich Town Pastor and has been on the beat for 12 years since.
Mrs Willingham, 58, had to drive into Ipswich in the early hours of the morning after her son, who was 18 at the time, became ill on a night out with friends.
“It was really scary getting a phone call in the middle of the night,” she said of the incident in 2006.
“My son couldn’t remember anything the next day or how he got home.”
But knowing how terrifying it is for parents in that situation made Barbara uniquely qualified to become a town pastor.
The pastors, who won the Volunteer of the Year category at the 2018 Stars of Suffolk Awards, have been helping to keep Ipswich’s streets safe since 2006.
The volunteers, who are all Christians, work in pairs on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm until the early hours to diffuse any potentially difficult situations.
They work alongside the Town Link Radio to promote safety and provide a positive influence and support for partygoers.
More than 50 volunteers go out on the streets at least once a month to keep revellers safe, working closely with police and ambulance teams to help deal with drunken people and get them home safely
“Having children is the main reason I started as I became aware that they were vulnerable on the streets,” said Barbara, who is also from Ipswich.
“I had two children aged 18 and 19 when I became a town pastor. It is nice to know that there are people out there looking after them and keeping them safe.”
As well as a team roaming the streets, an at home prayer team wakes up throughout the night to pray for the town pastors and the people in the town.
“We call the home prayer team our control room, as they guide us as we go around the town and they are a big part of our work,” said Barbara.
“They get up at all times in the night and most of the people are in their late 70s and 80s.”