A Christmas-season volunteer service on a bridge is credited with saving lives.
Since 1980, volunteers of the Action Solidarités-Feu-Bessières have welcomed passersby in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the 75-foot (23-meter) Bressières Bridge for conversations during the festive season from December 23 to January 3. This year, three members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church took part in this life-saving initiative.
Just before Christmas in 1980, Joël Albert, a local resident, witnessed someone jump from the Bressières Bridge. For years after, Albert would spend the festive season with other volunteers on the Bressières Bridge, one of three major bridges in downtown Lausanne, to offer those who are lonely and depressed a conversation partner with a listening ear.
After Albert’s death in 1995, other volunteers continued the initiative as “Guardian Angels of the Bressières Bridge.” For the past four years, they remained on the bridge 24 hours a day during the festive season. Among the volunteers is one who, some years before, was saved from committing suicide by the very same initiative.
Their method is simple, according to local residents. “Every year, two small wooden huts are installed on the sidewalk of the bridge,” they explained. “One offers free food, while the other one offers protection against inclement weather. In between the two huts, several chairs and an open fire are set up for the volunteers and for those interested in a conversation and some warmth. People passing by are offered some tea and cookies and an open ear for conversations.”
Since the beginning nearly 40 years ago, the initiative has been supported by city authorities, business owners, and city residents.
During the festive season of 2018/2019, for the first time, three members of the local Adventist church were among the volunteers, local church leaders reported. Among them was Patrick Maeder, pastor of the local Adventist congregation, and Donato Stasi, who is the liaison between the initiative and the Adventist Church.