Post | October 2023 | Volunteer Stories | 4 min read

How driving can change someone's life

Written by HVC Volunteer Drivers
Two gentlemen sitting in a car at the front. Phot taken from the door of the driver.

Community transport schemes are just one of the many ways to support your local community. Not only are these great if you like to drive or meet an extensive range of people, but they often can be flexible roles so they can fit around your busy lifestyle.


Most community transport schemes support older residents and offer a unique service for those unable to afford taxis and have mobility difficulties or have little or no access to public transport. Volunteers generally receive a set amount for their mileage. This isn't the only reason they giving up their precious time, as explained in these stories from volunteers at Huntingdonshire Volunteer Centre.

 

Paul’s* story:

"When I was asked to write a few words explaining why I became a volunteer driver, I couldn't think of any reason except that I like volunteering, which is true! As always, I get a lot of satisfaction from it, and it gets me out of the house (important when you are retired). But it's not about me.

I have been surprised at the amount of money old folks have to pay in taxi fares to get to and from the hospital – we can do it for a quarter of the price if the driver is prepared to wait. I take the view that I might as well read the paper in my car, as I would only be doing the same thing at home in my armchair (you do have to run the engine periodically on a cold winter's day). When available, hospital transport can involve waiting for very extended periods.


People are always very grateful and often pay more than strictly necessary – I don't dissuade them but always explain very carefully that any overpayment is an additional contribution to the charity. Careful record-keeping is required!


I prefer longer journeys as I feel more as though I have done a 'proper job'. However, one of my regular clients only ever needs to visit a local vet with her cat, a round journey of 6 miles. She has spent over £100 (total) at the vet's in the 4 or 5 times I have driven for her but the bonus is that I now have a very good knowledge of cat ailments. I can't lay claim to being a good listener but I'm learning.


I would add that the office staff are very efficient and kind, despite some frustrations. Now, they are good listeners."


Sandra’s* story:

"I am a volunteer driver for Huntingdonshire Volunteer Centre, and although I'm not always free to take on a drive, I'm more than happy to be asked. The ladies who manage the bookings are so lovely to deal with. I have met some fascinating people, and giving them company and a helping hand is so rewarding. Many of the volunteers are a bit older than myself, so it is always nice to be greeted with "aren't you young" when they meet me.


Whether it is taking people to the hospital, doctors, dentist or the shops, you realise how vital this service is for so many people. They are all so grateful, and I've had some amazing chats and certainly learnt a thing or two. It is often the case that I am the only person that they have seen or spoken to that day. One Lady, I took recently asked me if I would mind taking her to the mobility shop after her appointment so that she could get some shoes. We had quite a laugh in the shop choosing the shoes as she wasn't keen on the choices - she really wanted a pair of heels! She might have been nearly 90 but she still didn't feel quite old enough for the sensible shoes on display!"


Tony's* Story:

"My role as a volunteer driver gives me huge satisfaction. Many people live alone, have been in isolation, and contact with someone different can help hugely. To know that someone looks forward to a five weekly Podiatrist visit with enthusiasm helps keep me grounded.

Most of the people I have been involved with are ladies, who have been a joy to assist.


A story which I would like to repeat. I took a lady for a regular appointment to Huntingdon and, whilst there, told her I was popping to my former company to drop in birthday cards for staff in September. When I returned, she asked if they were pleased I dropped them in. Yes, that was my answer.


Fifteen minutes later we are in Tesco collecting 13 cards for her friends and family. The lady had forgotten her reading glasses, so I read the messages on all the cards. On the way down the escalator, the lady saw Christmas sweets and chocolates, we collected some of these too.

Did we at Huntingdon Volunteer Centre make a difference that day for this individual? Yes

We gave her the OPPORTUNITY to have a change of landscape. I think this means the world to all concerned.

Thank you for my opportunity."


Many of these projects are not only looking for support with the driving, but they are also looking for support with the administration.

Emma* tells us her story.


"I have been volunteering in the car scheme administration team for several years as one of the "girls" in the office. I enjoy it because it uses the administration skills from my previous working life, makes me feel useful and is also very rewarding.


Just recently, I was able to help a lady from the village where I live, who was looking for help from the St Ives scheme, needing many lifts for medical appointments. She had not heard of the village scheme, but I asked the village scheme coordinator to contact her, and now she has all the help she needs.


To hear the relief and gratitude from the clients when you can find them a driver is very rewarding. It can be very demanding with constant phone calls and changing priorities but this is good for a mental workout!"


If you would like to get involved in a community transport scheme, search through opportunities on Volunteer Cambs and see what is needed in your area, there are a number of schemes always looking for support.


Thanks go to the volunteers of Huntingdonshire Volunteer Centre who gave us their stories. Please note that the names of the volunteers have been changed.

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