Growing up in Zimbabwe, volunteering is just part of what you do, and it starts early. At school each of us was paired with an older person. We would visit, make a cup of tea and chat. We created a special bond not, just for me, but with my family. When I left home, my mum took over! The experience made me interested in other people. Knowing the difference you can make, is really powerful.
I’ve lived all over the UK and volunteered wherever I’ve been. It’s a great way of putting down roots. This country marches on its volunteers. There’s over 100,000 organisations and charities that range from tiny to international. The contribution each and every volunteer makes is huge.
I’ve lived in Bournemouth for 12 years, previously supporting the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) with admin and whatever needed doing before moving on to fundraising. I’d had experience as a hospice volunteer driver before and liked the flexibility it gave me.
During the pandemic SEDCAT (South East Dorset Community Accessible Transport) needed drivers who could take people to various appointments. We currently have 14 covering Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and I’m part of the Community Cars team. SEDCAT make all the arrangements and either phone or email me my bookings. I take people to appointments and either wait for them or if they don’t finish until later, go and do my own thing before collecting them. We can escort people to appointments if they wish. It gives users and volunteers a lot of freedom. Trips can be anything from vital cancer treatment to hair dressing appointments or going to a regular club. We also have accessible services such as the BAT Bus, a door-to-door service for shopping at Castlepoint or the Sovereign Centre and the Hospital Hop. SEDCAT organise day trips too, which give people a real boost.
The service is really important to anyone without direct bus routes or who struggles with their mobility. If you don’t have someone who’s able to give you a lift, it can be expensive or mean a long wait. There is a charge, but just to covers costs. I use my own car and SEDCAT pay me 45p per mile for fuel. In order to volunteer you need to have a DBS Check done (Disclosure and Barring Service) which is a simple process the Charity arranges for you that’s renewed every three years.
With SEDCAT I’ve met amazing people and make regular trips with many of them. It can be a lifeline as we might be the only person they’ve seen that day. Sometimes people are worried or anxious. Having a friendly face who chats and gets you there and back safely, helps take the stress out of it. People are really grateful and I love it.
To get the most out of life, my advice would be to volunteer for something you love. It’s easy to find roles that fit around your life and it gives you different experiences. It keeps you young and you meet such interesting people. It also makes you grateful. You’d want someone to help if you were in a similar situation. There’s no need to feel lonely or bored. Volunteering takes you away from your own worries – by doing something that seems small you become part of something much bigger than yourself.