Volunteer Case Study- Meet Jim
I retired in July 2022, and I wasn’t just going to sit in the house doing nothing, that would have driven me mad! We moved into our house 5 years ago and we have done everything that we needed to do to it. I was discussing this with a friend of mine who had heard that VLU were looking for volunteers. I went online, got the details and came in.
When I found out what VLU needed, the driving was the most appropriate to me. Sometimes I do six drives in a week, sometimes only one or two. I drive whenever I’m needed. It depends what’s on the books. I’m happy to do the ‘oddball’ drives. The ones that are out in the sticks; this doesn’t bother me. I scoop people up from the Burford area and round to Bampton. Clients are mostly travelling to the same place, either Witney or into Oxford to one of the hospitals. I’m more than happy to sit in my own car and drive round the countryside. I’ve learnt a few shortcuts I didn’t know! I’m also content to take people just to the shops and back. I’ve also taken someone to the vets and regularly take a lady from one end of Carterton to the other end to her doctors. I take her, wait 10 minutes then drive back; it’s nothing.
Volunteering gets me out of the house, and out from under my wife’s feet! On a day-to-day basis you see people getting the benefit of it. And I get a general feeling of wellbeing. I’m ex-military and ex-MoD so my whole adult life I’ve been in service of one type or another, this is just another type. I enjoy it. I found places in Oxfordshire that I didn’t know existed.
If clients want to chat I’m quite happy to talk to them, some are quieter but that’s fine. The car’s a safe place to talk if you want to. Quite a lot of my clients are are happy to chat which is fine. It’s a sign how comfortable they feel. One lady asked me to come in whilst her specialist was explaining things to her. She’s an ex-military lady so we already had a bond there. Although she writes everything down and had the questions she wanted to ask written down she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss anything. On the way home we discussed exactly what was said at the meeting, so it was reinforced in her mind. The fact that she felt comfortable enough to do that is good.
Clients use me as a sounding board. I also get told complete life stories. Some of the people I’ve driven are ex-RAF and before my time in the RAF. It was a very different organisation then and I find that interesting. Many of the places they’ve been to no longer exist. It’s a mutual interest, an hour’s gone by the time you start talking.
I frequently see the same clients – I’ve seen one or two people just the once, but there’s a little gang that I see on a regular basis. One gentleman that needs to come into Witney I bring him in regularly. One client who used to live round the corner from me in Carterton, I bring him into podiatry every week/two weeks. There’s a lady who lives near me who used to live in London who has trouble with her daughters; I get a debrief every time I see her.
I’m happy to use my skills and like the fact they’re not dormant. I spent 28 years fixing aeroplanes, then another 19 controlling the work that was done on them and through this I dealt with all kinds of people.
Volunteer transport fills a gap. The hospital transport service isn’t just for one patient. They will pick you up and wait for other people. Then it becomes a long day for people. I’m more than happy to take a book and sit and wait. Without VLU one gentleman I know would have to get a taxi into Carterton, then a bus to the hospital in Oxford, but it doesn’t run very frequently. Then he would need a bus into Oxford then another to the hospital. If you’ve got two or three appointments in a day this could take all day transporting yourself there and back. The VLU service is an absolute god send for him.
What I get from volunteer driving is a feeling of doing a good job, which, when you’ve been in the kind of work I’ve been in in the past, a thank you is a nice thing to get and, in all honesty, that’s all I need. Some clients are quiet, some are chatty, that’s fine with me. I’m an easy-going person and feel I fit into this very nicely. VLU always gives me plenty of notice and they also know if they phone me up on short notice I’ll either say yes or no and if it’s at all practical I’ll do it. I think Volunteer Link Up sees me as a safe pair of hands.
I’ve driven a lot of miles all over Europe being in the military. The road from Calais to Germany I’ve travelled lots of times. The road into Oxford is no great shakes. And I’m in a far more comfortable car than in the military!
Customers like the VLU service, you see the same people returning to use it. The service itself is quite impressive in the span of its work. It is the classic unsung hero, working away getting all this done!