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Meet Tony, Rose, Beverly, Karon, Shona, Francis and Allistair, who every week make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people. While their task may sound simple – picking up people and driving them safely to and from their medical appointments, their role is a lot more than driving, it’s about caring.
“There’s a real need for New Zealand Red Cross’ Community Transport service in the community of Gore. The city doesn’t have public transport and for inhabitants who aren’t able to drive, nor have family members or friends to do so for them, our service is their only option if they have a medical appointment to attend,” says Allister, one of the longest-running drivers.
For the passengers, the service also offers comfort and the reassurance that they’re not alone in their health journey.
“When you’re going to a hospital appointment on your own, you feel very much alone and that creates anxiety and you don’t always hear what the doctor says to you, or you hear bits only. So, having somebody there as well who can hear, then they get the full story, the true account. This is something that they appreciate,” says Rose.
Allistair points out that everyone is different and all have their own stories, which is one of the many reasons why he enjoys the service. Over time, drivers may become friends with the passengers – the long drive from Gore to Invercargill or Dunedin allows for a lot of time to chat. For example, as Shona shares: “Some of the people, if you get them on a regular basis, more than once or twice, you almost become friends.”
There’s often more than one passenger who has an appointment in town, so the car ride is shared among a few people. This sometimes makes a world of difference for the passengers as they get to connect with more people, which may help tackle loneliness.
“I remember one time taking three ladies to Invercargill and after their appointments they asked me to stop at a couple of places on the way back. At the end of the day, one of them said: ‘This was fun today! It’s like having a girl’s day’,” recalls Shona.
Many of the drivers got involved because they had spare time on their hands and wanted to give back to the community, so the service seemed like a good fit, and a good way to meet new people. For Shona, the joker among the group, it’s also about planning for the future.
“I had a friend who was asked to do it, but she was too busy. She was telling me about it and I thought ‘Oh I can probably do that’, so I did. And the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. And I think, well, a little bit further down the track, I might need the service myself!,” says Shona, prompting the rest of the group to burst out laughing.
New Zealand Red Cross' Community Transport service helps more than 17 000 Kiwis a year get to their medical appointments across New Zealand. Help people in your community get from here to there, with care. Join our team of drivers.