It’s a cold and bleak Monday morning in Phillipstown, Christchurch, as the Red Cross community transport van turns into the Ōtautahi Creative Spaces’ carpark. The community organisation provides creativity groups for people with mental health challenges, and Red Cross volunteer Bruce Browne is dropping off three passengers.

Kim Morton from Creative Spaces smiles as she greets them.

“Among our participants there's a lot of anxiety about moving around the city,” Kim says. “For us the community transport volunteer drivers make the difference between artists being able to get here or not.”

Bruce got into volunteering for Red Cross when his wife began volunteering for the Meals on Wheels service that Red Cross runs.

“I knew the city better than she did at the time, so it made sense we did it together.”

Later he moved to community transport.

“I like driving,” he says, “so this volunteer job suits me.”

Bruce is not a man of many words but he does enjoy the interaction with his passengers.

“Meeting the people,” he says when asked what he likes about volunteering. “I try to get the same run every time. You become friends with your clients. Even though I was in sales, I am not one to engage in conversation easily, so this job is quite good as I get to talk to the passengers. Otherwise I would just be sitting at home.”

At Creative Spaces the kindness of Bruce and other Red Cross volunteer drivers has not gone unnoticed.

“Community transport volunteers provide much more than a transport service,” says Kim. “Bruce and his volunteer colleagues often go the extra mile, they are so friendly and take a real interest in their passengers. Many of our clients are quite shy but the van is a safe and friendly environment for them and they often open up and talk to the drivers.”

In Canterbury and the West Coast nearly 900 Red Cross volunteers like Bruce, help vulnerable people in the community. If you want to be involved, contact us. This week is National Volunteer Week and Red Cross would like to thank all its volunteers for the difference they make.