Dave Devenport often hasn’t finished his breakfast when the phone starts ringing. Some mornings, it starts before he’s even out of bed.

Despite the early hour, he always answers. As Red Cross’ Eastern Southland Community Transport Coordinator, Dave knows whoever is calling has good reason – they need a lift to hospital.

Red Cross has operated community transport in Eastern Southland for eight years, ensuring patients can get to hospital appointments in Dunedin and Invercargill.

It’s a much-needed service in the largely rural community, where getting a taxi or taking public transport to an appointment is simply not an option.

From Gore, where the service is based, it’s 65km to Invercargill and 150km to Dunedin – an almost four-hour round trip. Red Cross’ service means locals can get to their appointments on time and get home again safely, without an expensive bill.

Dave was instrumental in launching community transport in Estern Southland. Almost a decade later, with thousands of kilometres under his belt, he is still just as convinced about the need for the service.

Red Cross' van offers a lifeline for patients who are too unwell for other services like commercial buses, or who have appointments very early or very late in the day, he says.

“If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be waiting for hours after your appointment for a ride home or have to stay the night in a motel so you can catch a bus. We get people to hospital, wait for them and take them home.”

On average, the Eastern Southland team makes between 30 and 50 trips a month. In a busy month, their van will cover enough road to drive the length of New Zealand more than seven times. For the volunteers, it can mean long days driving, but the work is worth it.

“Drivers do a lot of hours – people don’t realise what they do for nothing. But it’s nice to come home and think we’ve done this for someone,” Dave says.

There are now twelve drivers on the team, but Dave is always on the lookout for more to help people access to the care they need.

“What if it was you in that situation? It’s going to be needed throughout the community more and more.”

Red Cross provides transport in communities across New Zealand. Our friendly drivers are all trained in first aid, reassuring passengers they’ll be safe along the way. If you know someone who could benefit from this service, find out more. Want to volunteer in your community? Sign up online.