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Every morning Jade Pounamu Aikman, 27, leaves his home in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, gets on his bicycle, and rides for half an hour - a 20km round trip - to reach Whakatane. Once he’s there, he collects the van and starts his day’s activities: picking up people who are unable to attend their medical and social appointments. Some are elderly and can no longer drive, others are young mums taking their tamariki to Plunket; what they all have in common is that they don’t have the means to get themselves to important appointments. The new community transport service is now there to fill the gap.
As well as empathising with members of the community who don’t have a car, Jade says it’s important work because of the chance for social contact.
“It’s great to be able to take people to their medical appointments, and chat with them along the way. As a driver, I might be the only social interaction some people have for the whole week.”
Jade and 20 other volunteers have been involved in spreading the word about the service, which launched in the Eastern Bay of Plenty in September 2017. It was already needed in the area, but that need intensified after the floods hit in April this year, forcing the local medical services to move to nearby towns.
Jade says that as more people learn about the service, they’re telling him and volunteer co-ordinator Jean Nuku, how much they appreciate it.
“Clients have been amazed that Red Cross is offering the service. Anyone living in Edgecumbe who needs to go to the town over for medical appointments, or social appointments, are incredibly grateful to our volunteers. I’m amazed by the Red Cross volunteers who’ve stepped up. The community spirit is strong here.”
Julie Forrest, New Zealand Red Cross Humanitarian Services Coordinator (Bay of Plenty) says “it’s wonderful to have volunteer support to enable us to provide this service. A big thank you goes out to everyone.”
What keeps Jade getting on his bike every day?
“In my family it’s always been important to contribute beyond what you do – being a good member of the community is that you provide help. It’s hard to see people who live without, and even if I can contribute in a minor way, I’m passionate about that.”
To access the community transport service in Edgecumbe
The service covers Kawerau, Edgecumbe and Whakatane, and runs from 9am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. Contact Jean Nuku, Eastern Bay of Plenty Community Transport Co-ordinator: 07 923 4057.
For queries regarding the service, please contact our service centre: firstname.lastname@example.org