The Bramley Volunteer Drivers are a brilliant group of volunteers who help provide lifts for local people to their medical appointments.
Over the last 16 months, Bramley Volunteer Drivers amassed a further 11 volunteers who helped support locals that were isolating. CommunityAd caught up with the Chairman of Bramley Volunteer Drivers, Colin Shimell to find out more about this wonderful group…
When did the Bramley Volunteer Drivers first start and what was the reason behind this?
The Bramley Volunteer Drivers (BVD) were spun out of the Bramley Care Group in 2015. Prior to that it had operated as the driving arm of the Care Group (who also organize senior lunch club) for a number of years.
Throughout your time with the Bramley Volunteer Drivers, what would you say has been your most rewarding experience?
Probably my most rewarding experience concerned a village resident who was undergoing a series of chemotherapy sessions at Basingstoke Hospital. It was wintertime and her next session was on a day when serious snowfall had occurred. Most of the roads out of the village were almost impassable and traffic was almost nil. As I had a 4×4 and experience of driving in snow (having lived in Scotland for a number of years) I decided to try and get through to the hospital. Before setting out I made sure I had blankets in the car as well as supplies and a shovel. The trip there went OK except where a snowdrift was across the road just beyond Sherborne St John. But we made it and she got her chemo. On the journey back, the wind had whipped some more snow off the field and built the snow drift up even higher. We were just able to get through and deliver her safely back home.
The past 16 months have been incredibly testing for everyone and anyone. How were BVD able to adapt and continue working through COVID-19 and the lockdowns?
Most of our drivers are of the age that they were being advised to isolate during COVID. This meant that the driving burden fell on a small number of drivers who were available to drive. Fortunately, the NHS stopped nearly all routine appointments and there was a move away from face-to-face appointments wherever possible. Because of this, we were able to provide a service and transport anybody that asked for our help – but the level of activity was well down. We also delivered medication to some who could not get to the surgery to collect it. When the vaccination programme started up, we were contacted to see if we could transport villagers to the vaccination centres.
At the same time, we welcomed a further 11 volunteers who had volunteered to help with the vaccination programme to help us with driving. As it transpired, only a small number of people need our help getting to the vaccination centre – I guess because during lockdown most had friends or relatives around who were able to transport them. However, whenever asked we transported any villager requiring help.
Are you still looking for volunteers? If so, how can local readers who may be interested apply?
Regarding volunteers, we are always on the lookout for new drivers to come and join us. They need their own car (or access to one) and to be able to give us a few hours per month. We pay mileage expenses. Anybody interested should contact us on 07787 166924.