New Volunteers Needed
Harpenden Helping Hand is always on the look out for more drivers and shoppers. The time commitment is as much or little as you want but as you can see from the stories below, the work is interesting and often enjoyable and rewarding. Clients often say “I don’t know what I’d do without Harpenden Helping Hand” so you would be joining a band of Volunteers making a huge difference to people’s lives. As a driver you can offer to do as many journeys as you wish at times that are convenient for you and there is no obligation to say ‘yes’ when asked by one of our transport organisers. As a shopper you can opt to shop occasionally or on a more regular basis but always to fit in with your own life Many of our volunteers start just after retirement, when they are looking for interesting and useful things to do, but experienced drivers and shoppers of all ages are most welcome.
We also need volunteers to help with the administration of the charity.
Please have a look at the case examples described below and then, if you are interested in volunteering, contact us on 01582 764599 or if you wish to know more about shopping contact the Co-ordinator by email at Coordinator@hhhand.org.uk .
If you express an interest in volunteering you will be sent an application form and asked for two references and your consent to a DBS check. Once you become a volunteer you will be sent a welcome pack which goes into much more detail and explains how you can claim your motoring expenses (mileage and car parking). You let us know your availability and we try to fit in with that. You do not have to make a regular commitment.
Aileen has been driving for Helping Hand since 2007, the year she retired from being the librarian at a Luton secondary school. She says she was looking for something useful to do as a volunteer, when someone gave her an HHH leaflet at the farmers market. Five years later, as well as continuing with the driving, Aileen also agreed to join the team of transport organisers. This is one of HHH’s vital jobs, being on call to receive 20 to 30 calls a week both directly from clients and from carers and staff at doctors’ surgeries who have people needing lifts. Whoever is on duty for the week then has to ring round potential drivers until someone available is found.
Most of her trips are to medical facilities and some of her clients are quite frail and forgetful at times. Drivers have to be resourceful in clarifying exactly what some clients need to do. One lady said she was going to the hospital for a pre-op when in fact it was for a Covid test. Clients also don’t always tell you beforehand that they need to take a wheelchair with them or even to have a carer accompany them. So be prepared to be flexible.
But it’s most rewarding work. Clients are always so grateful and often very interesting. Many conversations are fascinating, particularly with people who have been in Harpenden all their lives, often dating back to the 1930s. One of Aileen’s clients was writing his memoirs, including memories of wartime. Another had worked at the same college as her and, in spite of suffering from dementia, they were able to exchange stories of old colleagues remembered.
Now in his early 70s, Gordon has been driving for HHH for ten years. In 2012 a card came through the door asking for volunteer drivers. Gordon likes helping people. He also likes fixing things, for instance he’s a good car mechanic and has often helped repair neighbours’ cars at a fraction of the cost of taking them into a garage. He likes driving, he likes to give his BMW a good run, so the opportunity to help people get to hospitals around the county and beyond presented an opportunity to do something really worthwhile in his retirement. As well as regular trips to Watford and Luton hospitals he has also driven clients to Mount Vernon, Harefield, Stevenage and Bedford. He does about 6 trips a month, covering about 2,500 miles for Helping Hand each year.
The work calls for initiative. Gordon emphasises how important it is to phone your client beforehand to check on the exact address, timing, mobility, use of wheelchairs, etc. Sometimes clients need more help than they care to admit. For instance, needing to find them a wheelchair on arrival at a hospital with the prospect of a long walk or knowing when they haven’t done up their seat belt properly when they said they had. Driving urgent cases to hospital during Covid presented problems; passengers had to sit in the back seat and the windows were left open.
Gordon has wonderful conversations with his clients, some of whom are regular ones, and he enjoys hearing people’s life stories. He often ‘goes the extra mile’ by adding a quick trip to the shops on the way back. Gordon says he gets real pleasure from how grateful his passengers are. One client recently said to him ‘I don’t know what I’d do without Helping Hand’. It makes him feel good about himself.
Alan is one of our longest serving drivers having started in 2005. Through earlier babysitting arrangements, his wife knew the wife of the then Helping Hand transport organiser and when he heard about what HHH did, he immediately volunteered.
Alan has been driving since his 17th birthday. He loves his 14 year old Mercedes although more recently driving has become less enjoyable because of the sheer level of traffic. He’s a chartered engineer who changed tack in his mid-twenties by going into journalism, working for transport magazines and on special newspaper supplements, including the FT and Times, writing reviews and articles on heavy goods vehicles. He became an expert on emissions and fuel consumption issues. For several years he travelled all over Europe and even as far as the USA driving new HGVs and writing reviews of them. He remembers particularly driving a 50 ton Volvo truck on the ice in a Swedish winter.
Since Covid he has been on HHH trips about twice every three weeks, often to the Luton and Dunstable hospital. He always enjoys giving HHH clients a lift. They are invariably very grateful for the service and it gives him great satisfaction. Alan is very aware that some of his clients are hard pressed financially and he tries to persuade them that they don’t have to make a donation. Mostly, though, they insist through a natural sense of pride and gratitude for the help they are receiving. He likes to get his clients chatting, often starting with asking them how long they have lived in Harpenden and where they lived before that. He finds that very often they share knowledge of places they both know and that leads to interesting conversations.
Alan’s message to anyone thinking about volunteering as an HHH driver is ‘If you have some time to spare and you want to do something that is both useful and gratifying, go for it!’
Rosalie joined Harpenden Helping Hand when she retired about 6 years ago. She went to the Seniors’ Fair looking for something practical she might do by way of helping the community. She says she wasn’t interested in flower arranging but driving older folk who couldn’t get around without help appealed to her. She had previously taken her aging parents back and forth to various hospitals so she immediately related to the work HHH does. As with all our other drivers and shoppers she enjoys the many and varied conversations with her clients, especially hearing the life stories of people who have lived in Harpenden all their long lives.
One of only three girls in a class of 70 at college, she had worked as a software engineer all her career, most recently designing portable software systems for the military. Problem solving is one of Rosalie’s skills and that has come in handy with some of her HHH assignments. She discovered that one elderly client who needed to be taken to the supermarket and helped with the shopping was desperately needing further help. Living alone with no family or friends to turn to and with a terminal illness, he had let his flat get into a bad state. In spite of having sufficient funds to pay for help he was obstinately refusing to do so. Rosalie is currently doing all she can to help him sort himself out. Another client she shops for each week has mobility problems. Rosalie receives the shopping list over the phone and not only delivers it but puts it all away and explains where everything is. As a regular visitor, she has been able to encourage her client to become more active and move around more. It’s another heart-warming example of how HHH people are able to improve the lives of lonely folk, who have few others to turn to for help.