Useful In Ashford
Are you retired and available? The chores are all done and you’re wondering what to do with your time?
I felt like that in the summer of 2018, even though I’m also admin of Ashford Sings! community choir. That was really my only social life. I moved to Ashford from Spain in 2010 and had a few years of decorating/gardening etc. Then I took up running for a while, running to the cinema, watching a film and running home. I soon got fed up of that! Basically I was just trying to fill my time.
My twin sister was running a volunteer car scheme in Hampshire at that time so it was in the back of my mind, and then one day I saw an advertisement on Facebook for the Ashford Volunteer Centre, wanting drivers, and that gave me the push I needed.
Checks, and away!
Naturally there are DBS checks, references etc., but I took my first passenger in November 2018. You’re able to decide which days you want to be available (even if it’s just one or two days a week) and any you can’t do. I’m happily available seven days a week.
I love doing this, and for my passengers sometimes I’m the only outside contact they have in a week. Many of my passengers have become friends and they’re delightful company for me too. I have many regular passengers and some who only need driving occasionally.
In March 2020 of course things changed in lockdown and that was a very sad time for all of us. Then, when life started to open up again, we were told we could take passengers, all masked of course, and passengers should sit in the back seat. I only had a little car at the time so, if I had a passenger with a wheelchair or walking frame, I had to flatten the back seats to accommodate that. I was left some money later that year so I was able to buy a car that’s large enough to take passengers and their walkers – and is fortunately electric.
I take passengers to all the local hospitals and doctor surgeries, or shopping, and I generally sit and wait in my car if it’s under 90 minutes. I probably spend almost as much time in my car as I do at home – but with heated seats, social media and a good book I’m perfectly content.
Any car park fees are paid for by the passenger but if they have a blue badge then parking is free. Generally I just take one passenger but it’s perfectly fine if they want to take someone with them. I take some disabled people to daytime activities in the morning and then return to pick them up and take them home.
Other ways of helping
You don’t have to be a driver: there are volunteers who run the car service from the office at Berwick House in Elwick Road, or are befrienders, visiting elderly people at home, and many other roles.