Published September 27, 2017
A volunteer and a car. Put the two together, and they can change lives. Our Richmond Better at Home program is proof. The program supports local seniors, with services like friendly visiting, light housekeeping, and transportation. As you can probably guess, it’s the latter service where the volunteers and cars come in. Last year, our volunteer drivers completed 1,655 trips, bringing seniors to and from medical appointments and social events. Volunteer writer Amanda Oye spoke with two Better at Home drivers, who talked about the difference they make in seniors’ lives, and how their own lives have been enriched by the people they meet in the passenger seat.
There is no better way to be a driving force for good in the community than by becoming a volunteer. And if you ask Don Pearson, a volunteer with Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives’ (RCRG) Better at Home program, driving is an easy and flexible way to make a difference in other peoples’ lives.
“It’s not a difficult task, but it’s quite rewarding,” he says. Pearson has been volunteering as a driver in the community ever since RCRG began running the Better at Home program, in 2013.
Better at Home is a provincial initiative administered by the United Way and funded by the Government of British Columbia. The program aims to make it easier for seniors to live independently for longer, by offering services such as transportation, friendly visiting, and light housekeeping.
RCRG, a registered charity that’s been serving the community for 45 years, provides Better at Home services in Richmond.
When you volunteer your time to help get a senior to and from a doctor’s appointment, you are so much more than a driver to them. More often than not, you’re also a friend. And that’s the best part of the position.
“Just talking to them and getting that smile at the end of the day from them makes me happy,” says Mumtaz Nathu, who is also a volunteer driver. “If I make one person happy, it makes my day,” she says. Sometimes, all the seniors need to smile is someone to listen to them on the drive. “Quite often they talk a lot,” says Nathu. This is something she loves. “I learn a lot from them,” she says.
There is a tremendous amount of job satisfaction that goes with being a volunteer driver. Because of this, volunteers like Pearson and Nathu often find themselves going above and beyond during driving duties, happy to make the lives of those around them a bit easier when they can.
This might mean narrating the ride for a blind passenger, helping to recycle a large electronic item, or providing support and compassion to someone who has just received bad news from a doctor. After all, “You’re the first person they see after the diagnoses, and so you try to talk to them and reassure them,” Pearson says.
Both Pearson and Nathu speak incredibly fondly of the people they drive, and you can hear the joy in their voices when they tell stories of their favourite memories. It’s not hard to see why.
“The people you drive are really good people,” Pearson says. From seniors who start off shy, and then warm up and become chatterboxes, to seniors who show their gratitude for drivers who have gone above and beyond in unexpected ways, the people volunteers spend their time helping are grateful and kindhearted. This is what makes continuing to volunteer with the program year after year such an easy decision.
With Richmond's seniors' population on the rise, the need for volunteer drivers has never been greater. Indeed, the Better at Home transportation service is so popular that RCRG is struggling to meet the demand.
And so, if you have even a few hours a week to drive seniors to medical appointments, recreational activities, and community events, RCRG would love your help.
To get involved, contact Eric Chow, Richmond Better at Home Coordinator, at 604-279-7020
. You can also apply online