Volunteers are not paid….yet they are priceless
This applies to every volunteer, in whatever area of society they contribute…
Here in the National Park we have an army of wonderful individuals who give freely of their time, friendship, compassion and skills. Operating in so many capacities, they boost and enrich the public and private sectors as well as a host of charities and good causes. “What’s On” takes a look at two very different organisations which rely on the enthusiasm and goodwill of their many volunteers.
The Badenoch & Strathspey Community Car Scheme (part of the Community Transport Company/Where 2 Today) was set up to serve the people in the community who, for various reasons, are not able to get out and about or access public transport. But the service is much more than just providing transport. Certainly the car scheme helps meet essential needs, such as attending medical appointments, but importantly, it embraces personal and social aspects such as going to church or meeting up with friends. But, to provide transport, you need drivers.
One long term volunteer is John Anderson from Kincraig who has been a volunteer driver for over 10 years. So what motivates John and others like him to offer their services? “It is a good way of meeting people and doing something useful for the community. Obviously it’s beneficial to the clients but it is also satisfying for the drivers. Personally, involvement with the scheme has helped me adjust to my own changed circumstances.” So what are the key benefits for the clients? “Well it’s a door to door service, so people don’t have to wait around in the cold or wonder how they are getting back. And it’s open to anyone in a disabling situation; perhaps someone who cannot drive because of a medical condition.” John continues; “The drivers are happy to go that extra mile (as it were) for clients so they get the most from the service. It’s really rewarding to do something worthwhile and to realise the difference you make to a person’s life simply by driving them to appointments and social events that otherwise they might not be able to attend”. Unsurprisingly, invaluable friendships are forged.
Any what do the clients think? For Nellie Bruce, who lives in a remote location outside of Grantown, the car scheme is a lifeline. Without it she would not “have a life”. A regular, Nellie uses the car scheme every week, to attend the local health clinic, do shopping, visit the hairdresser and meet her friends. And that social aspect is something very special. Nellie explains; “Once a week a group of us ladies go out for tea. We go somewhere different each week and it’s great. And we have lovely outings arranged for us; monthly lunches, Fish and Chip teas and music afternoons which are great fun”. As Nellie can vouch, the volunteers are more than that – they are true friends.
The organisation has some 1400 clients on its database; 650 of whom are regular users. Are you able to spare some time and join the 160 volunteers who really do make a difference? There are so many activities to get involved with such as; befriending, assisted shopping in Aviemore and Grantown and the provision of minibus services between the various villages.
Still in the realm of transport, a very different proposition is the assistance given to The Strathspey Railway by its network of volunteers.
A heritage railway and a major visitor attraction, the Railway calls on over 100 regular volunteers from the Strathspey Railway Association’s 900 members. Clearly not all volunteers are active at any one time but it is heartening to have this precious resource. So, as a volunteer what could you be involved with? Anything from driving trains, engine and track maintenance to selling tickets, being a conductor or manning one of three stations. Many of the volunteers have had some connection or interest in railways while others have a background in engineering or have valuable communication and people skills.
“What’s On” spoke to Nick and Helen Thomson of Nethy Bridge who have been staunch supporters and volunteers for over 10 years. Nick explained “Being a member of the SRS for over 25 years, I’ve always been interested in the Railway. When I retired, it meant I had more time to get actively involved. “Nick continues “People are involved in different ways but what connects us all is our desire to contribute.” Nick is now able to devote an average of two days a week to his passion; acting as Treasurer of the Association and, together with his wife Helen, co-ordinating operations at Broomhill station.
Together they help man the station, organise rotas, take responsibility for maintenance, sell tickets and items from the shop as well as welcoming visitors and answering their questions. Helen says; “We greet so many kinds of people; railway enthusiasts, bus tours, families and visitors from home and abroad. It’s quite astonishing how many overseas visitors know of the Glenbogle connection and come to have their photo taken under the Glenbogle station sign.” The couple also participate in fundraising for the Railway and help raise money for Broomhill by selling second hand books.
One thing for sure is that The Strathspey Railway could not function, as it does at present, without the volunteers who come from all over Scotland and parts of England. The Railway even has its own hostel which means that volunteers, who travel some distance, can stay overnight, or longer, while working for the Railway.
New volunteers would be welcomed by both organisations. Go on, get out and make good things happen. If you feel there could be a role for you, please contact:
Community Transport Company: Roslyn Munro, Volunteer Recruitment Officer
tel: 01479 810 004, www.ct4u.co.uk
Strathspey Railway: Gill Kelly, Volunteer Co-ordinator:
tel: 01479 810 725, www.strathspeyrailway.co.uk