ACAN volunteer drivers offer pathways for connection

A volunteer and their client standing next to a red car

"Helping People to Help Themselves" has been the mission statement for Alexandra Community Advice Network (ACAN) for over 20 years. We have been providing free, friendly, and confidential information and support in Alexandra and surrounding districts by coordinating services such as Meals on Wheels drivers, a Volunteer Driver Service, and free legal appointments, as well as being a treasure-trove of information on various local services and facilities for anyone who needs it.

Of the many volunteers who help in the office, drive clients and deliver meals, we want to shine a spotlight on our team of Volunteer Drivers, who provide transport for clients who have requested assistance from ACAN for a ride to medical appointments, shopping, hairdressers, library, and other everyday outings.

Access to this service has resulted in a degree of independence for clients who no longer have to rely on family and friends to take them to appointments and shopping. Equally valuable is the contact with other people, both drivers and out in the community, which helps to reduce the feeling of isolation that clients living alone may experience.

The Volunteer Driver Service has helped to raise the profile of ACAN, as more people hear about us, and are contacting our office for rides. We have gradually built up a strong client base, who are most appreciative of the service. The voluntary drivers often take clients to more than one destination in a trip, regardless of the original request: to a medical appointment and the supermarket, to the hairdressers and the bank. The drivers happily give their time, as they understand the value of the service in an area that has no public transport or regular taxi service, often responding to requests at very short notice.

We are extremely lucky to have such a great team of flexible volunteers. Clients who use the service on a weekly basis are likely to have the same driver frequently, allowing friendships to develop, an added bonus enhancing well-being for both parties.

Not surprisingly, the most common sentiment Graham Quinn, the Driving Service Coordinator, and other volunteers hear is: “Thank you. I’m not sure how I would have gotten here if it wasn’t for this service” Jan Pessione, a regular client comments, “A wonderful service – I cannot speak highly enough about it and am telling everyone I can how lucky we are to have this service in our area.” Volunteer drivers are also impacted positively, with one saying, “the client’s appreciation gives you a warm feeling!”

The term ‘Weaving the People Together’ conjures up a series of pathways and connections, which is exactly what our volunteer drivers do. Without our drivers a significant part of the community would find it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to connect with people. Volunteers enable clients to access those pathways and connect them to various other people in the community, such as doctors, dentists, hairdressers, shop assistants, librarians and many more. Thank you ACAN volunteers for doing your part in weaving the Alexandra community together!

Written for Volunteer South by Lorraine Hawkins

Keen to volunteer with ACAN? Check out the roles they offer here.