Reading Association for the Blind (RAB) is looking for volunteer minibus drivers to enable its popular programme of outings and rambles to continue. This is a great opportunity for volunteers to enjoy getting out and about, experience great camaraderie and make a big difference to the lives of some of the blind and partially sighted community in Reading.
RAB has over 100 members and provides a range of services, leisure and recreational facilities to support and enhance lives of local residents who are blind, partially sighted and in some cases mobility impaired.
On alternate Mondays throughout the year RAB members go out for walks in many different locations including very rural areas like the Chilterns and Peppard Downs and less rural areas like the Basingstoke Canal. The walks end with a leisurely pub lunch and the opportunity to catch up and chat. RAB also organise very popular outings to different places of interest on other Mondays through the year. Recent trips have been to Southampton, the Chilterns and Redwoods Garden Centre.
Volunteer drivers take the members out in a RAB minibus which has a tail lift and wheelchair accommodation. In addition to driving, the volunteer drivers assist members to get on and off the minibus. They join in the rambles too.
Drivers need to have a clean minibus driving licence (D1) and to be physically fit so they can help members and take part in the walks. A love of walking is also a must. What else does RAB look for in a volunteer driver? Geoff Canterbury, an Escort and Driver, explains: “A driver needs to be a sociable person and willing to help as not everyone is mobile. You build up a rapport and you have banter going back and forth. There’s a brilliant camaraderie here, everyone gets on well.”
Geoff gets a lot of satisfaction from volunteering with RAB. He said: “It’s like paying back to the community, a way of giving back to people. It’s just a really good feeling that you get out of it.”
There can be no doubt that RAB and the activities it offers make a big difference to the lives of its members. Julia Canham, who is both a volunteer and a member, summed up what RAB means to her: “If it hadn’t been for coming here, I’d have gone mad. I’d lost my confidence. It’s a lovely happy atmosphere and no-one’s ever miserable.”
Jean Channing, a member who uses a wheelchair, said: “I’ve enjoyed all the days out, especially the shopping trips, so the minibus with the tail lift is handy. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me and I’ve made a lot of new friends. Going out is fantastic, and I’d be so isolated without it.”
Recently, a shortage of volunteer drivers has meant that members have sometimes been forced to make alternative travel arrangements. More volunteer drivers are needed to ensure that RAB members can continue to enjoy these valuable opportunities to get out and about.
Volunteering as a minibus driver with RAB is an ideal opportunity to join a friendly team, get out and about and make a real difference.