Meet the volunteer drivers bringing coastal Suffolk closer together.
“Come and have a go!”
With its striking blue logo you may well have seen one of CATS many accessible vehicles cruising along the country lanes of coastal Suffolk. CATS provides transport services to people in Leiston, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Woodbridge & surrounding villages when access to public transport is not available. The team at CATS offer a trusted service to those who need to access hospital appointments, shopping or simply a day out.
The service relies on their volunteer drivers, who offer so much more than a ride from A to B. These friendly volunteers really get to know their passengers and always go that bit extra from helping them find the correct department for their hospital appointment and waiting patiently in supermarket car parks.
On a showery July day we caught up with Dave and Steve, both volunteer drivers for CATS who told us a little about their role before dashing off to pick up more passengers. Dave is an old hand at volunteer driving having been with CATS for 20 years “when I took early retirement, I thought I would give something back” Dave explained.
Steve is newer to the role, he became a volunteer driver in 2019 when he relocated to Suffolk from Kent, what better way to explore the roads of rural Suffolk than to drive for CATS! Steve was a serving Fire Fighter for 42 years and like many others he supported elderly parents and family members to get to hospital appointments and the shops. Steve explained how he became a volunteer driver “I enjoyed driving, I’ve got no hobbies, I don’t play golf or go sailing so it was a natural progression to volunteer”
When asked what they like most about their volunteer role both Dave and Steve had the same answer, meeting all the amazing passengers. Steve explained “They all have a story to tell, you get to know them, where they lived, what they did for a job or their memories of the war”. “There is no typical day” said Dave “We get to know people, you do become part of their family”
Steve was just back from taking an elderly couple to Snape Maltings, he explained that he often has passengers who spend the rest of the week stuck indoors, “we give them the opportunity to see the outside world and improve their quality of life”. Dave also reflected on this “some people don’t see anyone week in week out and then suddenly there is a bus full of happy people, when you drop them off and they say they have had a really nice day it makes it worthwhile”. The CATS service does so much more than transport people, it tackles rural isolation and builds relationships.
The CATS team transport people to many and varied destinations from a day trip to Tip Tree jam factory to supporting a wheelchair user traveling to Centre Parcs, no two days are the same. When not driving, you may find Steve and Dave waiting patiently for their passengers to return which gives them ample time to do a crossword, play a game on their phone and enjoy a coffee.
CATS can only provide this excellent service because of the work of their volunteers like Steve and Dave but more volunteer drivers are desperately needed. Dave explained that there were two stationary buses in the car park just waiting for volunteers to get behind the wheel. It is clear from meeting Dave, Steve and all the staff at CAT that they are a friendly and welcoming team, “it’s a pleasure to come in, its nice comradery,” said Dave.
For anyone who may want to find out more about becoming a volunteer driver for CATS, the message is clear “come and have a go”. The team at CATS are keen to show you what the role involves, why not spend an hour or two shadowing Steve or Dave.
To find out more about volunteering at CATS email [email protected] or call 01728 830516. Volunteer drivers are also needed in other organisations across Suffolk, remember to check www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk to find volunteering opportunities near you.