This weekend I pass another milestone in my working life when I cross over the pension line.
Yes I have now turned from 64 years of age to 65 years, which means that all that hardship of getting up early and making the morning tea is over, and instead I’ll be lying in bed until the late hours in winter, drinking tea all day, playing golf on sunny days, etc….well so they say.
Sadly my own Engineering Consultancy demised in mid 2012 as the Credit Crunch and financial austerity bit deep and the Government started to tighten its own budgetary belt to meet the hard times ahead. Up until this time I had worked on some fantastic projects all over the world and the UK, especially in Hertfordshire, where I worked on many roads and drainage schemes. I also had occasion to work on the Wembley site as well as the Olympics in Stratford.
This all culminated with some humanitarian projects in Mozambique with Oxfam and the UNWFP restoring roads after flood damage of 2000. I also worked in South Sudan with the United Nations World Food Programme where I reconstructed most of the roads from Uganda and Kenya to the old battle-scarred country, after a civil war which lasted for 25 years. Some 4 million landmines and battle ordinance were left lying all over my roads.
I also fixed a few hundred bridges and culverts and repaired and extended some major runways. Those days have all gone now though and when I faced redundancy in 2012 it came as a great shock. I never thought that it was going to happen to me to be honest, but this has been a world wide event that has floored most countries and left people who have not been as secure as I was, in a far worse position than me. Even my overseas contacts had no work for me, so I couldnt do anything. I could mope around or maybe just go to the biggest employer in the UK and in the World… the N.H.S. and ask them for a job…any job.
I went to my local hospital in Stevenage and spoke to the volunteer team who asked me to consider a flyer, which offered various volunteering situations in the hospital. I chose to do driving because I could do so, and also because I have a good heater in my car and I would be very cosy in winter not standing in the bitter cold, which was one of the hardships that I did experience with my old job!
I filled in the forms and waited for the CRB results to come back a few weeks later. I was accepted and asked to go to have my eyes checked out which I passed once more. I was really relieved initially that at least someone wanted me…rejection is a hard thing sometimes, so as soon as I could I started.
The main thing I had to get used to was that it wasn’t like a normal full time job…. I had thought that I would be engaged in the transport operation full time, working say 8 to 10 hours a day every day and asking for some time over the weekend to see my family. But it is much more flexible than that…there are days when I have 4 or 5 transports to do in one day, but others when I have none at all. There is an upside to this of course…you can play golf or do what I did and get going with your genealogy which has taken years to complete.
Still wanting to keep busy though, I met up with Sue Moss who looks after the drivers of the NHCVS Community Transport Scheme, which helps all kinds of individuals who need help getting to various places, and she was delighted that I could help as they nearly always have a shortage of drivers.
Driving people to the various places really is quite interesting although it takes a few months to grasp…having a Satnav helps a lot though. On most occasions the person you are driving will only keep you at the most for an hour or less, but sometimes their appointment lasts longer than they thought, but I usually take a few puzzles with me and relax whilst I wait.
The past few years volunteering have been full of incident and interest. Meeting people and helping get them to their appointments is an extension of my humanitarian interests that I had whilst working with the UN not so long ago. I have met lots of other voluteers during this time and most of these people are caring considerate people who really want to help. Interfacing with the public has taken me away from my usual technical and analytical work…but gives me a focus that people and their needs are a challenge sometimes, but need to be adressed…and lots of people have needs especially now with the economic crisis as it is.
It’s a challenge to make a difference in your life…but it is an even bigger one to make a difference to the public’s experience in life. I saw the volunteers at the Olympics, and how happy they were to please the public. It cost them lots of effort but they made a great show, and they enjoyed it…I think the same happens with my volunteering at the NHCVS.
I feel quite fulfilled at least doing something that helps the public…it gives me peace of mind that I am doing something worthwhile, so I have decided to continue to drive after I go on pension, and play golf on my days off!
A post by Hugh, Volunteer Driver for the NHCVS Community Transport Scheme