An increasing need for more Punjabi- and Hindi-speaking drivers for Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society has resulted in the society putting a call out for help.
George Garrett is vice-president of Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society. He said the need for drivers who speak the two languages has been increasing over the past few years.
Patients being driven to appointments “are much more comfortable if they’re speaking their own languages,” he said, adding that sometimes families are able to send along another family member who speaks English to tag along.
And if the society is unable to match a patient with a driver who speaks their language?
“We just have to have an English-speaking driver who tries their best.”
Garrett said drivers develop a bond with their patients as they can be driving together “quite often.” For someone going through radiation treatment, the patient could have “30-some treatments in six weeks.”
And, as Garrett says, “it’s more than just a ride.”
“It’s companionship and someone a patient can talk to in confidence. Sometimes sharing some bad news, sometimes laughter in the car.
“Our drivers are very compassionate.”
And they have to be with the kilometres they’ve driven since the society’s inception. Back in December, drivers hit a milestone of one million kilometres. Volunteers also donated 62,000 hours of their time.
“The drivers themselves are our biggest donor group,” said Garrett of the volunteer drivers, who donate their gas money back to the society.
In the summer, Garrett told Black Press Media that an increased demand and rising gas costs could for the all-volunteer service to dip into its cash reserve.
Garret told the Now-Leader that not much has changed since the summer with the most expensive area being Abbotsford-Langley.
“As it turns out, the cost in the Langley-Abbotsford district is as high as $49 per trip.”
Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society began on Feb. 29, 2016 to replace the previous service cancelled by the Canadian Cancer Society in 2015.
“We have grown from a handful of volunteer drivers at the beginning to the point where we now have 175 volunteer drivers (men and women) and 10 dispatchers,” a press release from the society reads.
For more information, to book a ride or volunteer, visit volunteercancerdrivers.ca.