Driving the Waka Ora Health Shuttle
BY STAN STEWART
Jeremy Andrews has been a volunteer driver for Whitianga’s Waka Ora Health Shuttle (part of St John’s Ambulance) for years. Here is how he started.
Most of his working life was spent in the ‘pre press’ industry. By the time retirement came, and with his wife Lynnette, he was ready for a change. They looked to relocate out of Auckland. Their search was unhurried and finally they chose Whitianga. For both of them, it seemed like the best option for their retirement life.
They bought a house in Whitianga and their new life in ‘paradise’ began. Lynnette had lots of interests so connecting with others and using her time was easy. For Jeremy, as with most men, finding his niche was more challenging. For him, neither golf nor fishing fitted the bill. What then? Hanging about?
As happens, their daughter was concerned about Dad’s health and well-being. It is common knowledge that for men, lack of interests in retirement is a death sentence. His daughter had an inspired suggestion. “Be a volunteer driver Dad”. She suggested St John’s ambulance and that’s how it started. For Jeremy this was indeed an inspired suggestion. That was years ago and now being a volunteer driver for St Johns is part of his life – a valued part of his life.
Being a driver for St John’s is not something you can just walk into. There are tests, examinations, checks, briefings and reports. It is a very responsible position. It is a professional position. However, unlike other professions, there is no remuneration. The drivers do the work for no pay. Their job is their interest, their hobby, their way of giving back and they love it. They are mates with the other drivers. They all share similar values. They know they are contributing not only to persons who need hospital or a doctor’s visits; they are contributing to the health of the community. That’s their pay back.
Jeremy’s journeys for the people are often to hospitals in Hamilton or Auckland. These destinations involve long drives. This past year, because of destroyed and damaged roads, these drives have been longer than ever. There are always two volunteer drivers. They rotate after 90 minutes of driving. Not only are many of the journeys long, but the days can also be long. Doctors and hospitals can have their schedules interrupted causing delays in appointment times. And the roads in 2023 – there were so many corners, so many lollipop traffic controllers. But for Jeremy, the road into Whangamata is the worst – seemingly endless tight twists – round and round.
Jeremy has learnt lots from his years of driving. For instance, he is an expert on toilet stops. On his routes, he knows them all. And from his clients has learnt about all kinds of people – some are talkative, some are quiet; all are appreciative. Some travel with him only once. Others are regulars. Few complain.
He knows his way in and out of a number of hospitals. He is familiar with the location of specialist’s premises. Obviously, his driving days include a lot of hanging about. Books are his favourite diversions when waiting.
After driving for the St John’s Health Shuttle for years is Jeremy thinking of quitting? “No time soon,” he says. The fact he is making a valuable contribution to the community is reward enough for him. Plus there is the camaraderie with the St John’s team which is a valued reward. “This is an important work,” he says. “This is a professional work. I’m glad to be part of it”.
To book a health shuttle:
Our Health Shuttles are locally run. To make a booking, you need to contact either your local Hato Hone St John team or our customer service centre on 0800 ST JOHN (0800 78 56 46) Monday – Sunday 7am – 7pm.
The Waka Ora, Order of St Johns, Health Shuttle is a koha (donation) based community service, delivered by volunteers, that transports people to health and wellbeing related appointments, and then brings them home again.
This Whitianga service receives substantial support from the St Johns Charity Shop, Albert St., Whitianga.
Caption: Jeremy Andrews getting ready for his next Waka Ora shuttle journey.