Connect+Go is a volunteer transport service that tackles loneliness and isolation in the community of Warwickshire. Funded by the Department of Transport, the project runs hand in hand with our Grandmentors project in Warwickshire, which currently supports young people in care from Warwickshire Council’s Asylum and Leaving Care team. Using energy-efficient vehicles, Connect+Go’s volunteers drive young people and refugees, and asylum seekers across the county to access social events and activities.
We recently caught up with Abeda Vorajee, who is a volunteer driver with Connect+Go. A retired teacher, Abeda has always wanted to be an HGV driver with her own minibus, so she was thrilled when an opportunity came her way to volunteer with Connect+Go. Abeda achieved her MiDAS license through Connect+Go, which means that she is now fully qualified to drive Connect+Go’s minibus covering the Nuneaton and Coventry area. Abeda drives women seeking asylum to English language classes and activities that support them in navigating a new country, language, and culture.
For Abeda, driving with Connect+Go is fundamentally about community, as she describes;
“I want the best for my community. I love driving the minibus and volunteering with Connect+Go, helping women to get to their English classes and Arabic-speaking women’s coffee mornings. Most of the women are here as asylum-seeking refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen, living in a new environment with a new language. Meeting other women with similar experiences enables them to support each other. Otherwise, the women would become very isolated.”
“It is empowering for the women to see me driving a minibus as it gives a clear message that you can do anything when you put your mind to it.”
As Abeda explains, it is as much about interaction as it is about transportation; “The women often check certain English words with me, from their phones, on the way to the language classes, and I am happy to help and answer questions. It is empowering for the women to see me driving a minibus as it gives a clear message that you can do anything when you put your mind to it. It works both ways; we have a nice relationship.”
Now retired and having worked as a primary school teacher and a member of the Community Education Council for 24 years, Abeda recalls the importance of interacting with her local community when she first arrived in Britain at age 16; “We are all always on a learning curve. With a new language, the best way to learn is to talk to other people, be open and check up on words.”
For Abeda, volunteering is rooted in community; “I originally stopped working to care for my mum. Volunteering is about serving my community, and while I have my health, why not do something that I enjoy while helping others? For me, volunteering is a “family affair” as my husband, Suleman, also volunteers with the project driving young people with care experience on trips to specific activities. We are a team, involved in helping out the community together. It is a good feeling!”
“The Connect+Go team make volunteering easy. They are friendly, helpful, and very organised, so it all works out beautifully! For anyone thinking about volunteer driving, I say, ‘Just do it!’. Get motivated and join us. This is a perfect volunteer opportunity for anyone aged 30+ years. We can all give one hour a week. Start with one hour and see where it takes you.”