How can I donate to the SOS Bus?
See the 'Ways to Donate' page on our website, text YMCA07 £5 or £10 to 70070 or visit www.justgiving.com/southendymca.
What is the SOS Bus?
The SOS Bus is the first point of contact for people who have become vulnerable, or are simply just in need of some friendly help and advice, directions, flip flops, condoms or a cup of water for anyone dehydrated.
The SOS Buses are out in Southend Town Centre and Basildon Festival Leisure Park, in the middle of the clubs and pubs, on a Friday and Saturday night between 9pm and 3am. The Project has two double decker buses that have been fitted out to operate as a safe haven at weekends. The purpose of these safe havens is to provide support for the lost, distressed, injured and vulnerable. They are fully stocked with medical supplies to administer First Aid, which is carried out by experienced fully trained volunteers. There are other facilities on board the buses such as a counselling area, leaflets containing information about services available to the vulnerable, contact telephone numbers for organisations and sexual health advice given by our qualified Sexual Health Counsellor. It is a long established service that has helped many people in both towns and has saved the emergency services somewhere in the region of £700,000 by carrying out this vital work.
What will volunteers need to do?
We need volunteers who are able to listen, who want to help others and who can just be there for the people who come to the bus looking for assistance. Having a non-judgemental attitude is necessary as the SOS Bus Project deals with individuals from all walks of life; the homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts and those with mental health issues, together with the young revellers that frequent the pubs and clubs in Southend and Basildon.
We do not ask volunteers to come with any particular experience but the ability to work in a team and 'muck in' as required is a good skill. Being able to remain calm is essential to cope with the clients who come onto the bus as they may occasionally be difficult. We require volunteers to be at least 16 years of age. Drivers for the support vehicles used within the project must be at least 25 years of age and have D1 on their driving licence. There is also an opportunity to train in first aid for those who wish to and for those already trained to apply their skills when needed.
What kind of commitment do volunteers need to give?
We need volunteers to cover Friday and Saturday nights and Bank Holidays between 8.30pm and 3.00am. We run a rota system so you can tell us how much time you can commit. We only ask that you do a minimum of one night a month to make sure that you keep up to date with any changes on the SOS Bus. You will need to fill out an application form and supply us with two references and complete a DBS form which is required to meet volunteering guidelines.
What support do the volunteers get?
We encourage all volunteers to train in First Aid, Mental Health and Drugs and Alcohol training and this is provided free of charge. We also work alongside the Street Pastors in Southend, Police, security guards, the Ambulance Service and CCTV in Southend and Basildon. An SOS Bus shift comprises a shift leader, support car driver and on average there are 7 team members on a shift on both the Southend and Basildon buses. A radio/phone link is available if police help should be required. The police are always on hand in the town centre throughout the night dealing with Public Order issues. In Southend, the Street Pastors are on hand at the weekend, they are also linked to the Bus by radio.
What do volunteers get out of it?
If you like helping people then you will get great satisfaction out of volunteering on the SOS Bus. You will become part of a team of like-minded people, grow in confidence and the experiences you gain will broaden your outlook on life.
Training sessions are available regularly on subjects such as listening to clients, drug awareness, manual handling, defibrillator operation and self-defence. We encourage every volunteer to become a qualified First Aider and 3 day first aid courses are offered by the SOS Bus Project. This training is an accredited award which you can take into your school, college or work place.
Volunteering on the SOS Bus is not always easy, from documented evidence it is obvious to the SOS Bus Team that future employers recognise that commitment when it is put on your CV or Personal Statement for University applications.
So, What Next?
If you are inspired to become a volunteer having learnt something about our Project then, visit our Volunteering Page and see what steps you need to take.