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Meet the unsung heroes of Norwich SOS Bus

PUBLISHED: 13:31 08 April 2011 | UPDATED: 17:12 08 April 2011

Sarah Mintey, front, principal of the Open Youth Trust which project manages the SOS bus with Jenny Smith (2nd left of the front row of the group), administrator, with the SOS bus and volunteers.

Picture: Denise Bradley

Sarah Mintey, front, principal of the Open Youth Trust which project manages the SOS bus with Jenny Smith (2nd left of the front row of the group), administrator, with the SOS bus and volunteers. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant © 2011

The pioneering SOS Bus project might need a vehicle to operate from but it is the people who staff it so loyally and passionately each and every week who are the real heroes.

The bus and its volunteers were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2005 in recognition of their sterling efforts.

Today we speak to some of those volunteers that have worked on the project and continue to do so week in and week out to ensure that others can be safe on our streets.

➜ Sarah Mintey, principal of the Open Youth Trust, joined the organisation in February last year alth ough has been aware of the bus and its pioneering work from the start.

As part of her new role she joined volunteers for two shifts on the bus to get a better understanding of how the project worked and was so impressed with what she saw that she became a volunteer herself.

She said: “I knew its value before but it’s only when you’re part of that team and see what they’re doing week in, week out that you appreciate the selflessness of the volunteers who lend themselves to the project in the way that they do.

“I think the average time people volunteer for is two years but to have them 10 years on and to still have the passion for it and commitment to see it move forward that’s been so impressive – they are all stars.”

➜ Paul Debnam, 30, is an IT consultant from Costessey by day, but for the past two years has been spending a number of weekends volunteering for the SOS Bus project as a mini-bus driver.

He said: “I saw an advert in the paper. I popped in to get an application form and saw first-hand what was going on and thought I could help out. It’s brilliant. You really see a different side of life and get to really help out in the community – that’s why I joined up.

“The bus has really made a difference and I think clubs and businesses in the area really appreciate having it and I know the police do as well. It’s perfect for the police – they can’t be taken up with people who are intoxicated, they’ve got more important things, so we’re ideal for them.”

In his two years as a volunteer Mr Debnam said he has encountered a range of problems from drunk people to drug overdoses, assaults and domestic violence. He added: “It all comes to a head when alcohol is involved – emotions run high.”

➜ Darren Kilpatrick, 36, from Norwich, is a truck and coach engineer who has been with the project for six years, helping to keep the vehicles on the road.

Mr Kilpatrick said he was drawn to the SOS Bus after seeing a piece in the paper about needing more drivers for the old bendy-bus.

He said: “I’ve got an HGV licence and thought I could help them out so I applied and that was that – and I’m still here.”

In addition to helping to maintain the vehicles Mr Kilpatrick also does driver training for the project as well.

He said: “I get quite a lot of pleasure from doing it. You don’t have to get paid to enjoy your job – it’s nice to help people out as well.”

➜ Julie Reeve, 36, who works for Norfolk County Council, is also a volunteer for St John Ambulance and has been involved with the SOS Bus project for eight months.

Miss Reeve was one of the first on the scene on New Year’s Eve when John Stanford, 20, fell down a flight of stairs at Essence nightclub on Prince of Wales Road. She said: “The doorman had come down and asked for help. We could tell it was serious so I went on foot into the club and could see John laying on the floor. I supported his head and my colleague and I did observations and stayed with him until the emergency services arrived.”

John, from Eaton, was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where he underwent an operation to remove part of his skull to reduce the pressure caused by swelling. He spent more than a week in a coma because his injuries were so severe but surprised everyone by being well enough to leave hospital within three weeks.

The marketing worker for Gasway on Sweetbriar Industrial Estate will have to have a plate put in his head later this year, but is making a remarkable recovery at home.

Miss Reeve said: “It’s fantastic when anyone makes a recovery, but particularly John because his injuries were so severe. I enjoy helping people and trying to make a difference. It’s really rewarding.”

➜ Lynsey Eagle, 28, from Mulbarton, who works for Norfolk Safeguard and Children Board, has been involved in the SOS Bus project for two years as a shift leader and shift support worker after being encouraged to join by her mother Sue who is also a volunteer.

She said: “She thought I would enjoy it. I wanted to do something which was rewarding. I do find it rewarding and do enjoy it and I think you’ve got to because we do it for free. I’m giving up my Saturday night and I’m not getting any money for it so I’ve got to find it enjoyable and rewarding. We always say we want to be busy – when you’re volunteering you don’t want to be standing here – but that means you want people who are in need of help and you don’t wish that on anyone.”

See tomorrow’s Evening News to find out how reporter Peter Walsh got on as he joined the volunteers on a shift on the bus in the final part of the series.

To find out more about the SOS Bus project or how you can donate or volunteer call 01603 763111 or log onto www.sosbus.co.uk.

To contact the SOS Bus’s emergency number call 07833 505505.

Have you been helped by the SOS Bus? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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