Out in all weathers
Friday 12 February 2016

A Bristol bus stop on a dark eveningIt’s still dark at this time of year when we meet our early morning trainees. Not the most appealing time of the year to be waiting for buses either, especially when it's cold, windy and wet!

Our Travel Buddy Bella, has already had a half-hour bus journey and a ten-minute walk to get to her trainee’s house this morning, when I meet her in the dark and drizzle. Her trainee, a young man named Rhys, is ready and raring to go when he answers the door. A quick check that he has everything; bus pass, travel wallet, phone, keys, lunch etc. and we’re ready to go. He waves goodbye to Mum as we head down the hill for a brisk walk to the bus stop.

Another wait for the bus, which is usually late due to traffic and nightmare road systems at the hospital site it travels through. It arrives and we board, taking our seats in the warmth. Bella has been supporting Rhys for a few months now, and together they have decided that it’s finally time for Rhys to try doing his journey to college by himself.

He had not travelled alone before so we started by teaching him the basics of road safety and awareness; how to use different crossings, what to do in an emergency, and how to keep himself and his belongings safe. He picked it all up quite quickly and was soon just having 'shadow' support from Bella once he knew his way.

We finally arrive at our destination. Rhys demonstrates his skills and confidence by crossing the busy main road to get to college safely and competently. We leave him to head in by himself. Bella will meet him later for one last journey home and I will also shadow them to complete our final assessment. Then he will be on his own, travelling independently. How good is that!

I say goodbye to Bella, and hop onto another bus. I'm off to meet a new trainee and their mum to discuss how we can support them on their journey to college. They will have to catch two buses and are not used to travelling on their own, so we will again be starting from the very beginning. Once I meet them, I'll have an idea of who in our team is best placed to be their Travel Buddy and help support them to independent travel.

After that meeting, I'm back on yet another bus and heading to the office to do a spot of paperwork. Then back on the bus again to meet Bella and Rhys. Once Rhys has taken us safely back to his house, we sign him off as being fully competent. We say our goodbyes and the day is over. It’s dark again and it has begun to rain properly now after threatening to do so all day.

Tomorrow will be a similar day, maybe not with so many buses for me, but there is always a Travel Buddy out there somewhere, in the rain and the dark, helping another person to develop a set of skills that we sometimes take for granted; the ability to simply get around safely and independently!

Jo Davidson
Travel Buddy Project Leader