All Aboard – SOS Saturday

29 Jun

If you live in Belfast, you may recognise the big yellow buses that sit outside The Odyssey Pavilion and at Shaftesbury Square at the weekend. Like me, you may have even stopped by for a warming cuppa on your way home from a night out.

But it’s more than just tea and sympathy that’s doled out at these distinctive behemoth buses.

Over the last four years, the SOS Bus has interacted with over 120,000 people on the streets of Belfast, with the help of a dedicated network of over 150 volunteers. Some eight lives have been saved by their work, with hundreds of other young, vulnerable people reunited with grateful parents and countless others helped home safely.

Through its work, the SOS Bus helps to reduce pressure at peak times in our busy hospital A&E departments, with an on-board medical centre that provides in-depth medical and caring support. Since 2007, the SOS bus has been used to support distressed or vulnerable people who have overindulged in alcohol or drugs; have been victims of violence; are homeless; separated from their friends, or in emotional distress. And, arguably, with recent debate about 2am closing leading to an increased number of people on Belfast’s streets post pub closing time, the services of the SOS Bus are more important than ever.

Having recently been introduced, through work, to SOS Bus founder, Joe Hyland, I’ve agreed to take on my next challenge as ‘The Good Samaritan’ and tomorrow night, will spend a night as a volunteer on the SOS Bus.

My mother once told me that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind and think, ‘I don’t have time for that’ (hand’s up – a problem with this blog and my ambitious challenge to attempt 29 different lives in 12 months). But perhaps, if we all took a few hours out to help others every now and again, we’d be better people for it.

I’ve no qualms about sacrificing one Saturday night to lend a helping hand to such a worthwhile project. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to it.

I just hope I can get the lyrics to ABBA’s ‘S.O.S’ out of my head before I board the bus outside The Odyssey Pavilion tomorrow night – it’s all I’ve been able to think about for the last few days.

And before you start, yes, my surname is Doyle and I will be dishing out cups of tea [it never gets old]…

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