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After 30 years of faithfully volunteering with the Edinburgh Care Van, one of our longest-serving volunteers, Peter Hagenbuch, is passing on the torch.

Last month our Volunteers Coordinator, Gladness, invited Peter to mark the occasion at Bethany’s Edinburgh office where we interviewed him about his time.

Originally from Canterbury, Peter began to serve his local community whilst studying at Cambridge, volunteering for the very first time with a night shelter. It was there that he discovered that many that he volunteered with had a living faith – a certainty – and his dispirited nature began to soften. After moving to Scotland in 1986, it was 7 years before Peter felt a ‘certainty’ after hearing an Easter sermon and giving his life to Christ.

His decision to volunteer with Bethany Christian Trust and Edinburgh City Mission’s Care Van was almost instant after a guest speaker at his church shared about the brand-new work across Edinburgh. He joined the Composite Team (volunteers willing to help on the van more frequently than their churches could commit to) right away, and soon began coordinating.

During his time with us, Peter has seen 4 versions of the Care Van. The earliest, named the “Care Caravan”, brought hope to so many and was operated from 1990. The latest and current Care Van was introduced in 2019 with “custom designed with state of the art professional internal features” and ample storage for the busiest of Care Van lunchtimes / evening runs. It arrived seemingly right on time to cater to an incredibly challenging 2020.

One of the major challenges introduced with the pandemic was our volunteers’ availability. As many as 90% of usual volunteers were no longer able to help, requiring Peter – amongst others – to ‘come alive’, going from behind-the-scenes van coordination to being out with the van around 30 times in the first year.

This enabled Peter and his teams to deepen their relationships to regular service users, getting to know friendly faces and even continuing to develop the Care Van’s purpose as a tool to link people to other services across Bethany and the wider city.

“The width of Bethany Christian Trust is vast. It’s all encompassing. Interconnected”

Prior to its renaming as the Rapid Re-accommodation Welcome Centre, Peter regularly drove 6am shifts for the Night Shelter – taking guests back to the city centre over 2 miles away – and heard so many incredible testimonies first-hand from people in the passenger seat, that he began to really enjoy serving that way, despite ‘not being a morning person’.

Away from his time on the Care Van team, and as far back as 1983, Peter has been frequently embarking on incredible 50-mile walks to raise money for charity. As time went on, they reduced to a more manageable 40 miles. He’d be met by good friends or Bethany staff along the route to offer cheering and support.

In 2022, the volunteers of the Care Van team were awarded a most-prestigious, highly regarded award: The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the last before the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Peter accepted the award alongside various members of staff from Bethany Christian Trust and Edinburgh City Mission, and subsequently was invited by the Lord Provost to attend the opening night of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Even with the above, there are countless tales and stories that could be told of Peter.

At almost 70 years of age, Peter Hagenbuch has given so much to the people of Edinburgh. We are beyond blessed to have had such a dedicated and caring volunteer and wish to thank him for an incredible 30 years of service.

God bless you, Peter!

Peter, Volunteer of the Month for May 2024.