Skip to main content

Wales’s hardest working volunteers recognised at ceremony of the year

A stroke survivor helping others regain their abilities to talk, a 22-year-old Welsh Ambulance Service volunteer who has attended more than 120 ‘999’ emergency incidents and a support group for cardiac arrest survivors were recognised at Wales’s leading annual awards presentation for volunteers.

They are among 18 individuals and groups whose work in dedicating thousands of hours of their time to helping others was rewarded at the 2017 Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards on Thursday 29 June.

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) event took place at Cornerstone in Cardiff and was hosted by WCVA Vice-President, Tom Jones OBE, and winners and runners-up in the six nomination categories of adults, young people (under 25 years) groups, ‘green’ volunteers, trustees and digital volunteering were presented with their awards.

This year, a new category rewarding volunteers for their work helping others get online has been introduced, and is supported by Digital Communities Wales.

Matthew Lloyd, Project Manager, Digital Communities Wales said: ‘We are delighted to be supporting the new Digital Volunteering category at this year’s awards. There are hundreds of digital volunteers across Wales helping people to take their first steps online or providing support to help others get real personal benefit from technology. Without these people giving up their time, many would be unable to do the things that add to our quality of life, like talking to a loved one more often through Skype, saving money, applying for jobs, finding out important information or booking a medical appointment.

‘Our inaugural winners have been chosen from a strong field for the impact made within their communities. The judges could not split the City of Cardiff Hub Volunteers and Sharon Palmer from KPC Youth and Community so we have joint winners, both hugely deserving of their award and congratulations go to them. Credit also to NPT Homes Digital Helper Project, runner-up in this category.’

WCVA Chief Executive Ruth Marks said: ‘This year’s cohort of finalists both impressed and inspired the judging panel. We have winners from all over Wales doing remarkable work, helping others and making a huge impact on their communities.

‘WCVA has recently published its five-year plan and one of the goals is for the third sector and volunteering to be stronger and more resilient. One of the biggest assets of many organisations and communities is the involvement of volunteers.

‘Wales has nearly a million volunteers who give their time and energy to make our country a richer and better place for us all to live. Many people rely on volunteers and many activities only take place because of the expertise, dedication and commitment of people who choose to volunteer. Recognising the work of volunteers – and saying thank you – are important steps in creating strong and vibrant Welsh communities.’

Digital volunteers:

WINNERS – City of Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers and Sharon Palmer

Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers

A team of over 60 volunteers including people who have recently moved to Cardiff from foreign countries are helping other new arrivals to the city – such as refugees – to settle in and find work.

Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers also help the local authority’s services run more smoothly by devoting more time to customers on a one-to-one basis than paid staff are able to due to the sheer volume of visitors.

The 12 community hubs across the city bring together the services of the council and other agencies under one roof. The volunteers support staff in Job Clubs and Digital Inclusion sessions helping clients search for jobs and use social media; they also work with the money advice team and support clients to complete welfare benefit forms; there are reception volunteers, greeting and assisting customers with enquiries; and they support children at homework clubs.

‘Cardiff is a diverse and multi-cultural city,’ said Cllr Lynda Thorne cabinet member of Housing and Communities, of Cardiff Council. ‘The volunteers mirror this diversity and speak a total of 18 community languages, so are able to support customers in their mother tongue. This instantly puts some of the most vulnerable people in the community at ease – especially those that have recently fled their native countries and are now refugees in the city.

‘This group stands out because many come from a variety of backgrounds around the world. So not only are they in a foreign country but they are also learning about a different culture and language. These initial barriers to integration, together with their desire to find employment, are what lead them to volunteering.’

The Cardiff Council Hub Volunteering team has been in operation since April 2014 and has seen 268 volunteers recruited and a total of nearly 5,000 volunteering hours given to the services. As well as building confidence and skills 124 volunteers are now in paid employment, which shows how volunteering really is a route into work.

Sharon Palmer (Swansea)

Sharon Palmer is playing a vital role in a disadvantaged community, helping people overcome barriers to employment and engagement improve their literacy skills and overcome a fear of technology.

A former social and life skills lecturer and trained librarian, Sharon has always enjoyed helping people to improve their chances in life and joined KPC to help unemployed people develop employability skills, access IT, create or update their CV, gain confidence in job searches and learn how to apply for jobs.

‘The role which Sharon helps with is vital within our socially disadvantaged community, which has large pockets of Community First areas within it,’ said Alison Mawby KPC Youth and Community Manager of the project which Sharon volunteers at. ‘Statistics show that we have a higher than average level of low skills within our adult population, and also high levels of unemployment.’

The volunteer role has been of great benefit in helping Sharon develop and update her own skills, experience and knowledge. She has also attended various courses, including Digital Champion Training, and achieved a City & Guilds Level 3 Award in Education and Teaching.

‘I feel Sharon has proved herself to be a fantastic and much valued volunteer, and a very important part of our team. She is flexible, supportive, and even though unpaid shows a great commitment to what our charity and project offer, and the clients who access our provision.

‘We feel Sharon is an inspiration to other potential volunteers – who as well as gaining experience and skills is also making a big difference to other unemployed adults, and helping them have better chances in life.’

RUNNER-UP – NPT Homes Digital Helpers (Neath)

Older people across Neath Port Talbot are changing their lives for the better through new technology, thanks to the work of a group of digital volunteers.

Sheltered housing residents have learned how to trace their ancestry and keep in touch with family living abroad, making new friends and overcoming isolation and loneliness as a result.

NPT Homes’s Digital Helpers Project delivers sessions across 13 Haven Housing sheltered schemes. Comprising volunteers aged from 17-80, the group offers support to tenants in groups and on a one-to-one basis.

‘Some older people are at first not interested, too afraid or feel too old to learn,’ said Group Coordinator Janet Weaver. ‘Almost 100 are now digitally aware.’

One 87-year-old resident has purchased an iPad, learned how to Skype and is in regular contact with her sons who work in Egypt and Cardiff

‘Residents feel more engaged, included and more positive, as there are more choices and opportunities to take part in modern digital activities such as exploring holiday destinations, crafts and other hobbies,’ Janet added.

‘The volunteers show true compassion and understanding of others and make others feel very relaxed and calm while learning at their own pace in their own environment.’