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South Wales’s most admired volunteers honoured at national awards

Date published: 19/06/2018

Wales Volunteer of the Year 2018 award winners

Volunteers from across South East Wales, including a group of students helping make Cardiff feel safer at night and Red Cross team leader who ‘dropped everything’ to rush to the Grenfell Tower fire scene, received prestigious awards for their work on Wednesday 13 June at the Wales Volunteer Awards 2018.

Two groups and nine individuals who devote themselves to projects in their local communities received national recognition during the presentation of the awards run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) at The Cornerstone in Cardiff, hosted by WCVA Vice President Tom Jones Chief Executive Ruth Marks.

A total of 21 winners in the six nomination categories of adults, young people (under 25 years), groups, green volunteers, digital volunteers and trustees are being presented with awards to mark their fantastic contributions.

‘Wales is famous for being a welcoming nation, and we’re increasingly acknowledged for our willingness to help others for no personal gain,’ said Ruth Marks.

‘WCVA is very proud of our seemingly endless supply of amazing volunteers and our awards programme is a fitting opportunity for us to show our gratitude in front of a national audience.’

Congratulations to local winner Alex Williams from Maesteg! Alex Williams receiving award

Alex Williams
Winner of Young Volunteer (under 25 years) 

Alex's volunteering with a cancer charity has had an ‘astounding’ impact on its work, raising more than £4,000 for vital equipment and attracting new recruits as the face of a national campaign.

The 23-year-old from Maesteg has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, carried out a skydive and donated ‘countless hours’ to Tenovus Cancer Care – all while working full-time and caring for both of his parents.

He reached the top of Kilimanjaro, despite ‘horrendous’ weather conditions. Some of the money he raised was used to fund telephony nurses, who are available to give help and advice around the clock. It has also funded benefits support workers.

"The money goes towards literally bringing treatment to patients’ communities," said Alex’s friend Gemma Richards. ‘It’s no secret that some cancer patients have to travel miles for treatment, but Tenovus brings it to them in the form of their high-tech mobile unit, which is kitted out with state-of-the-art technology, allowing nurses to administer chemotherapy."

Alex is qualified to advise people how to stop smoking and puts on sun awareness courses to show the dangers of not using sunscreen. A poster with his face on was displayed in every Tenovus shop in England and Wales to encourage more people to volunteer.

"His impact on Tenovus has been astounding,’ Gemma added. ‘He’s a carer to his mother and father, and to do all the errands for them - while working full-time and committing himself to helping cancer patients and their loved ones - truly shows him as an exceptional example to people."

Congratulations to our local 'Highly Commended' certificate holders! 

Y Bont Crafters' Club - Highly Commended 'Group' category
Ryan Jones - Highly Commended 'Young Volunteer (under 25)' category


Other award winners of Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2018 were: 

Adult category (25 years and over):

Laura Kilvington: 
Laura Kilvington is supporting hundreds of people to cope with mental health problems while also reducing the stigma attached to the condition. The 27-year-old volunteers as Community Writer with Taff Housing Association, meeting members of its community groups to find out what issues they face. She then researches the issues and writes case studies for articles published across a range of Taff Housing media streams and on her blog, ‘Picture the Positive’.

"Laura’s main focus is on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly Bipolar, and the impact it has on relationships, friendships and employment," said Housing Association Community Investment Officer Clare Dickinson.

Laura from Fairwater, Cardiff, talks openly about mental health in relation to motherhood, body image and the importance of self-care. Her articles not only help reduce stigma but also show others that they are not alone. "The mental health awareness project Laura is involved with will have a lasting impact on the community," Clare added. "One in four of us will experience mental ill health at some point in our lives. It is therefore important that employers take steps to promote positive mental health and support not only tenants and local residents experiencing poor mental ill health but staff too.

"Laura recently did a talk as part of mental health awareness week. The talk was attended by a mix of staff, fellow volunteers and community members. Laura is an inspirational young person who is a role model to others - her dedication deserves recognition."

Lorraine Smith:
Lorraine Smith was one of the first British Red Cross volunteers from Wales to travel to help out at the Grenfell Tower fire, ‘dropping everything’ to be on the first train to London. The team leader with the Red Cross's Emergency Response service in South East Wales worked in the Grenfell Tower community assistance centre, helping people displaced by the fire to access services and support.

She later returned to help with the relief effort again, this time working in an NHS outreach team, going around the estates surrounding the tower, knocking on doors to offer support to residents. Most of the people she spoke to told her it was the first offer of support they had had.

"Lorraine is trained in how to speak to people who have recently been though trauma,’ said Red Cross Service Manager Vern Cornish. "This helps her give emotional support, which can range from offering a cup of tea and a friendly ear to helping guide people to decisions about what to do next and how to start putting their lives back together."

As well as her emergency response role, Lorraine, 63, of Penarth is an Emergency Response trainer delivering Continuing Professional Development sessions across Wales, and a tutor on the British Red Cross foundation programme, the entry level for all new volunteers and staff across the UK.

"During the response to Grenfell Tower it became clear that more volunteers were needed on the ground urgently,’ Vern Cornish added. ‘Lorraine was called at around 8pm on Saturday night and dropped everything to be on the first train to London the next morning. Lorraine’s passion for supporting people was absolutely clear in the Grenfell response. She made sure people got the help and support they needed and that they felt cared for and listened to when they came to the centre. Her dedication really made a difference to a lot of people who were going through the hardest of times."

Luke Morgan:
Luke Morgan has helped bring "great joy and happiness" to the lives of thousands of unwell children, most of them hospitalised. Through his ‘Make a Smile’ volunteering project, set up in 2017, Luke’s Cardiff University student colleagues dress up as well-known characters and visit children to interact and play games with them.

"His idea was driven by his belief that every child deserves a happy childhood and that, sadly, some children who are hospitalised or face other hardships miss out on this," said John Steele of Cardiff University Students' Union.The project has provided rewarding volunteering opportunities for almost 200 young people, developing their confidence and providing them with new skills and opportunities to give something back to their local community.

So far, the group has visited more than 3,000 children and volunteered over 1,000 hours, "lighting up children's faces and bringing a little joy to their lives to help them forget about their afflictions", John Steele added.

Luke, 21, dresses up regularly as Peter Pan - the boy who never grew up - encouraging children to use their imagination and embrace their childhood by creating games around pirates and treasure hunting. "His actions have brought great joy and happiness to the lives of hundreds of sick children in the locality, literally making them smile and forget about their illness for a moment in time," said John.

Geri Escott:
"Outstanding" teenage volunteer Geri Escott has taken responsibility for organising inter-generational activities in a rural village, bringing together young and older people. "She reaches out from her youth club to the wider community to the pensioners’ group, to the churchgoers, to parents of young children…and is an outstanding ambassador both for the club and the younger generation," said Youth Club Leader Conway Hawkins.

Every week, Geri makes an hour-round bus trip from her home in Llantwit Major to Wick Youth Club in the Vale of Glamorgan, where she helps with paperwork and supports members in arts and craft and sports activities. She also helps run the tuck shop. Recently, a fellow volunteer died in tragic circumstances and Geri applied for a grant to fund a mini local volunteering award in his memory. Called Harry's Blue Sky Awards, it will be presented each year to one young volunteer.

Geri has taken over running a Christmas Dinner for local pensioners and a Halloween party for children and pensioners. "In fact, there are no club activities over the past three years that Geri has not been at the heart of," Conway added. "Geri plays a major role in keeping the club running and has become central to all that we do. In particular she has played a major role in improving relationships between young and not so young in the village. She is inspirational."

'Green' volunteer:
individual of any age who volunteers with an environmental organisation or project)

Edgar Llewellyn:
Edgar Llewellyn volunteers six days a week every week, helping people in poverty or on low incomes to benefit from recycled furniture and other household items. The 53-year-old of Tylorstown, Rhondda, volunteers in re-use and recycling charity toogoodtowaste’s transport and warehouse sections, which collect and deliver the items donated or sold through its showrooms.

"As the main part of a team that collected over 87,000 items during 2017, Edgar is an integral team member and has become our reuse champion, seeing the benefits of reuse on all aspects - social, environmental and financial," said toogoodtowaste Manager Shaun England.

"Edgar has been unemployed for a number of years and lives in one of the most deprived wards in Rhondda Cynon Taf, so he sees poverty and the need for the essential service that toogoodtowaste can offer on his doorstep, every day," Shaun added. "Edgar is a great ambassador for toogoodtowaste and mentors new volunteers, sharing his life story to help put people at ease, or to help others who are struggling with life and come to volunteering as a way to help them focus and find purpose - or even find the skills - to gain employment.

"Edgar is the most humble person I have ever met, never taking praise for things that he has achieved, always supporting and wanting to help everyone have the chances and opportunities he has had since joining the organisation.’


Peter Mayle:
"One in a million" Peter Mayle has been pivotal to the development of a Cardiff charity working to improve the lives of hundreds of people affected by acquired brain injury. Peter, 71, of Llantwit Major joined Headway Cardiff and South East Wales as a trustee after his son sustained a serious brain injury in 1992, and has been treasurer since 1997. Headway was set up to support patients discharged from Rookwood Hospital and Peter also volunteers in its Independence and Wellbeing Centre, based at the hospital.

"Pete has first-hand experience of the difficulties encountered by survivors and their families and this is evident in the way he is able to relate to our service users and his dedication to the organisation as a whole," said Volunteer Coordinator Kathryn Jones. "He provides crucial support, advice and management and focuses especially on finance and HR" she added. "He is present at fundraising events, training days and meetings and is always ready to help and assist staff members when we need him.

"We really feel that Pete is one in a million. He gives so much and invests so heavily in our organisation, dedicating his time to gain a complete and deep understanding. By doing this, he has become so well-known and much loved by everyone here at Headway that we wouldn’t know what to do without him."

Dr Elinor Kapp:
A retired psychiatric consultant’s dedication to her role as trustee at a Cardiff hospice has helped ensure it consistently provides a world-class standard of specialist home-based palliative care. 81-year-old Dr Elinor Kapp became a trustee of George Thomas Hospice Care on its foundation in 1984, contributing her clinical knowledge as a consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry and her experience in achieving high standards of care in a clinical setting. 

She continued in the role beyond her retirement after 50 years service to the NHS, seeing the charity adopt its new identity as City Hospice in 2017. In the past year, a record total of 750 new patients with incurable illnesses were referred to the hospice. The Clinical Governance Committee chaired by Dr Kapp since 1984 is charged with overseeing the quality and standard of care provided by City Hospice’s clinical team, and ensuring it provides a world-class standard of palliative care, working collaboratively with colleagues in primary and secondary care. 

"She has offered the board sound advice on all clinical matters, and her judgement and wise counsel has proved particularly valuable on the rare occasions when the continuity of the service might have been under threat, or in arguing for investment in the clinical service on grounds of increasing demand or enhancing quality, or both" said Chief Executive Mike Walsh.

"She balances diplomacy with humour and a sound understanding of medicine, people and the complexities of providing palliative and end of life care to patients in their own homes and living with their families. Nothing is ever too much trouble and her commitment to her role in time, energy and enthusiasm has been and continues to be exemplary."

(two or more individuals, whether as an informal group or a formally constituted organisation)

Cardiff University Student Safety Walk Scheme:
Cardiff city centre has become a safer place at night due to a student ‘patrol’ group looking to help vulnerable people. The Student Safety Walk Scheme was launched in 2016 following a spate of sexual assaults near the University buildings during 2015 freshers’ week. A group of students led by Alastair Babington, a first year bio-science student, approached Cardiff Volunteering with the idea of a project involving student volunteers patrolling the area around the University on Wednesday and Saturday evenings between 10pm and 3am.

They would help students and other people who were alone and vulnerable, lost or disorientated or intoxicated and unwell. This would include providing them with water/appropriate footwear/assistance to a safe place - such as the Students’ Union or University Halls - or referring them to the Students’ Safety Bus or police if necessary.

All the volunteers receive training in Basic First Aid and Conflict Resolution. Almost 400 students and non-students have been supported since the launch of the scheme.

"This group of students - led this year by two student lead volunteers Geoff and Petar - are loyal, committed and completely community spirited,’ said Sean Hoare of Cardiff University Enterprise. ‘They turn up to volunteer twice a week, giving up their own time at very unsociable hours to help others. They are a credit to themselves, Cardiff Volunteering, the Students' Union and the University and I believe that what they have achieved, and how the project has gone from strength to strength since its small beginnings, is inspirational."

Mind Matters:
Almost 1,000 young people living in the South Wales valleys have more of a sense of belonging to their communities after taking part in a wellbeing initiative. Mind Matters is a mental health and positive wellbeing project for young people aged 14-25 living in Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent, which recruited and trained volunteers to deliver 45 peer-led workshops.

They also set up a ‘feel good’ group for people with low-level mental health issues such as anxiety or problems with peer pressure. As well as sharing self-help strategies with their peers, they took part in sports activities they would not have had the confidence to previously.

"All the young people have increased mental resilience due to greater awareness of how to look after their mental wellbeing and what support is available," said David Williams of partner organisation Torfaen Youth Service. "Over 95% of the volunteers stated that they now feel more of a sense of belonging to their community by gaining more local knowledge of support and services available to them and via the new connections developed with their peers" he added.

"The project also had an impact on the wider community, especially on the families of the young people who have gained knowledge and fed this indirect support back into the family home. Mind Matters is an excellent example of outstanding youth volunteering work through embedding the key purpose of youth work throughout its approach and delivery."

'Digital' volunteer:
(an individual who has helped tackle digital exclusion and helped others to experience the benefits of using ICT) supported by Digital Communities Wales

Mohan Patel:
Mohan Patel is opening up the world to vulnerable adults recovering from drug and alcohol misuse by helping them become more at ease with new technology. The 60-year-old from Grangetown, Cardiff, volunteers with several Recovery Cymru groups and has set up his own supporting members to use email, social media, PCs, laptops, mobile phones and tablets. "The project is helping people to grow and learn, keeping them in touch with family and friends and allowing them to access online recovery resources and shopping" said Andrew Sims of Recovery Cymru.

"Mohan is so easy to learn from, willing to share so humbly such valuable knowledge which makes such a significant difference to the lives of our members, their friends, families and loved ones," Andrew added. "People will accept his help because his attitude is “If I can master it, you can”. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities some of our members believe are the preserve of youth. He is a real enabler, helping to make vulnerable adults in recovery more tech-savvy and offering them a bigger world."

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