Newport volunteers celebrated at GAVO awards evening
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
The hard work and dedication of volunteers from across Newport were recognised at a special ceremony at The Lysaght Institute on Thursday 13 October.
In the presence of His Majesty's Lord Lord-Lieutenant of Gwent Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE, The High Sheriff of Gwent Malgwyn Davies Esq OBE CStJ and The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Newport Councillor Martyn Kellaway; the evening featured stories of the individuals who give their time freely to improve their local communities.
Congratulations to all our winners, and thank you for your continued commitment to volunteering in Newport.
Trustee & Director – Val Stocker (winner) Val is the secretary of Caeleon Retired Person’s Welfare Club, she agreed to take on this role with the help of GAVO and following this, a smaller, stronger committee was formed.The club currently has over 60 members all over the age of 50 and living in the Caerleon area of Newport. Val’s strengths lie in her organisational skills and every year she organises a full programme of trips out and celebratory meals, as well as the weekly bingo sessions that are regularly attended by over 50 individuals. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in early 2020 the more elderly and those living alone were affected disproportionately to the rest of the community.
Sport – Phillip Harding (highly commended) Phillip is a coach who volunteers at the ‘Sport and Support’ programme which runs weekly badminton sessions; these sessions are designed to use sport as a tool to help participants who have experienced mental health difficulties to enable them to enjoy sport, feel confident and stay healthy. Phillip’s dedication has encouraged people to access their communities more often and participate in meaningful activities which are known to be beneficial for everyone’s health and well-being. He not only promotes the physical and mental health benefits of being active but his positive attitude enables people to feel included and feel less socially isolated. His input has directly led to the creation of support networks which has improved the mental health of many people who felt isolated during the pandemic.
Mark Davies who nominated Phillip commented;
“For some of these people, leaving the house is a huge deal and having Phil volunteering makes that big step a bit easier. Phil always takes part with any individual that I ask him to, he always has a smile on his face, he’s very approachable, all the participants enjoy his company!”
Sport – Dave Waters (winner) Dave joined Spartan Amateur Boxing Club as a volunteer coach when the club moved to new premises in 2017. At the time the club was struggling and Dave stepped in to help breathe some new life into it by applying for grants to purchase a portable boxing ring and equipment. The club met once a week on a Friday evening and had a mixed membership of adults and children. Unfortunately, the club closed due to the Covid pandemic but after two years of closure, Dave was eager to restart the club and after restrictions eased the club opened again. Dave encouraged a wider and diverse membership and championed the sport as an excellent way of promoting fitness and discipline. He also set up sessions for women and girls and mentored young members to become coaches, putting them forward for coaching qualifications. In order to develop the more talented club members he forged a partnership with St Joseph’s Amateur Boxing Club which had experience of training local and national champions.
Environmental – Sue Colwill (highly commended) Sue volunteers in various roles within the Tredegar Park area of Newport and has been volunteering with the Woodland Routes to Wellbeing project for the past four 4 years. She has had a variety of roles which include the management of Rabbit Hill Community Woodland and the planning of the laundry garden at Tredegar House. The Laundry garden at Tredegar House was recently awarded the Keep Wales Tidy Community Green Flag award as a result of the hard work that Sue has been the catalyst for. She co-designed the garden with other volunteers including companion planting and a more natural growing environment for the crops that the garden grows. Sue has delivered plant and bug identification sessions that has contributed to an overall flora and fauna survey of the site and she has also created information boards to educate the community as they visit. Sue also volunteers with the local hedgehog hospital and is always looking to educate local people on how to support biodiversity within the local community. Sue is part of the steering group for the Road to Nature project; which aims to claim back the ‘road to nowhere’ for nature and support the biodiversity within the area.
Environmental – Re:Make Newport (winner) Re:Make Newport's group of volunteers lead repair sessions throughout the week offering free repairs on household items to the public. Their dedication and ethos has had a positive impact on the community and their work help the local environment by diverting these items from landfill when there is plenty of life left in them and supporting the circular economy. The volunteers also support Re:Make's library of things, which is aimed at helping people to borrow items rather than buying them, further impacting on the number of items bought and ultimately sent to landfill. The volunteers support the community by offering this service and their skills for free and the public are invited to watch these repairs and learn valuable skills as well. The Re:Make space serves as a community hub and people are welcome to sit and have a cup of tea and chat to the volunteers whilst their item is fixed.
Hayley Roberts who nominated the volunteers at Re:Make Newport said;
“I’m proud of our volunteers and their skills enable Re:Make to be a supportive and educational resource for positive environmental change right in the middle of the city”.
Welsh Culture & Heritage – Christabel Hutchings (winner) With a passion for local history, Christabel has been the driving force behind Friends of Newport Museum and Art Gallery, an active member of South Wales Record Society, a member of the Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge group and secretary of Monmouthshire Antiquarian Association. Christabel has gone above and beyond to maintain the connection with members of these societies and is committed to keeping Newport connected with its history. Members of the groups she’s involved are generally aged between 50 and 80 years old; the pandemic meant that there were vulnerable people who were unable to meet and were at risk of becoming socially isolated.
Health & Wellbeing – HOPE volunteers, Age Cymru (highly commended) The Age Cymru HOPE project or ‘Helping Others Participate and Engage’ commenced at the start of the COVID19 pandemic and the main purpose of the project was to enable older people who are 50+ and their carers to engage and participate, access information, and have their voices and wishes heard. Older people are supported by the HOPE volunteers to make choices and to understand their rights, whilst being empowered in the process. The volunteering role was initially set up to support people in their homes and in the community but due to the pandemic they have adapted their roles to help and support people online and over the telephone. The volunteers helped people to address their issues and empowered them to resolve similar issues for themselves for the future. They helped with low level advocacy support to help people understand and access information to make informed decisions and they also provided practical support to prepare for appointments and meetings.
Health & wellbeing – Susan Chappell (highly commended) Sue is an assistant leader in the Rainbow unit for girls aged 4-7 years of age, she has been involved with Girl guiding for nearly 40 years and her knowledge and experience is hugely valuable to the group. She encourages and supports the girls in the group to try new activities and because the children are very young, this support is vital. With Sue’s input, the group leaders have seen the confidence and resilience of the girls improve during their time in Rainbows. Sue’s commitment to Girl guiding has created a nurturing environment where the children’s personalities have developed and grown. As an assistant, Sue’s role is varied and she picks anything up to help the unit run smoothly. She coordinates activities which the girls enjoy and she is a welcoming point of contact if any of the children need to talk to Sue about anything, she also helps behind the scenes with admin tasks and liaises with parents when required.
Sue’s nomination came from Sally Sullivan who is the leader of the Rainbows unit, Sally said;
“The girls are able to have fun and know she is there if they need her. Sue will always lend an ear to listen, and is an essential part of the leading team and we would be lost without her”.
Health & Wellbeing – Ffrind I Mi volunteers (winner) The aim of this group of volunteers is to support people who are lonely; providing companionship, being a friendly face, having meaningful conversations and engaging activities. This group of volunteers have provided that through hospital befriending at St Woolos Hospital, where they have visited patients on hospital wards and engaged in telephone befriending. During the pandemic many vulnerable people were unable to leave their homes and had very little social interaction, the volunteers engaged with these people through telephone befriending. They also brought capacity at the Mass Vaccination Centre in Newport where they adapted their roles to greet patients attending their appointments to make them feel comfortable and welcome. For many, this role started around December 2020 and they stepped forward despite the dark days and the festive period.
Kathryn Thomas, who is the project manager within the Person-centred Care and Partnerships team spoke glowingly of the volunteers;
“The actions of our volunteers have been needed more than ever during a time when hospital visiting was restricted. Patients have experienced long, lonely days in their beds or ward areas so a friendly call from a volunteer can make a huge difference”.
Parent & Child – Yvonne Odukwe (highly commended) Yvonne is the founder of Autism’s Hidden Voices and her daughter is autistic. Yvonne has worked tirelessly in raising the public’s awareness and their understanding of autism and other neurodiverse conditions. Autism is considered a ‘hidden disability’ and Yvonne’s voluntary work involves sharing information and resources, and chairing discussions on the challenges that the Autistic community face on a daily basis. Yvonne provides training and workshops which are based on innovative and emerging theories aimed at enabling others to understand the unique differences and skills that autistic people have. Her voluntary work is aimed at parents and professionals alike, and provides families and those caring for or supporting autistic children with approaches and interventions to better support children. Yvonne was recently featured in a documentary on the BBC talking about the discrimination faced by autistic people from ethnic backgrounds and the inequalities that they face in their communities on a daily basis. She facilitates meetings with other parents of autistic loved ones from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, due to the stigma faced by some people of certain communities.
Parent & Child – Lucy Peploe (winner) Lucy runs a toddler play and stay group as a volunteer and understands the positive impact that the group has on the wellbeing of the children attending and on the parents too. She has played an integral part in running the group for over 9 years and has invested much of her time, energy and motivation into keeping the group running even when she has been the only volunteer. Lucy’s dedication to volunteering has meant that the group has never folded and her love of seeing happy children and families has kept her going. Despite her own children growing up and leaving the group, Lucy continues to organise and run the sessions. She also organises parties and uses her experience and skills to support others who are either new or are interested in taking on the role to ensure that the group continues and grows.
Helen Burrows who nominate Lucy said;
“She goes that extra mile to organise parties and special events that makes it special for the children and parents She’s an inspiration!”.
Food sustainability – Maindee Food Pantry (winner)
In 2021 a group of people with a shared passion for tackling food waste got together to explored ideas about launching a community fridge. With the support of Maindee Unlimited and advice from GAVO they secured a grant for a fridge, food hygiene training for their volunteers, registered with the local authority, and an environmental charity to draw up an induction schedule for volunteers. Maindee Food Pantry was launched from its base in Maindee Library in 2022 and recruited enough volunteers to open several days a week. Agreements were made with several local supermarkets for volunteers to collect surplus food that the shops were no longer able to sell but were still perfectly edible. These items are offered to the public free of charge, the only condition being that people only take what they can use.
Youth – Shaftesbury Youf Gang (highly commended) Shaftsbury Youf Gang are a local youth club in Newport who have been operating for over seven years and they provide a safe and secure environment for local young people from all over Newport. They help their members to enhance their skills and inspire them to care for others and take pride in their local community. Shaftesbury Youf Gang aim to steer young people away from issues such as anti-social behaviour, drugs and crime. They engage in a variety of events which include sports and games to promote a health and active lifestyle. The group are interested in the environment and successfully took part in the Queens Green Canopy tree planting scheme with the Lord Lieutenant of Gwent and have taken part in charity fund raising by collecting money and goods for the local Ukraine war appeal.
Richard Davies speaks passionately of the group and its dedicated volunteers;
“The kids, their parents and of course our wonderful club volunteers carry out a variety of activities, mainly in the school holidays and on weekends. They give up their time and effort to make Shaftesbury and Newport a better place”.
Youth – Newport Youth Academy (winner) Newport Youth Academy are all young people aged between 16-19 from communities across the city who volunteer as sport coaches on a weekly basis in partnership with Newport Live. Newport Youth Academy are a work-based learning programme who deliver sessions across schools and communities in Newport during term time and school holidays. Through volunteering the learners have gained confidence and developed their experiences of working with children, young people and adults. Some of the volunteers have progressed to lead sessions with the support of Newport Live coaches and as a group have provided over 150 hours of volunteering. The learners help inspire young people to get active and act as positive role models to the young people they coach.
International – Gosia Slawinska (winner) Gosia set up the group 'Polonia dla Ukrainy', translated as the ‘Polish community for Ukraine’ setting up drop off points for donations across Newport with the help of Kamila Jarczak. Collection points included the Westgate Hotel, Friars Walk, Rodney Parade, the docks and storage in Malpas. Gosia's commitment and amazing work has created one of the biggest drop off points for donations in Wales, sending almost 40 vans and a few lorries to Poland and Ukraine from Newport.
A large part of Gosia’s voluntary work also involves helping Ukrainians coming to Wales by setting up bank accounts, assisting people at doctors appointments, taking them shopping and being generally warm and compassionate. She volunteers her time generously often starting at 9 am and finishing at 11pm sorting out donations and packing them for transport whilst being the main points of contact for people in need and the volunteers who help.
High Sheriff Award – Farzana Islam Farzana is a 20 year old lady who has gone above and beyond to help the parents and toddlers group she volunteers at, and dedicates her time on Mondays whole-heartedly. Farzana applies herself to her role 100% of the time whilst balancing her studies in college. Due to college commitments she is not obligated to volunteer but Farzana always arrives thirty minutes early to set up, come rain or sunshine. She is responsible for assisting the play leader and staff to set up activities, help during snack time, putting things away, helping parents with activities for their children, doing arts and crafts with the toddlers and assisting in outdoor activities and trips.
These things are not always easy for Farzana because of the additional challenges associated with her diagnosis of autism; a diagnosis which is considered a hidden disability affecting many people’s social communication. This doesn’t hamper her motivation and she is incredibly passionate in helping the team around her who describe Farzana as a very reliable and honest person.
Inspirational – Keith Anderson (highly commended) Keith is a local man and a former rugby player who is passionate about giving something back to his community and can see the many social benefits that sport has to offer the young people in his community. Keith is a man of integrity and has promoted anti-bullying campaigns in the local hub near to his home. Keith promotes inclusivity to all, and regularly has 15-25 young people attending his Saturday morning rugby sessions. Not only is he passionate about rugby but he also supports our breakfast club and event days and is also a keen speaker at the local history group; educating people young and old about local and world history, children and families love being around Keith and benefiting from the good work that he does.
Wayne Hodgson, nominating Keith said;
“Since we started our junior rugby, Keith has been at every session as a volunteer with great passion and massive ideas, encouraging the children and supporting their needs. He really is 1 in a million!”.
Inspirational – Leighton Lovell (winner) Leighton is a peer mentor at the Gwent Drug and Alcohol Service in Newport and brings his lived experience of substance use to help others in their struggle with addiction. His dedication to volunteering enables others to build self-esteem and make positive changes in their lives. The role involves working with some of the hardest to reach and most vulnerable members of our society, including those who are homeless, have mental health issues, sex workers and those who engage in street drinking. Through the pandemic, Leighton’s role also involved getting out to these groups and helped them to get vaccinated.