Over a million people in Wales help their communities and each other in all sorts of remarkable ways. And since 2004 the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards has been shining the spotlight on these incredible people.
Winners of the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2017 at
the awards ceremony at Cornerstone in Cardiff
Do you know of an inspirational individual or group that has
made a real difference to their area or to the lives of others? If
so, why not nominate them for a Wales Volunteer of the Year Award?
It's your chance to get these remarkable people the recognition
There are six categories for nominations:
- adult (25 years and over)
- young volunteer (under 25 years)
- 'green' volunteer (individual of any age who
volunteers with an environmental organisation or project)
- groups (two or more individuals, whether as an
informal group or a formally constituted organisation)
- '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 - NEW CATEGORY!
The awards are currently closed for nominations, but will return
Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2017
You can find details of the amazing and inspiring winners of the
2017 awards below organised by category. Winners were presented
with their awards at a heart warming ceremony, hosted by WCVA Vice
President Tom Jones, which took place at Cornerstone in
After single-handedly setting up
Swansea City Rowing Club more than 20 years ago to introduce young
people to the sport, Sarah Hayward has since coached juniors to
Henley Regatta standard.
Currently running extra evening
coaching sessions for between 40 and 50 novices that were inspired
by the Olympics, she is also competing herself - on top of working
full-time and having family commitments.
The club lacks basic amenities
enjoyed by others - the 'clubhouse' is a pair of containers, boat
storage scaffold racking in a public car park, and toilets in the
nearby supermarket or yacht club.
'The premise upon which she built
the club was to give young people the opportunity to discover
rowing, and this has grown to embrace people of all ages and
abilities including Adaptive Rowing,' said club member Dr Dawn
'Despite the fact there is no
changing room, no social area, no white board to go through plans
and no gym, she maintains morale, creates a true club atmosphere
and enthusiasm and the desire to compete,' she added.
'I have never met anyone like
her. Nobody deserves to be recognised more - she is amazing.
Without Sarah, there would be no City of Swansea Rowing
Stroke survivor Nick Cann has worked tirelessly to help others
affected by the condition to regain their communication
After being left unable to talk for a significant period, the
54-year-old from Chepstow leads an 'aphasia café'. Aphasia is a
complex language and communication disorder resulting from damage
to the language centres of the brain. While stroke isn't the only
cause of aphasia, it's by far the biggest.
'Nick was still working when he had his stroke and found his
whole world turned upside down,' said Stroke Association's Phoenix
Project Coordinator Lauren Heath, who is also one of the volunteer
'At that time, stroke services in Monmouthshire were limited so
Nick, along with his family set about fundraising to help set up
more things in the area to support younger stroke survivors in the
future,' she added.
This resulted in the Phoenix Project, which is aimed at helping
younger stroke survivors return to work and offering longer term
support for people across the county.
At the café, Nick helps people use iPad apps as a tool to work
on improving their speech, reading, writing, comprehension and
'Nick works tirelessly to get stroke on the map and to promote
awareness,' said Lauren Heath. 'But most of all, he offers
hope and inspiration to members of the aphasia café who come into
their journey potentially only able to say yes or no and unable to
see a light at the end of the tunnel. To them, he is an idol
and their beacon.'
Jacqueline Corr (Abergele)
Jackie Corr has been volunteering with Welsh Women's Aid
services in North Wales and has assisted in setting up an informal
peer support group in Colwyn Bay. She has also helped break
down the myths of about who is affected by abuse.
Jackie is herself a domestic abuse survivor having left an
abusive marriage of over 40 year, when she was 64. Issues for
older women may be different to those affecting other survivors
Welsh Women's Aid supported Jackie, providing community-based
advocacy to ensure her safety and that her individual needs were
being met. Nominator Claire Thomas from Women's Aid Colwyn said:
'We had no idea that Jackie would soon be supporting our
organisation, and others, to improve the lives of women affected by
abuse around Wales.
'Speaking publicly to others about such personal and traumatic
experiences is not easy. However, Jackie realises the power and
significance of survivors' voices in raising awareness and
understanding of domestic abuse, and in terms of shaping
appropriate service delivery.'
Jackie has helped organise domestic abuse awareness raising days
at a local college, inspired by the White Ribbon Campaign and
the the UN International Day of the Elimination of Violence
against Women, and International Women's Day. She has taken
part in training videos, the launch of the Live Fear Free Helpline
launch, as well as making sure that responses to older women in
Wales are improved and their specific needs addressed.
'The contributions of volunteers like Jackie are hugely
important; she is an inspiration to all and I feel she should be
recognised for her bravery, strength, and dedication to all women
affected by abuse in Wales', said Claire Thomas.
The voluntary work of
'remarkable' retired district nurse Phyllis Tomlinson is helping
make emergency hospital treatment less traumatic for patients and
Not only is the 85-year-old from
Rhyl a Robin Ward Volunteer befriending often distressed patients
and relatives, she has also turned a patch of wasteland outside
Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan into a garden, 'a wonderful place
to contemplate or remember'.
Known to everyone as Phyl, her
role entails providing refreshments for patients, informing them of
waiting times and keeping them updated, and talking to and
reassuring patients who are unaccompanied or relatives who may need
'Coming into hospital can be a
very stressful experience, especially if it is unexpected,' said
Pauline Strugnell, who supports the volunteers on behalf of Betsi
Cadwaladr University Health Board.
'Spending time in the emergency
department waiting to be seen or just waiting to hear about a
relative or loved one can be very distressing. Knowing that
there is a friendly face to hold your hand and provide that much
needed drink and reassurance when it is needed may seem a little
thing - but it makes a huge impact on someone who may be upset or
worried,' Pauline added.
'Phyl tends the gardens at Bodelwyddan Castle and has been doing
so for sometime, transforming forgotten areas and bringing new life
with colour to existing beds. She was also an active member of the
local WRNS (WRENS) and attends memorial and military events,
remembrance parade and other military events.
'Phyl fully embraces the meaning
of a volunteer, she gives without expecting anything in
return. With her warm nature and wealth of knowledge, Phyl is
often sought out by the public or staff for advice on plant care or
just to share cuttings, which Phyl gives freely from her own
collection at home or from the garden. Phyl is truly a remarkable
person and it is honour to know her.'
In less than a year as a
volunteer with The Big Issue Cymru, James Wilkinson has become an
integral member of the distribution team, providing vital and
regular 'on-pitch' support to Big Issue vendors in Cardiff.
The 24 year-old devotes three
full days of his week to coordinating the volunteer team and
ensuring vendors have constant access to magazines, shows them 'a
friendly and familiar face during their day, and gives them someone
to talk to when they are so often ignored when out selling'.
'Homelessness is increasing
across the UK and rough sleeping increased significantly across
Wales over the past year, particularly in Cardiff,' said James's
Big Issue team leader Beth Thomas. 'James is an essential
part of the team working to provide support to those in need.
Not only does he support Big Issue vendors, he also supports
homeless people on the street by telling about the opportunity they
have to become a Big Issue seller and earn a legitimate
Despite only having been a
volunteer since September 2016, James has earned the respect of
both vendors and volunteers, and he recently gave a lecture on The
Big Issue, homelessness and social enterprise to a class of Cardiff
Metropolitan University students.
'More than anything however,
James stands out and is a real inspiration,' Beth Thomas added.
Nerys Harries has attended more than 120 '999' emergency
incidents as a volunteer with the Welsh Ambulance Service - while
holding down no fewer than three part-time jobs.
Since qualifying as Community First Responder on the Bargoed
Team in 2014 at the age of 19, Blackwood resident Nerys has amassed
a total 374 hours on call duty. She has also carried out
cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on two occasions, both with
'During her first volunteering shift, she experienced incidents
including three patient fatalities, a heart attack, a four-year-old
falling down the stairs and a stroke,' said Bev Boulton of
Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations
'Despite this emotionally challenging first shift, she returned
the following week to continue volunteering and provide a service
to the community.'
Nerys also manages the Maesycwmmer Community Defibrillator - for
which she secured funding - and until recently, was a Brownie
leader, from which she was forced to stand down due to work
commitments as a school breakfast club, Wrap Around Meithrin and
after school assistant. She is hoping to eventually become a
'Nerys actively supports, through her work and volunteering, the
whole community of Caerphilly community both young and old,' Bev
'She is an inspiration to her
generation, and us all, because she is prepared to go the extra
mile to succeed and help anyone and everyone she comes in contact
At the age of just 12, Bethan
Greig is not only Morriston Playscheme's youngest volunteer, but
also one of its hardest-working and most successful.
The charity provides free play
sessions for children and young people in an identified area of
deprivation and Bethan helps run games and activities as well as
peer mentoring new volunteers who are often older than her.
'Bethan is our youngest
volunteer, but she is also one of our best - always smiling and
hard working, and keen and willing to learn,' said Nick Moule, her
line manager at Morriston Playscheme.
'She is a key member of our team,
well liked and respected by staff, children and parents alike, and
it's great to see the progress she's made. Bethan is a worthy
recipient of this award because she has had to work incredibly hard
to become the confident and outgoing person that she is now.'
Mr Moule said when Bethan started
volunteering, she had undergone a traumatic experience which led to
her becoming shy, withdrawn and timid.
'The development and progress
this young lady has made over the past 16 months is incredible, and
she is an inspiration to our other volunteers and other young
people,' he added. 'Her determination not to let the trauma
she suffered get her down, and her positive approach to everything
she enters into, makes her a worthy recipient of the award.'
Thomas Jones's volunteering is
benefitting his local environment, Bangor Cathedral and people who
rely on foodbanks to survive.
The 21-year-old Psychology undergraduate at Bangor
University runs 'the Big Give', a project that collects food left
behind by students over the academic holidays and donates it to
local charities - last summer, volunteers collected 1040kg of food
for the Cathedral's foodbank, providing residents with an emergency
three days' supply.
'Prior to the Big Give donation, the Cathedral had to regularly
buy food from the local supermarket as they were not receiving
enough donations from the community,' said Gareth Williams
Volunteering Co-ordinator at Bangor University. 'After
the project was completed, the Cathedral had enough food to last
until Christmas, saving a vast amount of money.'
Tom started off with Student Volunteering Bangor (SVB), as
Project Leader for the biannual Tea Party, an event run by SVB
since 1952 to give elderly local residents the opportunity to
socialise with one another and the university volunteers.
Tom sits on the Student Sustainability Action Group (SSAG),
which works closely with the students' union staff and the
university's Sustainability Department to develop projects - such
as a tree planting - making the city and surrounding areas more
sustainable and aesthetically pleasing .
He is also Project Leader at the
Hergest Mental Health Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd, organising volunteers
to carry out befriending work and support to the patients twice a
'Tom has always been an asset to SVB, and can always be relied
upon when last minute volunteers are needed, no matter what the
project is,' Gareth Williams added. 'His can do attitude always
comes through, no matter what the time, place, or job and it passes
on to his fellow volunteers.'
A team of volunteers - including two former life sentence
prisoners - has prevented hundreds of young people becoming
offenders by sharing their own experiences.
The WRAP (Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership) volunteers
have been trained as restorative practitioners and trainers, and
travel across the country raising awareness about the ripple
effects of harm for victims and families and the reality of prison,
while deglamourising crime.
They have acted as mentors for young people in school inclusion
units and community anti-social behaviour diversion activities, and
worked with parents struggling to manage their children's harmful
The two ex-lifer offenders had served 22 years of prison between
them after going to prison when they were young after committing
very serious crimes. They had also been victims of serious
harm and crime as children before offending, and generously share
this aspect of their lives with young people. They are active
members of the Board of Directors.
The group also includes Board Director Ted Shiress, a language
and communications graduate and a stand-up comedian, who also has
cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. His exemplary
communication skills and personal experience is enabling a review
of training to be more accessible. Ted also enhances the
group's social media profile by his impactful tweets and
'The volunteer group are exceptional and inspirational, and have
unique diverse qualities as well as shared drive,' said Education
Consultant and the group's nominator, Ruth Smith. 'What they
have in common is their willingness to be open and vulnerable and
use their specific personal challenges generously to become
strengths and assets, to inspire others to engage in restorative
work and change for the positive. They are role models in how
to live a life restoratively to benefit of others.'
A support group for cardiac
arrest survivors and their families has been 'monumental' in
helping its 90-plus members come to terms with living with the
The 'Gwent Defibbers' group was
set up in 2009 by Mike Morgan - who suffered a cardiac arrest many
years ago - and Sandra Davies, whose husband is also a
'People who have Cardiac Arrest
(CA) have a high risk of experiencing another and are offered an
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) - a matchbox-sized
device implanted into the chest with lead(s) implanted into the
heart,' said Mandie Welch of Cardiff and Vale University Health
'This device can save your life
by delivering an electric shock directly to the heart, these shocks
can be very painful, and living with this device is known to cause
anxiety and depression. Gwent Defibbers has been monumental in
helping others come to terms with living with their ICD.'
The group runs a buddy system,
where patients have the opportunity to discuss their ICD implant
with others who have a device, it has raised funds for
defibrillators in public places and has a website offering up to
date information for all aspects of living with an ICD;
'All of this is done on a
voluntary basis - the arranging of meetings, venues and speakers is
a huge task to take on, but they both do it regardless.' Mandie
Welch added. 'Mike has recently been diagnosed with severe
heart failure, as has Sandra's husband Jeff, yet they continue to
provide their ongoing support to others who need it. They are
both inspirational and deserve to be recognised for their ongoing
support and hard work.'
A group of retired NHS
professionals in Newbridge, Caerphilly are volunteering to ensure
that care home residents are happy and being properly looked
CHAaT (Care Homes Ask and Talk)
was set up to support residents who may be unable or unwilling to
make suggestions or raise concerns about their standards of
CHAaT started with only eight
volunteers and now has more than 20. Their aim is to find out
whether residents are content in the environment in which they live
and identify and act on what may need to change.
'They are inspired to improve
care standards for residents and act as a voice for people who are
unable to raise their own concerns,' said Liz Durlucia of Ty Bryn
Care Home, Pontypool. 'They challenge things that are wrong
for service users, share good practise from other care homes and
change lives for individuals.'
The role is valuable not only to
service users, but also to the managers of the care homes who say
the volunteers' findings give them the confidence to change care
and push boundaries to fulfil the lives of residents to the
'I feel care standards are
definitely being driven forward for the better of our service users
because of the experience they have,' Liz Durlucia added.
'CHAaT have suggested homes set up friends' groups to include
residents, families, staff and community members. This again
ensures voices are heard.'
WINNERS - Steve Hunt and Dave
Steve Hunt (Barry)
A popular South Wales country park that has more than 120,000
visitors a year and is open 24 hours a day has been kept in peak
condition for the past decade with the help of Steve Hunt.
The 70-year-old from Barry is voluntarily improving the
maintenance and biodiversity of the local Porthkerry Country Park,
over 100 hectares of woods and meadowland in a sheltered valley
leading to a pebble beach and spectacular cliffs.
The park also has nature trails, picnic sites, a café, adventure
play area, barbecue areas and mini golf course. It offers a full
events programme to the community, plus a highly-regarded education
programme for local schools.
'The range of work and activities that Steve has helped out with
are almost too numerous to list,' said Porthkerry Site Ranger Mel
Stewart. 'He has been involved in nearly all aspects of
running the park - maintenance activities Iike building bridges, a
new decking area, new pond dipping sites for schools and new
footpath; painting benches, picnic tables and buildings; fence,
stile and gate construction - and his rope-tying skills are
Steve has also helped out with a huge number of conservation
projects like scrub clearing, litter picking, digging out invasive
species, tree planting and a pollination project, where he helped
create and enhance new wildflower meadow areas and build a new bee
'Steve has been a dedicated, enthusiastic volunteer at the park
and it would be difficult to imagine it without his commitment and
skills,' Mel added. 'He is a fantastic ambassador for the
park and always happy and fun to be around, whether it is carrying
out mundane boring tasks or turning his hand to more skilful
Dave King (Cardiff)
Dave King devotes his time to four charities and community
organisations - three protecting the environment in Cardiff
and the whole of Wales and the fourth reducing the social isolation
of older men, improving their mental health through undertaking
Dave is a trustee and Treasurer of Keep Wales Tidy, where
he helps to ensure that the organisation is run with good
governance, and continues to meet its aims and objectives.
Along with 5 other volunteers Dave formed Cardiff Rivers Group
(CRG) in 2009. Cardiff Rivers Group's main purpose is to
clear areas around waterways of rubbish and debris, making them
more attractive and safer for community members to use and enjoy,
and safer for the wildlife. Having grown from the original 6
members to a distribution list of over 400, CRG were awarded the
prestigious Queens Award For Voluntary Service in 2015.
With local residents in Grangetown Dave set up Keep Grangetown
Tidy, an initiative that has been going for two and half years to
tackle the litter around Grangetown and to try and get the
community more aware of the need to be environmentally aware. All
three organisations have direct positive impacts on the
environment in Wales and Cardiff.
Dave also founded the Dusty Shed, an independent social
enterprise which is part of the Men's Shed movement, which aims to
tackle social isolation amongst older men.
'One of our members has reported that his life has purpose
again, thanks to attending the Shed,' said Dusty Shed co-trustee
'I think Dave deserves special recognition for the sheer
volume of time and devotion he gives to this organisation,' she
added. 'The Dusty Shed simply would not exist without Dave's
drive, passion and determination to see it happen. We are now
essentially at capacity for the number of attendees we can have per
day and are looking for a larger space to ensure we can keep
supporting older men in Cardiff, and that is all down to Dave's
Phil Treseder's volunteering with YMCA Swansea has been
'critical' to the survival of the organisation and helped turn it
from having a staff of four with a £150,000 turnover to employing
more than 25 members of staff with a £1.4m turnover.
As well as working four days a week at Swansea Museum, Phil is
Deputy Chair at the YMCA and spends one full day a week there
working on funding applications and planning new projects. To fit
this in, he occasionally has to work extra hours on his others days
at the museum.
'His expertise in the youth work field has been a saviour, along
with his knowledge of the third sector and how we must fight to
remain open for the sake of the community and vulnerable groups
that we support,' said YMCA Swansea colleague Carlie Torlop.
Also the volunteer minibus driver for young people's trips, he
takes care of the YMCA building and is currently writing a funding
application to completely refurbish the 105-year-old listed
building and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of
YMCA Swansea branch in 2018.
'YMCA Swansea is a massive building,' Carlie added.
'When he started volunteering here, it consisted of a gym and a
couple of office desks. Phil knew that in order to survive as
an organisation, the building needed to be used to full
'He has helped identify tenants that were like-minded
organisations that were needed in the community - and now every
square inch of the building is being used to help transform and
change people's lives.'
Carlie concluded: 'Phil's knowledge, skills and expertise of the
sector has been instrumental, because whereas other third sector
organisations during this time have been forced into liquidation
and have closed their services to the community, with Phil's
support and influence YMCA Swansea has stood strong and has
achieved accomplishment after accomplishment.'
'Incredible' volunteer Kieran Vass has contributed over 400
hours of his time over the past year as chair of a students'
charity supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged people - while also
holding down a job and studying for a Master's degree.
The 22-year-old is a trustee and recently-appointed Chair of
Student Volunteering Cardiff (SVC), a student-led charity that runs
27 different projects across the city. Its aims are to
provide vulnerable community members - adults with mental health
conditions, homeless people and adults and children with
disabilities - with volunteer support to enhance their
Their work is helping to dispel often negative stereotypes of
students while also developing positive relationships between
Cardiff residents and the student population.
'As Chair, Kieran's role is a position of big responsibility,
particularly for a younger person, said SVC colleague Adrienne
Earls. 'He is an open, friendly, approachable individual who
encourages these attributes throughout the charity.
'He is so committed, passionate and reliable, and attends the
majority of SVC events and one-off volunteering opportunities,
while also organising and leading fortnightly board meetings.
He has also volunteered with disadvantaged young people to help
with their academic development, mentored and supported new
volunteers and joined the Board of Trustees.
'Kieran is such a fantastic role model for everyone at
SVC. It's hard to truly put into words the affect Kieran's
work has on the community. However, he ensures that SVC
operates an open and family community, helping all volunteers to
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
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
'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
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
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
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.'
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
'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
'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.'