Stirling’s Festival of Volunteering got off to a flying start last night (Tuesday 3 September) with Stirlingshire Voluntary Enterprise’s Inspire Volunteering Awards.

The awards showcased the incredible local volunteer teams who dedicate their time to help others in their community, as Chief Executive of SVE Natalie Masterson explained: “Nearly 40% of people in Stirling volunteer and our community life is vibrant as a result of the passion and enthusiasm that our volunteers bring to their roles. We made some changes to the awards this year, changing the focus from individuals to teams. We heard from our volunteers that they wanted to be recognised for the amazing work they do as a group, as volunteering is always a team effort. Our judging panel always have a difficult job shortlisting, but this year was their hardest choice yet with so many fantastic teams to choose from. All our winners and finalists should be rightfully proud of the contribution they have made to Stirling life.”

Over 120 people gathered at Hotel Colessio to celebrate the City’s incredible volunteer community in a ceremony hosted by SVE in partnership with Stirling Council and sponsored by Solicitors for Older People and The Barracks Conference Centre amongst others.

The winning organisations were:

Volunteering for Sport & Physical Activity: Mayfield Centre Recovery Café. 

The volunteer team at the café use their own experience of recovery to support others. Sessions focus on getting active and enjoying good food.

Volunteer James Sludden said: “It feels amazing that the Recovery Café has won this award. A lot of people in the community have put a lot of hard work into it. We are getting people who led chaotic lifestyles into recovery. As a result, they are changing their lives. A lot of people have gone onto full-time employment.”

Volunteering for Community Impact sponsored by The Thistle Centre Stirling: RSVP Forth Valley.

The Retired and Seniors Volunteering Programme runs a variety of groups to help older people stay active and make a difference in their community, from a handyperson service to schools volunteering.

Volunteer Rosemary Fletcher said: “It is very good for RSVP to be recognised. I help recruit and place volunteers in the hospitals across NHS Forth Valley. We have over 90 volunteers in the hospitals alone. They assist with things like helping people find their way around. We also have a number of other groups from knitting to walking.”

Volunteering for Health & Wellbeing sponsored by NHS Forth Valley: Food Train Stirling

Food Train delivers groceries to over 200 customers, ensuring those most in need have access to fresh food. They also help with a wide range of practical and social tasks and run a Meal Makers Food Sharing Project, where families are encouraged to make an extra plate of food for an older neighbour. They’ve now matched 33 pairs of cooks and diners in Stirling.

Volunteer Kirsty Kennedy said: “Food Train gives so much back to the community. I have been with the organisation for 5 years. You’ve heard the saying Jack of all trades, well I’m Jill of all trades. I go out on a Monday to collect the lists; I do the shopping and I’m a driver. I also help in the office when needed. The team will be delighted to hear that we have won.”

Volunteering for Strong Organisations sponsored by Go Forth Stirling: Camphill Blair Drummond Board of Trustees

Over 300 people live, work and volunteer in Camphill’s unique setting which provides a home to adults with severe learning disabilities. The volunteer Board of Directors were recognised for their good governance and leadership.

Board Member Robert Brown said: “I’ve been on the board for more than 10 years now and I think we have the strongest board now than we’ve ever had. But it is not just about the board, it is about the whole community that we’ve got there. It’s the residents, the staff and volunteers. It’s an incredible place, everybody is upbeat, friendly and cheerful. Camphill really does provide state of the art care.”

Volunteering for the Environment & Heritage sponsored by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: Bannockburn Learning Assistants

The volunteer team use their personal interest in history to inspire members of the public, engaging whole families from infants to grandparents in history through their weapons handling and dress up sessions.

Volunteer Severine Peyrichou said: “It is very rewarding to receive this award for all the work we do. The team work very hard to bring history alive for people, interacting with visitors and creating a vibrant atmosphere at the Battle of Bannockburn Experience.”

Volunteering for Children & Families: Stirling Champions Board

The Board is led by a group of care experienced young people who volunteer their time to drive forward change for other children and young people in care, from delivering workshops to offering peer support and mentoring.

Volunteer Taylor McDonald said: “We’re blown away. We’ve only been running for a year, so to be recognised in this way is amazing. We’ve just completed a big summer programme for care experienced young people. We’ve also been working with the Police and Fire Service, trying to build better relationships.”

Volunteering for Inclusion & Equality sponsored by Volunteer Scotland: Ideas for Ears Community Hearing Hub

Hub volunteers use their own experience of hearing loss to improve the way in which hearing is understood and supported in public places. They campaign for change through initiatives such as the Hearing Access Protocol, a guide to ensure public meetings are accessible to people with hearing loss.

Sally Shaw said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that the Ideas for Ears Community Hearing Hub has been recognised in this way. It is a fantastic group of volunteers. Our focus is primarily on people with hearing loss, but it is also for people with other hearing conditions as well. Very often it is something that doesn’t get very much attention directed towards it. So, the work we are doing hear is shining a spotlight on something that is incredibly important to people’s sense of wellbeing and connection to other people.”

The evenings most prestigious award, The Inspire Volunteering Award 2019, was presented to Braeport Memory Café.

The weekly café offers invaluable support to people with dementia and their carers, providing activities and an opportunity to relax and socialise. School children from the local primary school regularly pop along to help participants use iPads and often stay for a sing along.

Volunteer Breda Seaman said: “I am completely overwhelmed, but I would like to say that small acts of kindness make a huge difference to the most vulnerable members of society.  Just getting a group of willing volunteers together to have fun at a memory café enriches all our lives.”

Saltire 500 Hours awards were also presented to: Crista Arthur, Zaynab Hafeez, Aleena Francis Connel Laing and Jacob Doig.

A Saltire Summit award for volunteering above and beyond expectations was also presented to Forth Valley College student Aidan Brewins who volunteers with the Boys’ Brigade, Oxfam, Active Stirling and the College’s Students’ Association.

The Festival of Volunteering continues throughout the month of September. For further details click here.