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Thirty ambassadors chosen to mark thirtieth anniversary of Volunteers’ Week

Volunteers from across England have been selected as ambassadors for the thirtieth anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, which takes place from 1 – 7 June 2014. (Full list in notes.)

The annual event, launched in 1984, marks the contribution that millions of volunteers make to charities and other organisations. Hundreds of events will be taking place as charities, schools, hospitals and other organisations take time during Volunteers’ Week to thank their volunteers.

Find events in your area

Contact your local volunteer centre

To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the week, thirty ambassadors have been chosen to demonstrate the important, diverse roles volunteers play in our communities and to inspire others to get involved. They include a canal restoration volunteer, a special constable and a teen peer mentor.

Justin Davis Smith, director of volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which coordinates Volunteers’ Week in England, said:

‘Volunteers’ Week is a great opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate volunteers and the incredible contribution they make to our communities. Volunteers are an integral part of our society, and without their dedication, energy and commitment, many of the services we take for granted would simply grind to a halt.
‘But the magic of volunteering is that it is a two-way relationship. So alongside the contribution to our local communities, volunteers also benefit tremendously from the experience – learning new skills, boosting their wellbeing, or simply meeting new people and having fun.

‘This year we are celebrating thirty years of Volunteers’ Week and, while our focus is always looking forward, it is nice to be able to reflect on the enormous contribution volunteers have made to our communities over more than a quarter of a century and to celebrate their impact.’

Volunteering facts and figures

  • The Office for National Statistics calculated the value of volunteering in the UK at £23.9bn (1)
  • 15m people are estimated to volunteer every month in the UK (2)
  • There are over 160,000 charities in the UK, most of which rely on volunteers
  • Among those volunteering on a regular basis, the most common activities include organising or helping to run an activity or event (53%) and raising money or sponsored events (53%). Sports organisations were the most popular type of group for which people volunteered formally. Over half (52%) of those volunteering at least once a month gave time to this, while 42% participated in groups revolving around hobbies/arts/recreation, 35% gave time to religious organisations and 34% helped with children’s education/schools (3).



For more information please contact the National Council for Voluntary Organisations: Aidan Warner on 020 7520 2413 or Kristen Stephenson on 020 7520 3154, or visit

Thirty amassadors

Robert Austin, Newcastle

National Citizen Service graduate, National Citizen Service

Robert led a team turning an old office into a social space for people with special needs. He set up his own small organisation called Teenwise, an online group of people across the country who share positive stories. He has also worked with his local council, helping to reform a committee that plans and carries out changes for a local area.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Tees Valley

Sport volunteer

Tanni says, ‘I’ve learned a lot by volunteering at events. I have taken entry fees, sorted race cards, been a timekeeper, and all of these activities have in small ways prepared me for the life I lead now. Volunteering provides structure, skills, both practical and social, and experience, and crucially, volunteers achieve all of these things whilst doing wonderful things for good causes.
‘My very first coach in Cardiff was a volunteer without a lot of experience of wheelchair sport - we both learned a lot from each other in our time together. I have always admired the people who volunteer because of a love of sport, they can been seen in all weathers organising and supporting and without them a lot of athletes would not have progressed.’

Lisa Nandy MP, Wigan

Foodbank volunteer

Lisa recently volunteered with a local foodbank at The Brick project in Wigan. ‘Now more than ever volunteering has such an essential role in our society,’ Lisa says. ‘What struck me most was not only did the volunteers provide much needed food parcels but the difference that the volunteers made to the people who visited the food bank. People walked in demoralised. To be forced into a position where you have no alternative other than to resort to food parcels to feed your family is crushing situation for anyone to find themselves in. The volunteers at the Brick turned around what could have been an unpleasant experience through their warm manner and the respect they gave the food bank’s visitors. The food bank not only provided a way for people to feed their family over Christmas but the volunteers helped give them back their dignity. Examples like this show the invaluable work that volunteers across the UK do and the potential volunteering has to transform our communities.’

Don McWilliam, Cleveleys, Lancashire

‘Community Network’ telephone group facilitator, Age UK

Don helps facilitate group telephone calls between four to six older people for an hour every week. These provide an opportunity for people to socialise. He helps to introduce members of the group to each other and open up discussion. His role enables lonely people to communicate by simply picking up the phone. He has also helped to train other volunteers to run the groups. Don said, ‘I have got a heck of a lot from my roles of volunteer facilitator and trainer with Community Network. I enjoy all the calls I facilitate. I have had good relationships with every participant on every course, and been able to treat all of them as friends.’

Maureen Conwell, Manchester

Special Constable, Greater Manchester Police

The specials are a force of trained volunteers who provide a valuable link between the community and the police force. They work with regular police offices on a variety of police duties. Maureen assists in tackling local police priorities including the investigation and detection of crime. She also leads and motivates a team of special constables. In her role she feels she helps to make the community safer and increase the quality of life of residents. She enjoys working directly with local people and finds that helping to deliver sustainable solutions to problems is satisfying. She has learned transferable skills that she has also used in her personal life.

Gary Weir, Merseyside

Community Organiser, Ignite! North West

Gary visits local people to find out what they feel about their community and collects this information to inform community work in the area. The role involves in-depth discussions with residents, building trust, respect and relationships with them. Gary decided to get involved and give something back after previously being involved in drugs and crime. Initially he brought together a group who had gone through a similar experience. The group raised funds to support activity days for local families. Gary feels volunteering has changed his life when he first got involved after some treatment for cancer. ‘I feel like I belong and it's a splendid feeling’, Gary says.

Dorothy Foster, Cheshire

Community Ambassador, Marie Curie Cancer Care

As a community ambassador Dorothy helps to promote the work of Marie Curie Cancer Care to the public. She gives talks and presentations to a range of clubs and groups including schools and represents Marie Curie at fundraising events. Her work also helps to raise awareness of the services and support available to those who are terminally ill. Dorothy used to be a district nurse and now that she has retired she finds that volunteering allows her to put her skills to good use.

Jo Code, Lincolnshire

Panel member, North East Lincolnshire Youth Offending Team

Jo works with a member of the youth offending team and other panel member volunteers. Her role is to talk to young offenders about the crime they committed and agree with them a plan of action to help prevent reoffending. Jo did not have specific knowledge about the criminal justice system but she wanted to make a direct contribution and volunteering was the most accessible option. It has also allowed her to develop skills which she can use in her teaching role. She enjoys working with people from different backgrounds towards a common goal.

Esther Smith, Grimsby

Chair of Divisional Independent Advisory Group, Grimsby, Humberside Police

The advisory group acts as a critical friend to the police, looking at their relationship with the community. Esther has been the chair of the group for 12 years. They are a critical friend looking at all police matter including their relationship with the community. She manages six meetings annually and recruits a mixed panel to reflect the local community. Esther says the group has made sure that the local community feel they are able to go to the police with any issues they may have and they will be listened to. She has learned how to work in partnership with the local police force and built good relationships with community groups.

John Pass, Crewe

Chair of Crewe and Nantwich local committee, Cancer Research UK

John is chairman of his local committee for Cancer Research. They are a fundraising group which organises a range of events including fishing matches, sponsored walks and Christmas fairs. He helps organise monthly meetings for the members to plan and organise events. Last year they raised a record amount of over £66,000. This year the committee is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Since its formation they have raised £1.2 million.

George Rogers, Matlock

Canal restoration volunteer and ‘canal camp’ leader, Waterway Recovery Group

George volunteers on weekend digs helping to carry out restoration work across England, and runs week-long working holidays called 'Canal Camps' during the summer. His work includes from helping to restore derelict lock chambers, building new sections of canals and clearing vegetation along the towpath. Through volunteering George has made many friends, learned leadership skills and developed many practical skills including brick laying and pointing.

Kirsty Kelly, Birmingham

Mentor, Sova

Kirsty supports adults and young people to reach their goals, by helping them with things like creating a CV, looking for jobs, support with reading and writing to studying and using a computer. She has helped support people back into work. Kirsty has also helped set up a vegetable growing project, the produce from which is donated to homeless people, and she has sold old textiles and clothes to raise money to support younger clients with basic essentials the may not have or can’t afford. Kirsty says volunteering has given her a new outlook and lease of life.

Rosalind Costa, Oundle

Peer mentor, Dual Diagnosis Intercept Peer Mentoring Project, Leicester Community Projects Trust

Rosalind works with people who come into contact with the Criminal Justice Drug Team in Leicester and Leicestershire. The people she works with are often affected by drug and alcohol misuse and mental health issues. She commits 16 hours a week, supporting two weekly drop-ins in Loughborough and Leicester, and additional one-to-one work as required. She helps empower and support people to seek the help they need, acting as a mental health advocate, providing information, advice and signposting. She ensures people link with the local services they need and accompanies them to appointment s to provide emotional support during their treatment.

Alan Fletcher, Swindon

Chair of Swindon branch, Guide Dogs

Alan leads a group of volunteers who raise money and raise awareness of the charity locally. He works with local MPs, businesses and media to help raise the profile of events taking place including collections and national issues important to the charity. He has worked with the council locally to ensure money is put aside to support guide dog owners to retrain their dogs on a layout change. By working with local councillors and other decision makers he is able to ensure the needs of partiality sighted people in Swindon are taken on board. Alan became blind when he was 57 and says his guide dog changed his life, inspiring him to volunteer.

Alan Alford, Bristol

Ward volunteer, Royal Voluntary Service

Alan has been volunteering for RVS for 17 years. His main role is based in the Frenchay hospital where he takes the trolley shop around the wards, providing a friendly face and the opportunity for patients to buy things they need during their stay. He also volunteers at St Peter's Hospice in Bristol, driving those who use the service to and from the centre. Alan wanted to give something back after he was in a serious motorbike accident at 21 and received great are. Alan says: ‘Volunteering gives me such satisfaction, because you see the difference it makes to people's lives.’ Last year he received an RVS Diamond Champions Award from HRH the Duchess of Cornwall for outstanding volunteer work.

Carol Trigg, Staffordshire

Area training specialist, St John Ambulance

Carol has been a member of St John Ambulance for 45 years, delivering first aid in the community and training for all ages, and running large teams of volunteers. After deterioration in her vision in 2012, she had moved from her role as a unit manager to become a training specialist. Being able to continue volunteering in this way has helped her through a difficult period of readjustment. She feels her example shows that a disability does not have to be an obstacle to volunteering.

Rosemary Farr, Hampshire

Dementia Champion and information support officer

Rosemary works in the community to deliver dementia information sessions. She works with local people, as well as local businesses and other organisations that have a role in helping to build dementia-friendly communities. Rosemary provides support to the dementia knowledge centre which supports the information needs of staff and volunteers.

Elizabeth Wynyard, Surrey

Drug educator, Hope UK

Elizabeth has been a trained drug educator for Hope UK for four and a half years. She provides drug education in schools, youth groups, and colleges. She supports children and young people to change their attitudes and behaviour in relation to substances. ‘Volunteering for Hope UK has been a huge positive in my life,’ Elizabeth says, ‘increasing my confidence in my own abilities and providing friendships that I value highly, both with staff and other volunteers. I have welcomed the opportunity to keep active in retirement and use the skills I gained in my working life as well as gaining new ones.

Jenny Hicklin, West Sussex

Games Maker, London 2012 and Sochi 2014 and volunteer blogger for Join In, which champions volunteering in sport

Jenny was a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics and enjoyed it so much that she decided to also volunteer at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. At Sochi she also volunteered to be a guest blogger for Join In. Each night after volunteering she wrote a blog of daily events and emailed them to Join In the next morning. In total she completed 32 blogs over the 5 weeks. It helped her to feel closer to home and to help give people a new perspective on volunteering. ‘I hope I helped to raise the profile of volunteering a little’, she says.

Nick Hurd MP, Ruislip

Mentor, Blastbeat enterprise programme

Nick Hurd MP is Minister for Civil Society and has responsibility for the government’s policy on volunteering and charities. He volunteers as a mentor for BlastBeat in his constituency, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. Blastbeat aims to help teenagers develop business skills through staging their own music events.

Fiona Woolf, City of London

Lord Mayor of London

Fiona is an ambassador for the City of London and UK-based financial and professional services. The role of the Lord Mayor is voluntary and requires the holder to put their work to one side for a year. In her role, Fiona promotes charitable organisations, schools, diversity and philanthropy, especially through the Lord Mayor’s Appeal – which runs throughout the Mayoralty supporting a number of charities.

Adewale Lawal, Hackney

Reception and referral assistant, Hackney Homes

Adewale found his Volunteering role through the Volunteer Centre in Hackney. In his role he volunteers with Hackney Homes’ new and existing clients with information required to assist them in finding various volunteer roles that may be tailored towards their needs. He also helps follow-up clients and enquires about their progress in finding volunteer roles.

Irene Kolawole, Newham

Franklin Scholar mentor, Franklin Scholars, Langdon Academy in Newham

Irene organises lunchtime sessions with year seven students at their school, the Langdon Academy in Newham, East London. The sessions include various activities to help improve literacy and other academic skills. She works with other volunteers to make sure the students always go away having learned something new. As well as focusing on education they also help to build their confidence and social skills. Irene says that the rewarding experience has helped her to build and improve her leadership skills.

Matthew Fox, East London

Appropriate adult, City and Hackney Mind

Matthew provides support to young people with mental health issues who have been arrested. The 'appropriate adults' ensure that all their needs are met and that they receive all the rights they are entitled to. They make sure they have a helping hand in what can be a very stressful experience in a strange environment. Matthew says volunteering has developed his ability to act in challenging environments.

Sandra St Hilaire, Hackney

Data entry volunteer, Volunteer Centre Hackney

Sandra has been volunteering at VC Hackney since July 2012. After a brain injury her occupational therapist brought her to the volunteer centre. She wanted something to do to keep her busy. She works with a team of volunteers, entering registration forms completed by potential volunteers onto the database. This enables them to access volunteer roles. Sandra says that volunteering allows her to be part of a work environment I don't have access to anymore and makes her feel happy to be contributing to her local community.

Andre Cole, Hackney

Shopkeeper, The Ministry of Stories

Andre volunteers at the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies shop. The shop is part of the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing centre for children. As well as keeping the shop running he helps to raise awareness of what the organisation does. He enjoys telling customers about the unusual items for sale. He uses his customer service skills from previous roles in retail. It helps him to feel that he is giving something back to the community as he lives locally. He found the role through Hackney Volunteer Centre.

Elise Roche, Croydon

Ward visitor and support volunteer, Kings College Hospital, London

Elise provides support on the neonatal intensive care unit. She helps with whatever is needed, from re-stocking cupboards, administrative tasks and ensuring older babies are entertained and comfortable. She also helps with IT coaching to help the nurses use their time more efficiently and ensures parents and siblings are looked after. Her work on the ward ensures that the medical staff can focus on the medical care of the babies. Elise has found her experience extremely rewarding and what she enjoys most is being able to do little things to make someone's day better. As someone with an interest in the healthcare environment volunteering has also helped her develop her knowledge in this area.

Benjamin Thomson, Hammersmith

Voluntary administrator, Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre

Benjamin helps with reception duties and admin tasks including ensuring volunteering opportunities are added to the database and supporting people to find volunteering opportunities to match their skills and interests. Benjamin feels his role supports both the volunteer centre and the many individuals who want to volunteer. The centre is very busy so his help enables the centre to support even more people.
Volunteering has helped him learn a lot including building on his skills in communication, administration and IT skills. Benjamin said ‘I am very happy with everything I have done as it has made me feel like I have changed some people’s lives.’

Martyn Lewis, London

Charity trustee

Former newsreader Martyn Lewis spends much of his time supporting various charities. Among other roles, Martyn is Chair of the Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Service, chair and co-founder of Families of the Fallen, and chair and co-founder of YouthNet. He is also chair of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. ‘I would like to think the decisions in which I play a part increase the reach and strength of charities, and, above all, help develop and expand their work and increase the number of beneficiaries and the support each receives,’ Martyn says. ‘You walk a little taller after spending time trying to help others. It gives you a huge lift. You are part of a great movement whose members play a crucial role in identifying and tackling a whole range of grass-roots problems in our society.’

Louise Rowan, Bexley

Volunteer, Carers’ Support Bexley

Louise is a full time volunteer with CSV providing respite support through Carers' Support Bexley. She visits families to provide respite to carers who are looking after family members with physical and mental health issues. At the moment she is supporting 8-year-old twins with Down’s Syndrome and visits a 93-year-old man with dementia and a 40-year-old with learning difficulties. Louise says that volunteering has ‘completely changed my life for the better and has taught me so many things’.

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