Many of the Borders’ most successful organisations rely greatly on people giving their time freely in order to do something they love, something they beleive in. Kevin Janiak reports
A volunteer with 23 years experience coaching badminton in Gordon, a Galashiels’ man providing support to a school pupil with Tourette’s in Jedburgh and a 14-year- old entrusted with a walkie-talkie in Peebles – were just some of the award winners at Volunteer Centre Borders’ (VCB) first ceremony to celebrate the area’s countless volunteering activities.
Held on Valentine’s Day, the aptly-coined Loving Our Volunteers event, funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Celebrate’ programme and held at Kelso’s Ednam House Hotel, recognised volunteering in eight categories.
VCB executive officer, Gordon Brown, said: “Communities across the Scottish Borders, from Eyemouth to Peebles, Ancrum to Greenlaw, would not be as healthy and vibrant without the network of volunteers in those areas.
“‘Loving Our Volunteers’ is a chance to acknowledge some of the outstanding efforts from just some of the thousands of volunteers who everyday take part in actvities which address such issues as social isolation, deprivation, inactivity and inequality, and contribute to sporting and cultural pursuits.
“By celebrating volunteers in this way, it will ensure volunteers feel valued, encourage more people in the area to volunteer and act as a reminder that volunteers are not a resource not to be taken for granted, but celebrated as often as possible.”
The Long Service Award
Violet Livingston, nominated by Gemma Ross, Live Borders Active Schools
Violet has been volunteering with Gordon Primary’s after-school badminton club for 23 years.
Thanks to Violet’s support, countless children have all been given the opportunity to take part in the sport, and she is very quick to spot those who have that little something extra ... a number of her charges have progressed into the Border Badminton squad.
the Thinking Differently Award
Grace Mitchell, nominated by Shona Haslam, from Peeblesshire Youth Trust
Every year, Grace organises more than 70 Christmas hampers for families who are in need of a little bit of extra help in Tweeddale, as well as 700 toys and treats to the children of those families.
These hampers really are Christmas in a box and contain everything from crackers to washing powder, sweets to fruit and vegetables. Presents are all wrapped and everything is delivered so people can enjoy a Christmas they would otherwise miss out on.
Hidden Asset Award
Catriona Bancroft, nominated by Sally Adams, from the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt Pony Club
Catriona has been involved with every part of the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt Pony Club – committee work; fundraising; training for riding and road safety; horse & pony care and organising Christmas parties.
She always gives generously of her time and is extremely encouraging to all members, which can be difficult as when working with ‘children’ and horses, things don’t always go to plan! She has been described as not only motivated but motivational.
Peter Norris Local Hero Award
John Davidson, nominated by Gemma Gilroy, Jedburgh Grammar School
After having a traumatic childhood with a condition nobody knew about, John has worked for years to raise awareness of Tourette’s Syndrome across the world, so that no-one has to go through what he did. This award is specifically in recognition of his work in supporting young Rory Brown of Jedburgh with his Tourette’s, particularly in his school and wider community.
His inspirational work was shown last week across the UK in the BBC1 documentary Teenage Tics.
On his Facebook page after the event, John paid tribute to his friends, who have, in turn, supported him.
He wrote: “I am totally blown away and very thankful to each and every one of you who have supported me throughout the last 32 years since being diagnosed with Tourettes.
“Special thanks and an amazing amount of appreciation must go to Dot and Chris Achenbach and family for all their love and support over most of the previous years.
“Without you I’m pretty damn sure I wouldn’t have made it this far and most certainly wouldn’t have been able to do what I do without you both.
“You give me strength, guidance and most of all taught me how life can be lived to its fullest no matter what differences we all have, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Young Volunteer of the Year
Hamish Swan, nominated by Fiona Dalgleish from Tweedlove & Sean Macneil, Tweeddale Youth Action
Fourteen-year-old Hamish has been nominated by two different organisations, and his list of achievements are too many to mention.
However, special mention must go to his work helping primary children transition into secondary school and marking trails so riders and runners find their way at Tweedlove, in which he has graduated from team t-shirt to team hoodie to the ultimate volunteering accolade – being given his own team walkie-talkie.
Jane Thin, nominated by Gail Fox, Girl Guiding Tweed Valley
Jane has been a Brownie leader in Tweedbank for more than 20 years and has given many young girls the opportunity to experience the Brownie programme.
Like so many volunteers she began to help out as a parent, but was soon persuaded to take on a leadership role.
She also helps out with the guides and is an excellent photographer who has captured many memorable moments of girls having fun in the wide range of activities they take part in.
Golden Volunteer of the Year
Jock Law, nominated by Juliana Amaral, Scottish Borders Council
Jock is another volunteer for whom it would take too long to list all his roles.
He is a member of Coldstream Community Trust, organised local Christmas decorations and lights, helped refurbish the local community centre and has recently been involved in the set-up of a Men’s Shed in the town.
Loving Our Volunteers award
This organisation works to improve the quality of life of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities throughout the Borders by reducing their social isolation, improving their social networks and enabling them to participate in their communities.
It believes passionately its work can only be done by volunteers who achieve outcomes for people with learning disabilities that would be impossible to accomplish in any other way.
Interest Link project co-ordinator Andrew Findlay said: “This award is a great honour for Interest Link and a tribute to the commitment and dedication shown by the 200 volunteers of all ages from right across the Borders who make our service possible.
“Over the years, it has been a joy to see the huge impact our volunteers have on the lives of those with learning disabilities and their carers. It has also been a consistent joy to see how much satisfaction and pleasure volunteers derive from their role.
“Borderers have a very strong tradition of commitment to their communities and that has undoubtedly been a key factor in Interest Link’s success. This commitment is very strong in the younger generation, as shown by the 50 young volunteers we recruit each year from high schools and Borders College, and this bodes well for the future.”