Awards reward young Borders volunteers for their efforts

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A PACKED Volunteer Hall in Galashiels on Tuesday night was the setting for a celebration of all that is good and extraordinary about local young people, writes Mark Entwistle.

Some 250 guests – volunteers, parents, supporters, project managers – filled the hall for the Young Volunteering Awards night to witness young people being presented with certificates to acknowledge the hours they give to helping other people.

Opportunities for volunteers aged up to 25 are wide-ranging and include after-school activities, advocacy, caring for animals, tennis coaching, dance instruction, youth work, befriending, shop work, conservation, political issues and radio presenting.

Ewan Jackson, chief executive of the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust, was the introductory speaker and presented the awards.

Volunteering in sport is becoming more popular, and he spoke about the benefit to volunteers and participants – the value to themselves, to sport and to the community.

He encouraged everybody to think more about getting involved with their local sports clubs, and emphasised how important volunteers are, not only to Borders sporting successes, but to the continuing popularity of all sorts of sports in the region.

For Volunteer Centre Borders, the organisers of the Young Volunteering Awards, Susan Swan addressed the value of young people in the community. She acknowledged the efforts of the people receiving certificates, highlighting a number who had put in hundreds of volunteering hours during the last year.

“Although they don’t do it for reward, their dedication and responsible attitude deserves to be recognised by these national certificates. In many cases, projects could not run without them,” she said.

And young people are certainly coming forward to volunteer. This year, 277 of them received certificates – for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering, with 13 completing more than 200 hours (including three under the age of 16). That was a total of 27,175 hours of volunteering contributed across the Borders.

All 277 had one thing in common in that they recognised the value of doing something for others, and for some it really is a great personal achievement.

Where’s George?, Berwickshire’s most successful young band, played a set during the supper break. They have raised hundreds of pounds for worthwhile charities, both locally and internationally, and the evening saw the launch of their new CD.

Tom Sellar, chair of Volunteer Centre Borders, congratulated everyone on their success: “Young people are the future of volunteering and we applaud them for everything they do. I hope that the reward they have gained tonight will inspire them to continue to help others in various ways throughout their lives.”

Young people volunteered in all sorts of projects during the past year, including broadcasting with Radio Borders’ Wired and Generate Radio, through Girlguiding, advocacy and support with BIAS (Borders Independent Advocacy Service), befriending with Interest Link, sports volunteering with Active Schools and environmental work.

One such volunteer is Simon, aged 20, who donates his services as a driver, a shopper and a charity shop assistant in Berwickshire.

He told us why he gives up his time to help others: “I love it. It can be very busy, but I like to feel that I am doing something useful, and it means I get to meet all sorts of people.

“I am looking for a job just now, but whatever happens, I’ll keep on volunteering as I know how much it means to others.”