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Queen's Award for Voluntary Service: Suffolk groups recognised for service to community

The work of hundreds of Suffolk people who give countless hours of their time to help others has been recognised with the UK’s highest award for voluntary service.

Five groups, an all-time record for the county, are among 241 nationwide to receive the 2021 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service - the equivalent of an MBE.

They range from a charity that gives hope and motivation to stroke survivors to what is thought to be the smallest licensed ferry in Europe.

Success After Stroke members and volunteers on a sailing day at Woolverstone
Success After Stroke members and volunteers on a sailing day at Woolverstone

The award aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of her coronation.

The Suffolk winners are Home-Start in Suffolk, Success After Stroke, Hour Community, Framlingham, Butley Ferry, and Inside Out Community Arts.

Queen's Award for Voluntary Service logo
Queen's Award for Voluntary Service logo

Success After Stroke has been helping stroke survivors to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives for almost 20 years.

The charity, based in Great Cornard near Sudbury, welcomes members from all over Suffolk - making it easier for them to regain confidence and rebuild their lives.

Services include physio and speech therapies, art classes, teaching IT skills, days out, and the chance to socialise.

Covid has put a temporary stop to meetings in person. Therapy and exercise sessions are done on Zoom, and each volunteer has two or three members they keep in touch with by phone.

Success after Stroke members taking part in an IT session
Success after Stroke members taking part in an IT session

Viv Bourne, a voluntary trustee of the charity who has worked with it almost from the start, said: “We have a wonderful band of more than 30 volunteers.

“Everyone has just huge big hearts and wants to do something for someone else.”

Strokes often strike out of the blue and can leave people with long-lasting or lifelong effects that range from mild to severe.

Success After Stroke - Henrietta Drake & Barbara Slade volunteering for the Brushstroke Exhibition lunch, in St Peters Church, Sudbury
Success After Stroke - Henrietta Drake & Barbara Slade volunteering for the Brushstroke Exhibition lunch, in St Peters Church, Sudbury

Health service support is given for a limited time after victims leave hospital. When it ends they can easily lose their motivation and be tempted to give up trying to improve their condition.

Success After Stroke – usually referred to by its initials SAS – began with a handful of people determined not to let that happen.

It started in 2001 with five survivors who came out of hospital and started meeting in Sudbury at the Bridge Project.

Viv, who became one of the group’s first voluntary helpers in 2002, said: “There were five members when I started, and then it just snowballed.”

Success after Stroke volunteer Viv Bourne, and manager Sarahjane Lewis
Success after Stroke volunteer Viv Bourne, and manager Sarahjane Lewis

In 2005 the group became a registered charity and in 2006, with membership soaring, it needed more space and moved to the Stevenson Centre in Great Cornard.

There are now around 70 members. Paid therapists lead the sessions, assisted by volunteers whose roles also include helping with the art group, and serving refreshments. New recruits are always welcome.

Sarahjane Lewis, the charity’s manager, said: “We are always on the lookout for volunteers. It doesn’t matter what background you have.

“Because of the pandemic we haven’t had face to face meetings - except on Zoom - since March 2020 but are hoping to restart in September.”

Most members attend with their partners or carers who, in what can be a challenging role, also get support from the charity.

“SAS couldn’t exist without its brilliant volunteers who back up the members and back up the therapists,” said Viv, whose husband Geoffrey is a past chairman of the charity.

“I think when you volunteer you get far more out than you put in. It can make a huge difference to their lives as well as to the members. It enhances your life... you are needed and everyone needs to be needed.”

Pam Lawrence, a qualified stress management therapist and life coach, has been volunteering for SAS for eight years.

Depression often affects people who have had strokes. “The group is about keeping their spirits up and giving them hope and motivation,” said Pam.

“My aim is to help anyone who comes to see me achieve, or at least get closer to, a state of mental well-being, calmness and acceptance, regardless of their physical condition.”

Pam and fellow volunteer Fran Williams also run the SAS carers’ group.

Fran, a nurse from Elmsett near Hadleigh, started attending with her husband Bob who had a stroke in 2009. “Getting the Queen’s Award is absolutely amazing,” she said.

“SAS has become our family in a way during the pandemic. It has made so much difference to Bob, and a huge difference to me. It’s the people who make it, really. It has been a lifesaver this year."

Home-Start in Suffolk, with its 270 volunteers, provides crucial support to vulnerable families across Suffolk through one to one home visits.

It helps more than 500 families a year to integrate with their community, improve their self-esteem, and develop routines, often pre-empting intervention.

The Ipswich-based charity is there for parents when the pressures of family life become too much to cope with alone for reasons that can include poverty, family breakdowns, isolation, addiction and health issues.

Home-Start helps families cope with problems
Home-Start helps families cope with problems

It supports them to grow in confidence, strengthen their relationships with their children, improve their health and wellbeing, and widen their local links.

Each family’s Home-Start volunteer visits regularly, usually once a week for between two and three hours and they decide together how to spend the time.

It could be talking over concerns or problems, helping play with the children, getting to the shops, providing a listening ear, or simply having an adult conversation.

Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk
Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk

Tara Spence, Home-Start in Suffolk’s CEO said: “We are beyond delighted that our amazing volunteers have been nominated for this honour and absolutely thrilled they have been selected to receive such a prestigious award.

“We are so proud of our incredible team of more than 270 volunteers who provide such a vital support to so many Suffolk families.

"This is such a wonderful achievement and is well-deserved recognition of the commitment and dedication that our volunteers have towards the wellbeing of families in our county.”

A Home-Start in Suffolk volunteer making a call
A Home-Start in Suffolk volunteer making a call

Volunteer Ali said: “As a volunteer I’m so excited and thrilled by this phenomenal achievement. Everyone within the organisation is so passionate about what we do.

"Pride and compassion run deep through the whole team and we are united in our common goal to support families across Suffolk.

“I am so proud and feel very privileged to be part of such an incredible team.

"I find volunteering is like baking a cake, you get out what you put in and this award and the recognition of the work of Home-Start in Suffolk volunteers is the icing on the perfect cake.”

Hour Community, Framlingham’s volunteers pride themselves on responding to community challenges with hands-on, needs-led community solutions.

An extraordinary range of good neighbour initiatives led to their volunteer numbers swelling to 150 during lockdown.

Its services for elderly and vulnerable residents include befriending, talking to people over the phone, taking them to medical appointments including Covid tests and vaccinations, picking up shopping and prescriptions, and helping with odd jobs around the home.

Nick Corke, CEO of Hour Community, expressed his delight at picking up the award. “It’s humbling, I’m absolutely thrilled," he said.

"You don’t do anything for recognition, but it’s nice when you are recognised for it. It’s not just for me, it’s for the whole team and all the people who have helped over the last 12 years.

“It’s all thanks to that community spirit - everyone wanted to do stuff to help and hopefully we did."

During the past 12 months, the charity saw their volunteer numbers swell from just 50 to 150, as good samaritans from across Suffolk signed up to offer their support.

Butley Ferry is believed to be the smallest licensed ferry in Europe… the service consists of 25 volunteers and a rowing boat.

It is also thought to be one of the oldest ferries in the country - believed to have started in Tudor times.

Now it carries walkers and cyclists across the Butley River, a tributary of the River Ore near Orford Ness, in the Suffollk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is sponsored by the Alde and Ore Association.

Inside Out Community Arts provides mental health and wellbeing support in Ipswich and East Suffolk through arts participation.

Its 10 volunteers enable the charity to offer an extremely successful, professionally run and accessible programme, allowing people to explore their creativity within a warmly accepting community.

The belief and experience of the organisation is that participation in the arts promotes emotional equilibrium and strengthens the spirit. Their excellence is reflected in positive outcomes.

Its programme involves visual arts, music, creative writing, dance and movement, and is delivered by professional artists with a sensitivity to mental and emotional health challenges. All workshops are free.

Clare Countess of Euston, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk
Clare Countess of Euston, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk

Clare, Countess of Euston, the Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk, said: “These five marvellous and varied groups reflect the depth and breadth of volunteering right across the county.

“This is a memorable day with five winners - an all-time record for us - but we know there are so many deserving groups out there so please consider nominating others for 2022.

“I am greatly looking forward to meeting these groups when we arrange their presentations later in the year.”

The winners will receive the award crystal and certificate signed by HM The Queen later this summer. Two volunteers from each group will be invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2022 (depending on restrictions at the time).

Winners are also entitled to use the prestigious QAVS logo on their stationery and print material.

Suffolk Deputy Lieutenant Judith Shallow said: “We are really pleased to have so many awards this year because we have been really pushing for nominations.

Suffolk Deputy Lieutenant Judith Shallow
Suffolk Deputy Lieutenant Judith Shallow

"It’s typical of Suffolk that you go to organisations to ask them to put themselves forward, and they say ‘we don’t do it for recognition’.

“But the award is there to recognise the volunteers. We have some amazing organisations and we just need more of them to come forward.”

She said the nomination process was now much simpler. “You go online and only have to write 100 words on what they do.”

To nominate a group for the 2022 Awards go online to qavs.culture.gov.uk. Advice and support is available at suffolk-lieutenancy.org.uk/queens-award-for-voluntary-service.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk