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Volunteers Award Winners

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CAMDEN50 EXCEPTIONAL VOLUNTEERS CELEBRATION which took place at Camden Town Hall on Thursday 19 Nov 2015

Camden celebrates its 50th birthday as a borough this year and this event was part of the celebrations.

We wanted to acknowledge the fantastic contributions of all the borough’s volunteers. Ideally we would thank everyone individually. As this was impossible some exceptional volunteers were chosen to receive a certificate and thanks from the Mayor on behalf of all those who give their time to help others.

The evening opened with a welcome speech from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Sarah Hayward. The Award Ceremony was led by Cllr Sally Gimson, assisted by Cllr Abdul Hai, with certificates presented by the Mayor, Cllr Larraine Revah. It concluded with speeches from the Mayor and Keir Starmer MP.

The awards were as follows:

Young person category

Iggy Fiore

Iggy has volunteered for 18 months as part of a Leadership Project at Coram’s Fields. Iggy’s had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of children and young people at Coram’s Fields. He has built a great rapport with individuals which has been a motivating factor in lots of children taking part in exercise and sport.

“At university I’ve been studying Sociology”, explains Iggy, “so I guess playing tag Rugby in Zambia next February is sort of interlinked”. The opportunity Iggy describes with the Tag Rugby Trust came out of his recent 18-month volunteering on the Leadership Project at Coram’s Fields. In the summer, he encouraged children to participate in sports activities by building individual rapport and his positive and enthusiastic approach got everyone involved. As well as keeping fit along with the children, Iggy gained experience in planning activities, building communication and team work. This Camden volunteering opportunity was a good fit time-wise as his long summer break coincided with the children’s.

Iggy doesn’t have a definite career path planned but believes strongly that volunteering by doing something he loves has benefited the children he was with and given him the experience, skills and confidence to explore overseas volunteering.

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Older volunteer category

Bunmi Osula

Bunmi has been volunteering at several elderly schemes in Camden for over 10 years. She also volunteers her time with the backing of Praise Christian Centre. Bunmi has come to take the residents of these homes as her family and is always cheerful willingly gives of herself over the years.

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Trustee category

Aluat Biong

Aluat is the longest serving trustee at the South Sudan Women Development Association and has volunteered there for 19 years. Aluat is a devoted member of the board. She made a huge difference to the lives of the South Sudanese in Camden.

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New volunteer category

Mimoza Arifi

Initially starting with Volunteer Centre Camden as a receptionist, Mimoza then joined the Pop Up team, delivering volunteering outreach events across the borough. She excelled at this and was soon promoted to co-ordinating the project. She has embraced the spirit of volunteering and is a powerful advocate for it.

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Long standing volunteer category

Eileen McMohan

Eileen has been the volunteer receptionist at Women & Health for 14 years, providing a warm welcome to staff, clients and visitors as well as comprehensive administrative support. Her dedication and commitment are legendary, as are her exceptional interpersonal skills. She has also been a longstanding volunteer at Volunteer Centre Camden

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Overcoming a personal challenge category

Saba Mirza

Volunteering has “changed my life so much. Working with children inspires and motivates me”

Saba Mirza says passionately. For the past five years she has drawn on her challenging life experiences to support young children facing similar challenges at Swiss Cottage School – the school she herself attended. Her insight, empathy and patience make a big difference to their lives but she feels she gains even more from them. Their spirit, she explains, makes her strong and as the children “make the biggest difference to my life”, she’s decided to build her career on her volunteering.

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Transforming lives category

John Smith

At a time when many older people feel isolated at home, this is not a problem which the residents of the Origin Housing Association in Somers Town have, thanks to their caretaker, John Smith. They have peace of mind because of their “marvellous” John. He checks on their welfare, makes repairs and is happy to get anything they need if they can’t get out. To John it’s simple: “that’s caretaking” - getting “pleasure out of helping people”. But there’s also another motivation for this good neighbour. He explains that growing up in the area means he’s known most of the residents over many years. “They looked after me as a kid. They’ve been a big part of my life.” John’s volunteering acknowledges how so many of the residents transformed his early life in the past by helping to transform their lives now.

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Employee volunteering through the workplace category

Karen Landles – Exterion Media

Karen delivered a series of sales training workshops to over 60 charities in Camden. Karen’s sales training made a huge impact on their confidence in engaging with businesses. She has also done 1:1 consultations with organisations across Camden. Karen is a huge resource to Camden organisations and gives unstintingly of her time and skills.

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Group volunteering category

Camden Baby Feeding Team

The Camden Baby feeding team help mothers to feel confident and supported in their choice of feeding their babies.

“The best part is going to the Royal Free and seeing the tiny newborns, just a couple of hours old.” Samira Jamal was so grateful for the help she’d had to breast feed her first child that she began volunteering “just for a year” to help other new Mums to enjoy it too. That was in 2006. Nearly a decade on, she still loves it.

As volunteers, Samira and other members of the team visit baby groups, GPs, clinics and hospitals to support new mothers to experience the benefits of breast feeding for themselves. But they give flexible, supportive and non-judgemental advice: they advise on all the stages of baby feeding up to moving onto eating healthy solids. Samira’s memory of the exciting and bewildering experience of being a new Mum gives her the empathy and insight to offer valuable peer support. The (second) best gift any new Mother could have. For more information contact: www.camden.gov.uk/babyfeeding

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Special Camden50 award category for people who have volunteered in Camden for fifty years or more

Andreas Avgoustis

Mr Avgoustis who is approaching 90 years of age has been the chairman of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Anargyre, St Damian and St Cosmas in Highgate for the last 45 years and previously to that was one of the founding committee members of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Camden. He has volunteered for 52 years in Camden serving the various Greek Orthodox Christian communities.

Joan Cooney

A mother volunteering at her children’s school does not make Joan Cooney’s experience much different from many parents. What is remarkable is that Joan began in 1965 and has never stopped supporting her fellow Camden residents in multiple ways since.

After 50 years she gives four to five hours each day and weekends to other people: sharing a cuppa with people who are socially isolated, visiting hospices and helping homeless people find their way back into employment. Joan fits in an astonishing four to five hours on weekdays and weekends around her paid work and family commitments. Far from finding this exhausting, Joan believes that it gives her the energy to keep going. “I get great pleasure making people happy” is Joan’s simple yet powerful belief of the two-way benefits of her massive and golden contribution to her community.

Barbara Hughes

At the age of 84, Barbara is an inspirational volunteer. She has inspired hundreds (possibly thousands) of local people and mentored tens (possibly hundreds) of local people from directors of charity organisations, Camden councillors and officers, to young mums and youths. She has led campaigns against crime and domestic violence. She has been a union activist and trustee of a number of Camden charities.

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Thanks are also due to:

Kevan Pearson volunteer photographer

Angela Routley, volunteer community radio reporter

Samantha McNeil and her team of volunteers from Clean Break

Laurie Mills, Hampstead School, for playing the piano

Tulip Siddiq MP, Keir Starmer MP, Sir Ian Johnston CBE, QPM, DL and the Mayor Cllr Larraine Revah for sitting on the selection panel