Twenty two Greater Manchester voluntary groups have been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Commonly known as the MBE for volunteer groups, it is the highest award a group can receive in the UK.
They are part of a group of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive this prestigious award this year across the UK. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving. Greater Manchester has received the most awards of any County for the 4th year running, which shows how committed and full of innovative ideas our volunteers are, making life better for those around them.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 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 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. The Greater Manchester award winners are a wonderfully diverse group and will receive their award later in the Summer from The Lord-Lieutenant and 2 members of each group will attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in 2022.
The Lord-Lieutenant said, “This award recognises the contribution an organisation makes within its community. It is a rare honour. It is not won easily and it recognises real achievement, effort, and a major contribution to the community. The last 16 months have highlighted just how valuable volunteering is to the country, with groups innovatively continuing their valuable work in the community, despite the restrictions and threat of the virus and I hope many more will be nominated in the future”.
Any group of two or more people that has participated in voluntary work for more than three years can be nominated for the award. Full details on how to nominate are available at https://qavs.dcms.gov.uk. Nominations for the 2022 awards close on 15th September 2021.
The groups awarded this year are as follows:
BEACON BOLTON COUNSELLING SERVICE
Beacon gives support to thousands of people from the most disadvantaged areas in the community, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality They offer guidance and counselling at times of dire need, enabling people to get their lives back together.
As well as general therapy to those in need, Beacon provides a SAVS (Sexual Abuse Victims and Survivors) to female and male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The respect that Beacon has gained through its work has led to other local counselling organisations asking for guidance to take back to their organisations.
7 nights a week, 365 days a year, Coffee4Craig provides hot food, clean clothes, showers and washing facilities for the homeless. In addition, emotional support, advice and medical treatment are also provided during each day. Treatment may be for a variety of conditions e.g. hypothermia, trenchfoot and referral to hospital as necessary. Crisis intervention also takes place e.g. emergency accommodation, sepsis referral etc. A defibrillator is used on average twice a week for drug overdose resulting in cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The centre is also a drop in during the day for supporting female street workers, male sex workers, needle exchange, street beggars, and those released from prison.
FRIENDS OF HOPWOOD PARK
Since 2011, the group have developed and implemented ambitious plans to enhance and open up the facilities for the local community. Ongoing drainage problems which resulted in flooding have been addressed with the creation of a large wildlife pond. Paths have been laid with tarmac and flower beds, planters and a wild flower meadow have been installed along with an orchard. There is a playground with apparatus and a zip-wire. In partnership with the adjacent primary school a secure all-weather playground has been installed, used by the school in school hours but which reverts to community use after 4.00pm. An ice-cream and soft drinks cabin was installed which has now been enhanced by a larger cafe after securing funding of £70,000 to turn a derelict bus shelter into a modern facility. Picnic tables and outdoor seating are available and plans are being finalised for a terraced seating area overlooking the bowling green.
GORTON IMAGINATION LIBRARY
They provide high quality age-appropriate books for children from birth to 5 years in an area of high social deprivation. In addition, due to excellent multi agency partnership working, they signpost families to activities to support their child’s early literacy, adult literacy and back to work help. They provide volunteering opportunities to parents wanting to build their confidence prior to returning to work or accessing further education. They offer support and vital networking for local schools and nurseries via their all-encompassing Sure Start partnerships.
LEIGH CARING KITCHEN T/A THE BRIDGE AT LEIGH
The Bridge address poverty and exclusion through a social supermarket, community cafe, wellness, recovery and inclusion services.
In providing a social supermarket volunteers are involved at all stages of the programme from resourcing supplies, warehousing, stacking shelves in a very well laid-out store and working at the point of sale. Supplies are donated or acquired inexpensively and sold at approximately 20% to those experiencing food poverty. The food on sale is varied, providing good nutrition and including a considerable amount of fresh produce. The community cafe, is a popular place for people to drop in to find friendship and conversation over an affordable tea/coffee.
They also run diverse activities including yoga, art, crafts, flower arranging and IT skills, offer support and advice for mental well-being, anxiety sessions, debt management and confidence building and provide women with clothes, confidence and interview skills to get their next job through their ‘Just the Job’ service.
MACFESTUK commenced in 2017 in the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack. It is a passionate project, the brainchild of Qaisra Shahraz (a Mancunian Muslim author and award-winning activist) to bring together and celebrate solidarity and communities of all faiths (and none), races and ages. The initial idea was to create a festival aimed at building bridges, confronting negative stereotypes and to give Muslim heritage a platform in a way that engages people from a wide variety of backgrounds. MACFEST shows that Islamic communities are not just alive but rich with culture. The festival is usually held in a variety of venues: schools, colleges, universities, galleries, museums, theatres and libraries. The mission is to celebrate arts, connect communities and to spread sweetness and positivity, hence their slogan ‘Spread Honey Not Hate’.
MANCHESTER TRANSPORT MUSEUM SOCIETY LTD (MTMS)
MTMS started in 1961 initially to collect documents and artefacts relating to Manchester’s tramways. This expanded to the acquisition and restoration of historic tramcars. A further major development from 1980 has been the heritage tramway and museum and shop within Heaton Park. The former has historic trams running several days per week during the Easter to Autumn period. The operation of the tramway is through Manchester Tramway Company Limited, which is a joint venture between MTMS and Manchester City Council. They also produce a regular journal and occasional one-off publications.
MOSS SIDE ALLOTMENT GROUP
The group grows fruit and vegetables organically and in a sustainable way on this community allotment. By encouraging the spread of wild flowers and creating a pond, the members have developed a sustainable urban wildlife habitat. Surplus produce is shared among members and via the local primary school for families in need. They built and run their community hub which is used as an educational resource for adults and children; the hub is available for hire to groups and individuals for social occasions. In collaboration with the local housing association and Manchester City Council the group provides Christmas food boxes for families in need. Non-perishable items are donated by local residents and supplemented by surplus produce from the allotment harvest.
Myriad Foundation addresses the needs of vulnerable people in the community of Manchester. With rising numbers of people living rough on the street of the city the organisation provided valuable consultation with Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester Metro Mayor) to drive his project to reduce and eventually eradicate homelessness on the streets of Manchester. As an outreach organisation they can respond rapidly to need and develop projects to meet emerging need. For example, in their ‘B A Hero’ project they work with the NHS to promote the value of giving blood to members of the BAME community. The growth of knife crime and racial tension in Manchester led to the development of the ‘Unveiling Islam’ project which delivers lessons, assemblies, workshops and presentations on Islamic topics to schools.
NETWORKING IN EAST OLDHAM NEIGHBOURHOODS (NEON)
Established as a charity over five years ago in response to the lack of opportunities to support people in need in this area of Oldham, NEON set up services and signposting in order to address social isolation, poverty, housing, food, health and education needs within this community. Its premises are open seven days a week all year round and offers a programme of activities, which include food distribution, facilitating advice services, hosting weekly social and education groups and providing a lifeline for the hardest to reach members within its neighbourhood.
OLDHAM BOXING AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
The Club is much more than just about providing a boxing facility, it looks after people of all ages, but in particular the 8-25 age group, who may have emotional problems, mental health, drug and alcohol issues or suffer from bouts of aggression and violence. It helps them develop confidence, achieve self-worth and self-belief. It is also a disability inclusive club. Boxing Classes each week include Children’s, Carded boxers, Ladies only and Seniors’ keep fit. They also provide Boxing Classes at satellite hubs.
OLDHAM STREET ANGELS
Oldham town centre has a vibrant and busy night time economy. With many people gathering to have a night out, there are many problems that occur with people having accidents, fights and domestics. Not just the injuries, there are many instances where people just need reassurance and help with getting home.
The group provide first aid to the injured, keeping people safe who are vulnerable, providing food and support to the rough sleepers of the town, providing contraceptives for women’s health and being a listening ear for many people.
In addition, they are also able to provide shower and washing facilities and a warm resting place from their base in the town centre.
OUR KIDS EYES
Prior to 1997 there were no provisions for children with complex needs in Tameside. A group of frustrated parents came together in order to lobby the Local Authority and in 2005 they formed the Charity Our Kids Eyes providing support, information and activities for families who have children with special educational needs or disabilities. They also give advice to other Support groups who perhaps have knowledge of one specific disability but not the broad level of expertise which OKE has. Members of OKE sit on Strategic (e.g. SEND) Council Boards to lobby Councillors ensuring that a sufficient level of support is offered to Tameside families. They organise Disability Forums to ensure that User/families voices are heard. Through lobbying a Sixth form College was set up in Tameside specifically so that their users can continue their education.
QUEENS HALL ACTION ON POVERTY T/A THE BRICK CHARITY
There is no similar group within Wigan Borough. The Brick is considered by Wigan Council to be their essential partner in addressing homelessness, poverty, and debt crisis. They provide a safe place to live through emergency and supported accommodation with wrap around person-centred support with access to food, toiletries and essentials. They then provide person-centred support to build skills and confidence, employability and team working including through a portfolio of social enterprises (cafe/catering; retail shop; bike recycling, repair and maintenance; upcycling furniture, wood working, mechanical skills and upholstery).
The group provide a supported programme for heart patients after their discharge from NHS care (12 weeks post op) including a weekly gentle exercise programme, availability of professionals to discuss any worries and the opportunity to meet other patients who have undergone similar heart procedures. They also organise social evenings, healthy lifestyle events, relevant interesting speakers and fundraising events.
Outside the organised classes, support is offered to patients, whether they are still in hospital, attending out- patient clinics or back home in the community. This support is offered by a variety of people, including those who are medically qualified, those who have experienced heart complaints and their attendant problems and others, who in some way can offer relevant help and support. Their fundraising activities raise funding which enables them to purchase essential pieces of equipment for the cardiac units in the Pennine Trust.
SADDLEWORTH AND OLDHAM AREA WHIT FRIDAY BRASS BAND CONTESTS
The Band contest is part of the cultural heritage of the area. The contests are the highlight of the banding world calendar. It was established in 1884 when the villages set up bands to walk with their church on whit Friday. The group develop, plan, produce and coordinate the staging of the Band festival. They produce magazines in which they sell advertisement space. They plan and produce the event programmes and all the proceeds go towards funding the event. The logistical expertise needed for this cannot be underestimated. The group also formally liaise with the Local authority, police, transport and health services to ensure safety during the contest in a geographical area of over 30 miles.
STOCKPORT USER FRIENDLY FELLOWSHIP (STUFF)
The Service was originally established in 1999 as a joint initiative between Stockport Metropolitan Council and Stockport User Friendly Fellowship, an organisation comprising of volunteers who offer support and mentoring to Service Users currently receiving support from mental health services to help them live independent lives and ultimately assist in reducing the number of Service Users re-admitted to hospital. The group offer a range of social, therapeutic, leisure, volunteering opportunities and skills-based activities focussed on mental health recovery and practical assistance designed to enable individuals to take and remain in control of their health and continue to live within the local community.
THE ANTHONY SEDDON FUND
The Anthony Seddon Centre was set up in 2014 by a selfless mother and father who tragically lost their son through suicide, aged 30. The group deliver a number of support groups and therapeutic activities to support mental health and wellbeing to the people of Tameside in Greater Manchester, including a Peer support Mental Health ‘Drop In’, Family & Friends Mental Health Support Group, a Suicide Bereavement Support Group, Hearing Voices Support Group, Meditation, Reiki, and Tai Chi Classes, Music Sessions and a ‘Talk Shop’ to support 9-19-year-olds. They also provide a bereavement cafe, enabling survivors to do something positive while being supported.
THE MY VOICE PROJECT
The My Voice Project is unique in the way it uses volunteers in a number of differing roles to record and memorialise the lives and, often horrific, experiences of Holocaust survivors who have settled in Greater Manchester. The information is then collated into books. Through the production of books about each individual, the project preserves the history, lives and experiences of aging Holocaust survivors. This is a therapeutic exercise and benefit for the survivors themselves and their families. More indirectly it also provides a useful and well received educational resource for schools, colleges, universities, museums and numerous and varied community groups.
THE PROUD TRUST
The organisation supports LGBT+ young people to make positive change for themselves and their communities. They provide youth groups for LGBT+ young people, community work and a community cafe for the whole community with LGBT+ focus, training on LGBT+ awareness, help services for LGBT+ young people (one-to-one support and digital support services) and research into young people, equalities, and LGBT+ issues/identities.
Through training and confidence-building, users of the services have gone on to become youth group volunteers and volunteers at the LGBT+ community cafe and trustees. Consequently, there is an impressive peer group culture that is enhanced by volunteers from local businesses with LGBT+ staff networks.
WALKING WITH THE WOUNDED
The organisation supports people who are former military personnel as they deal with life in ‘civvie street’ particularly as it affects their mental health and physical wellbeing. There are many challenges to be faced, including, but not limited to, unemployment, PTSD, self-isolation, self-harm, loneliness, and suicidal tendencies. WWTW’s volunteer project creates the opportunity for individuals to make positive changes for themselves, their families, and their communities. Volunteers are mainly highly skilled and motivated ex-military personnel who get involved in clean-ups, food delivery and much more.
WILLOW HEY COMMUNITY PROJECT
The people who use Willow Hey in Bolton are those in need of social contact, people who may be suffering from depression, loneliness, bereavement, or low mental health and self-esteem. Willow Hey offerings to the local community include, community food growing and sharing, a men’s group project aimed at isolated men who are taught woodworking skills and have ‘Safe Machinery Training’, a women’s group where local women meet together, courses offered in DIY, cooking, green woodworking and wo od carving. They host a weekly community open day to encourage community cohesion and combat loneliness and other community events throughout the year, including the annual Festival.