It’s Volunteers Week! Volunteering keeps our communities going, and is a week when we recognise and celebrate the contributions from LGBTQIA+ volunteers all over the UK!
Volunteers’ Week reminds us all to take the time to say thank you to the LGBTQIA+ volunteers who dedicate their time volunteering for the LGBTQIA+ sector. This is why we wanted to hold a LGBTQIA+ Volunteer Awards. We were overwhelmed by nominations to our Volunteer Awards and while not everyone can win a prize, these nominations come highly commended! We’ll be sharing the nominations over the next few days so stay tuned!
Thank you to all who have nominated a volunteer team for our LGBTQIA+ Volunteers’ Awards, the winners are as follows:
Fundraising Category Winner: elop’s Fundraising Volunteers
“elop has long been supported by a range of fundraising volunteers who have taken lead on a variety of fundraising challenges. Whilst our fundraising team have looked at increasingly ambitious opportunities to generate income for elop, it’s often the boots on the ground approach that offers greater value through connection to our communities.
Life before covid saw a team of fundraising volunteers meeting in central or east London to carry out community outreach in LGBT+ and queer venues where they would talk about the support, we offer community and collect change that would support our unfunded services. It takes a lot of confidence to talk to strangers, one after another, venue after venue, but they often reported the value expressed by our community that they were a visible presence and appreciation of elop’s support. They often talked with people who had used elop services or knew of people who had and always had positive experiences to share.
Alongside outreach, fundraisers have braved the ask for items to raffle or auction at events, again, something that takes a lot of confidence to do but is so valuable for us as a small charity as not only do we gain from the raffle ticket funds, but it also raises our profile within the community.
For the last few years, we have been running an annual exercise for elop campaign where we’ve asked community to use February to celebrate another year of elop services by engaging in an exercise related fundraising activity, such as using the stairs rather than lift or escalator, walking for wellness, or daily hopscotch. Recently, one of our Trustees committed to cycling 280km over the month in support of elop”.
Operations Category Winner: Free2B’s Volunteer Operations Team
“We have a small team of amazing volunteers helping ‘behind the scenes,’ with tasks including payroll administration, data entry, research, and proofreading.
We are so delighted to be able to nominate this fabulous bunch as their work goes unseen outside of our own team and it’s wonderful to be able to shout about their contributions!
They have taken on mammoth tasks such as transferring all our client data from an old system over to a new database – manually transferring over 300 client records across to the new system! And proofreading pages and pages of funding bids, policies, webpage content and printed youth resources. Though it does mean that whilst we are proud to nominate this team, we are also quite nervous as this entry hasn’t been proofread for obvious reasons and we’ll likely get in trouble with our ‘top checker!’
Through their dedicated hard work, they help us to ensure everything runs smoothly and effectively, and they do so quietly in the background – which is why we’d like to shine a huge spotlight on them to say THANK YOU!”.
Community Engagement Category Winner: Think2speak’s Volunteers
The team of volunteers who support LGBTQ+ young people and their families, through Think2Speak are true life savers! Bringing their whole selves and their wealth of love, warmth and lived experience into the lives of the families who turn to us, showcases queer adults in a way that inspires, empowers and boosts the wellbeing of all!
The families who came along to our Spring 2023 residential said:
“Thank you to everyone who played a part in this weekend because you’ve all made a difference. We have brought home a more confident and positive teenager who has not stopped talking about Anna since we came home! The small conversations, the big conversations, the laughter, and the emotion will stay with us forever and memories made are truly unforgettable”.
“The weekend was fantastic, the support that we have had from this group has been amazing and I’ve made incredible friends whom I see regularly outside group too. Thank you so much Jo and Lizzie as well as the other volunteers that made this happen. I can’t wait to see the photos”.
“A massive huge thank you to you Lizzie, and Jo, along with your team to arrange such a successful fun filled weekend, and to your wonder special guest speakers too, for giving their time and sharing their personal journeys and knowledge”.
Without our amazing team of volunteers, our groups and events wouldn’t be able to happen! Each of our volunteers are amazing!
Unsung Hero: Mermaids Northern Ireland Service’s Volunteer Team
“I would like to nominate the Mermaids Northern Ireland Service volunteer team for the Community Engagement category. I believe they are worthy winners because they embody the values of Mermaids to embrace our children, young people and families and help to reduce isolation and loneliness, and celebrate gender diversity to empower and help to increase resilience and confidence through acceptance and practical support, and to educate providing information, resources and training to service users, professionals and the wider public to ensure Mermaids vision to create a world where trans, non-binary and gender-diverse young people can be themselves and thrive.
They work tirelessly in the sector, meeting parents and facilitating peer support groups throughout NI in their spare time. Travelling far and wide giving much needed 121 support to families in crisis. Through the work they do at pride events and information stalls they are raising the visibility of the service and support available and providing opportunities for children, young people, and their families to enjoy more social connections, feel supported and use their voice to be visible and heard across service delivery and within civic participation.
Why do they do it they have been asked many times; because they have also been those families looking for support and they know first-hand the difference that makes for positive outcomes. When these volunteers talk to new families, they do not only draw on their own lived experiences but the lived experiences of the 100s of families they have supported. Our NI volunteers enable the Mermaids NI service to offer a full programme of activities and events throughout the year, engage with and support hundreds of young people and their families across the region through a robust established and growing peer support network.
As I have said if it were not for our team of volunteers, we could not do all the things we do here in NI. Considering the sector, we work in where we are very much scrutinized, and that all our volunteers go through a robust and time-consuming induction, training, and safeguarding process, and knowing that their family lives are busy, and they all have work obligations their commitment to the Mermaids NI Service is astounding. Each volunteer deserves recognition of the part they play in building our service delivery across Northern Ireland, and I am delighted to be able to nominate the whole team”.