On Thursday 6 June 2019, Reading Voluntary Action hosted the third annual Reading Volunteer Awards on the fourteenth floor of Thames Tower. The event celebrated and honoured volunteers and the extraordinary impact that volunteering has on the town.
On arrival, award nominees were presented with certificates of thanks for the difference they are making to life in Reading. This year’s event was a more informal affair than last year’s sit-down meal, enabling nominees and their guests to enjoy the impressive location by mingling in the sky garden and terrace, and appreciating the far-reaching views across Reading. Vegetarian and vegan food was provided by RISC Global Café, and included Iraqi-style mac and cheese pasta, penne pesto pasta with pine nuts, potato, onion and carrot pakoras, Vietnamese spring rolls, mustard mayo sushi and colourful salads.
Steve Hendry, RVA’s Volunteering Development Manager, welcomed guests from organisations across the town (see the full list here and read interviews with some of the nominees). Karen Morton, Chair of RVA’s Trustees reflected on how, ‘in difficult times, it’s amazing to remember how many give their time, commitment, compassion and love as volunteers, and keep the world going around’.
One of the volunteers being honoured for her long-standing contribution was Mary Hancock, a retired NHS nurse, who has been volunteering for the gardening charity Thrive for 25 years. Mary said that following the death of her husband, instead of flowers, she requested donations to build a memorial garden in his honour, which she attempts to visit every Wednesday till this day. Volunteering for Thrive, Mary has seen how people have had their lives changed for the better by gardening: ‘Gardening is a way in which the world becomes more beautiful – you are building something not destroying it, and we need more building and less destroying in this world!’. In nominating Mary, Thrive praised her ‘tireless service and dedication…reflected in her amazing length of service volunteering with us. A truly remarkable volunteer.’
According to a music graduate Tyler Clapham, an RVA volunteer supporting the awards for the second time, assisting with the music production for the awards enables him to practise and utilise skills that he developed during his studies at university, while he continues the search for his dream job. What he finds most rewarding about his volunteering role is that he can help others while practising what he enjoys.
Reading Volunteer Awards shines a light on the work of charities across the town. After speaking to volunteers from all walks of life, I was reminded of its importance and necessity in this world. Volunteering doesn’t have to be something that requires hours of hard labour. On the contrary, it can be as little as an hour or two a week in front of a computer, supporting those in need, but also developing new skills or practising existing ones. Equally, it can be very rewarding having the chance to work alongside other volunteers, and to feel that you are making a true difference to the world.