By Jack Parker
Durham University’s Student Volunteering and Outreach group has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The Award, established in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, is the highest award given for community volunteering in the UK – and is equivalent to an MBE.
Each year, the recipients of the Award are announced on the 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, coinciding with Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June).
Durham’s Student Volunteering and Outreach group is one of the 230 groups from across the country to have received the prestigious Award in 2020.
Past winners include Age UK, the British Red Cross, and the British Youth Council.
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “This is a great honour for Durham University, of which we are very proud.
“It is a tribute to all of our community-spirited students who give endless hours of their own time to supporting good causes, both locally and further afield.
“I also want to thank our many community partners who work with us to host student volunteers. Our students could not make the difference they make without your support. This Award is also a recognition of your success.”
The group is one of 230 from across the country to receive the Award in 2020.
Over 2,000 Durham University students undertake volunteering annually, giving a combined 40,000 hours of their time.
They take part in over 50 different projects, separated into three broad categories: Sports and Physical Activities, Education and Environment, and Social Inclusion and Complex Needs.
Each project is conceived, started, and developed by Durham University students, who then manage their respective projects on a daily basis, alongside their studies.
The projects work with people across society, including local schools, children referred through social services, the elderly, the homeless, and those in prison.
The University estimates that around 2,500 people benefitted directly from these programmes last year.
Around 2,500 people benefitted directly from these programmes last year.
Among the longest-standing of these projects is Children Achieving Through Student Support (CATSS), funded by BBC Children in Need. The project provides free activities for children with limited social opportunities.
Julian Brandon, a Primary Education student and a CATSS project leader, said: “I have absolutely loved being involved with Durham University Student Volunteering and Outreach; it has been my favourite part of University.
“Leading the CATSS project for four years, I have been able to help transform children’s lives. The experience has been enjoyable, meaningful and very rewarding.”
Lynn Stavers, a School and Family Worker at Pelton Community Primary School and Beamish Primary School (Federation) near Chester-le-Street, has referred children to CATSS for three years.
She said: “I have witnessed the fantastic interaction between the student volunteers working on the project and the children – the students are enthusiastic, friendly and very welcoming.
“The project makes a massive difference to the children who attend. I can’t praise or thank this project enough for allowing some of our most vulnerable children to have this amazing experience.”
“I’d like to congratulate all of the winners for their hard work”Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society
Students and staff will receive the award from Mrs Sue Snowdon, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, later this summer.
Alongside other recipients of this year’s Award, two volunteers will attend a Buckingham Palace garden party in Spring 2021.
Announcing this year’s 230 recipients, the Award’s Independent Committee Chair Sir Martyn Lewis, said: “All of these award winners have demonstrated a long-term commitment to volunteering that gives real meaning to society, and which shows Britain at its best.
“Moreover, some of them have also managed to provide valuable support with the fight against Covid-19. We owe them our gratitude – and our congratulations.”
Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society, added: “This prestigious award recognises the important work being done by volunteers across the country and I’d like to congratulate all of the winners for their hard work and dedication supporting their communities.”
Image: Durham University via Flickr