Celebrating the work of volunteers
Published on: 10th November 2011
An event took place last week to celebrate the fantastic contribution made by a whole host of people who volunteer in the field of poverty and homelessness.
The ceremony at St George's Crypt in the city centre took place as part of the 2011 European Year of Volunteering in Leeds, and was a great opportunity to thank long term volunteers for their work to help the homeless or those in poverty in the city.
The focus on poverty and homelessness throughout this year has been led by four of the many volunteer organisations in Leeds who provide services for the homeless – St Georges Crypt, Urban Sprawl, Unity in Poverty Action and Big Issue in the North, supported by Leeds City Council. The aim of the campaign has been to raise people’s awareness about what the many local based organisations in Leeds that support the homeless and tackle poverty do, and to encourage existing and new volunteers to help.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, champion for volunteering in Leeds said:
“There is an army of unsung heroes, who give their time and skills for free to help vulnerable people and support communities in our city, and their efforts often go unnoticed.
“We think that all volunteers are special, which is why for the past two years we have worked in partnership with Voluntary Action Leeds and other third sector organisations to celebrate and promote the good that they do and the contribution that they make to our city.
“I hope that the work of these volunteers will motivate others to get involved.”
The chief executive of Leeds City Council, Tom Riordan, was the guest speaker at the event. He said:
“Volunteering has been a big focus for Leeds during 2010 and 2011, and we have had a lot of success with getting more people involved as a result of this.
“Volunteers don’t do what they do because they want to be thanked and receive a pat on the back. The reason that they volunteer is that they just want to do their bit and help people that might be going through bad times, or charitable organisations that need help to provide a service.
“The people recognised at the event last week have consistently given their time to help the homeless or those in poverty for free for a number of years, and it is right for their commitment and community spirit to be acknowledged in this way.
“There are some really wonderful stories about the work that these volunteers do, and I was delighted to be at the event to hear them.”
A total of 21 individuals from seven organisations were recognised, plus the whole volunteering teams at Canopy and Leeds Summat.
Alex Joiner and Annie Ocsko – Kidz Klub Leeds
Kidz Klub Leeds was launched in March 2000 to meet the need of a generation of inner city children growing up in areas of high deprivation with a lack of positive role models or aspirations for the future. It operates in areas where drug use, truancy and petty crime are the norm and poverty is a reality. The work of Kidz Klub covers the whole of inner city Leeds with a range of activities to challenge poverty in all its forms, and promote the welfare of children and families.
Their first volunteer to be recognised was Alex Joiner. Alex was part of the founding Kidz Klub Leeds team, 11 years and 8 months ago. Apart from a short break a few years ago, Alex has remained an amazing figure of faithful service to the work he believes so much in. Alex has for many years set the standard for other volunteers, keen to make sure Kidz Klub delivers the best for children who often have the least.
Throughout this time Alex has been part of the Kidz Klub’s home visiting programme, visiting children in his Richmond Hill patch week in week out during term time, and being part of the city (or Saturday morning) weekly Kidz Klub sessions. Alex has always shown steely determination to see his ‘visiting round’ completed, and completed well, come rain, snow, ice and shine.
Alex is just like another staff member: a wise head you can count on, with fresh ideas; connecting families dealing with a loss with different churches, struggling single parents with avenues of real support, and being there for children who have little to rely on. Alex is a man of genuine faith who truly believes what he says, and says what he means.
The second Kidz Klub volunteer to be recognised was Annie Ocsko. Annie was part of the founding team that launched Kidz Klub Leeds 11 years and 8 months ago. Over that period of time she has conducted her ‘visiting round’, visiting inner city children at home every week during term time and been part of the city (or Saturday morning) Kidz Klub team, delivering weekly term time Saturday morning sessions.
Annie is a rock: ultra-reliable and someone that her fellow workers, the children and their families can count on. Annie always tries to bring everything she’s got, and will speak her mind about what she sees around her, through a strong sense of right and wrong and wanting the best for those who have the least. Annie is warm, and a good friend, someone who a fellow volunteer said was, “simply an amazing woman.”
In all conditions Annie has made sure that if she can, she will be there for Kidz Klub and for the children. Annie loves her ‘visiting round’, and makes sure that it gets done week in week out whatever the weather conditions. Anne has shown incredible commitment over the years, and because of her the lives of many children in Leeds have been changed.
RETAS - Adwan Adwan, N’sira Camara and Mamadou Bah
RETAS is a small voluntary organisation; Refugee Education Training and Advisory Service, based at Roundhay Road, Harehills. Its aim is to assist clients, refugees and asylum seekers, to reach their full potential in settling down in Leeds and surrounding areas.
The first volunteer recognised is Adwan from the Bajuni islands of Somalia. He manages the receptionist role every Tuesday. This role requires tact, patience, politeness and careful attention to detail. Adwan has all of these and more. Above all he is utterly relliable, and if he cant’t make it in always gives plenty of warning. Not only does Adwan volunteer with RETAS, he also gives his time as a volunteer with a number of other organisations; such as City of Sanctuary and Advocacy Support. He always engages with new initiatives with enthusiaism and clear purpose; to help others.
Adwan has endured much hardship in his life and has a deteriorating disability. This is someone who could sit at home all day on his benefits and let life pass him by. He doesn’t - he is very involved with his community, local organisations and life in general.
The second volunteer is N'Sira Camara from Guinea. She came to the UK completely on her own as a young girl. She has been a volunteer with RETAS for over a year. She is utterly reliable and responsible in all the various roles she has held with RETAS.
Her natural elegance enables N,Siara to make everyone feel most welcome and immediately comfortable. These qualities along with an opportunity RETAS introduced her to some months ago has now led to N'Sira gaining fulltime employment with a very reputable retail chain of shops in the UK.
The third volunteer recognised is Mamadou Bah. Another name for Mamadou would be Mr RETAS. As a long waiting asylum seeker from Guinea (he had to wait seven years) he has played many roles at RETAS. He has assisted as a security officer at many events, carried out his receptionist role with great skill and is a keen football player with the RETAS football team. Mamadou is very personable, warm and friendly. He loves new challenges and is now a fulltime student at Bradford University studying economics and international relations.