• Author: James Coutts

    Heather Mortimore

    Nominated by: Food Facts Friends

    Heather joined the Food Facts Friends food bank at a critical time in late March 2020, when many existing volunteers had resigned to go into shielding. She was initially made responsible for organising the tinned goods. She took on a variety of different roles for FFF, helping the organisation to adapt to an incredible seven-fold increase in demand for its services over the course of just a few weeks. Her support as a volunteer has been integral to the successful running of Food Facts Friends throughout the pandemic.

    Colette Pye

    Nominated by: Mayfield and District Breastfeeding Support Group

    Colette has been volunteering for the last 28 years as a breastfeeding peer supporter in Midlothian. She came to Mayfield and District Breastfeeding Support Group as a participant with her own three children and has been supporting the group (and mums and babies across Midlothian) ever since. She is kind to all the families she meets and goes out of her way to offer them her time and attention. She is a gentle but strong individual that always thinks of others and puts them first. She is also well known in her community for her kindness, understanding and regular good deeds.

    Midlothian Breastfeeding Alliance

    Nominated by: Breastfeeding Network UK

    Midlothian Breastfeeding Alliance (MBA) is a network of trained breastfeeding peer supporters who, collectively, have provided dedicated support to breastfeeding mums across Midlothian for many years. This outstanding team of local female volunteers adapted quickly to the changes brought about by Covid-19, moving their groups online and supporting local women via social media. They gave over 200 gift bags containing self-care items as well as info about breastfeeding to new mums during the first lockdown. They were also closely involved in the development of a Walk, Talk and Feed group.

    Chris Boyle and Ricky Lloyd

    Nominated by: Dalkeith Rugby Football Club

    Chris and Ricky have been volunteering at Dalkeith Rugby for 4 and 10 years respectively. They both worked tirelessly to make sure that rugby could resume and continue safely when permitted. Quite simply, without Chris and Ricky, over 100 kids wouldn’t have been able to feel the health and wellbeing benefits from playing any rugby this year at all. There would have been no ‘minis’ or youth rugby in Dalkeith without them. They are a volunteering force to be reckoned with!

    Connect Project Volunteers

    Nominated by: Volunteer Midlothian

    Volunteers with the Connect Project are matched with an older person who has been identified as socially isolated in the Midlothian community. For the past year Connect has been running as a telephone and online befriending service, whereby the volunteer makes a weekly call to the ‘befriendee’ or client over a period of 6 months. The work of Connect has been shown to increase confidence and self-worth among clients and volunteers, as well as improving levels of well-being and motivation.

    Joseph Burke

    Nominated by: Health in Mind

    Since January 2020 Joseph has been volunteering with Health in Mind, providing one to one support to four Midlothian men experiencing mental health difficulties. He has shown incredible commitment and compassion, offering weekly support to these men while also starting a new job and completing his dissertation. And he achieved all this during a global pandemic!

    Winner: Volunteer of the Year

    Welcoming a new face thanks to the Kickstart Scheme

    We’re delighted to be part of the Kickstart initiative, created as part of the government’s coronavirus response to provide paid employment and career support to Universal Credit claimants aged 16-24. Fraser Waugh started with us this week thanks to Kickstart – we have also discovered that Fraser is a former Volunteer Midlothian volunteer! Over to Fraser to introduce himself:

    Hi, I’m Fraser Waugh, 23, from Penicuik. I have just begun my new role at Midlothian Voluntary Action. After many months of job searching, including sending away 55 applications, CVs, covering letters and nearly 18 months out of full-time employment; I am very pleased to be now working in a sector I am passionate about. I am eager to promote the amazing projects that are happening in and around Midlothian. So, a bit about me:

    My earlier years before MVA

    • After I left school, I went to Forth Valley College in Stirling to complete an HND in Media and Communications
    • Then worked at Ikea Edinburgh for over 2 years
    • Recently I finished my studies at Queen Margaret University in 2020, gaining a BA (Hons) in PR, Marketing and Events right at the start of the pandemic!
    • Now that I have a Kickstart role, I’ll receive on-the-job training and gain some valuable transferable experiences that will allow me to continue in a communications role.

    What volunteering have I done?

    I’ve volunteered in Midlothian – mostly when I was at high school, but throughout my life too:

    Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College
    Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College
    • Assisted in the start-up of the Beadazzling jewellery store in Dalkeith as part of Volunteer Midlothian’s Ready for Retail Project. I also created original jewellery designs such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces, helped run workshops and craft fair stalls, and was a retail assistant. This project was also recognised for all the hard work we did at the Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College. I was also part of another Volunteer Midlothian befriending project, a ‘Sew Crafty’ craft group designed to match up young people with older members of the local community. We knitted, made cards, a bit of jewellery making and any other craft skills that the lovely ladies knew!
    • From doing the Sew Crafty craft group and Beadazzling I gained an ‘Ascent’ Saltire award.
    • I starred in a film project in collaboration with Screen Education Edinburgh on behalf of MYPAS Thinking Differently. We were taught all aspects of filmmaking and created a film on the theme of alcohol abuse. This was filmed on location in Dalkeith and screened at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. You can watch it here.
    • I have also been in Scouting since I was six – now I’m a Cub Scout Leader in Penicuik and an Explorer Leader in Bonnyrigg.
    • On the theme of scouting, I won the senior category in the south of Scotland’s regional district Rotary Club’s National Young Writer’s Competition. The finalists were invited to a presentation at Waterstone’s in Glasgow. Bill Daly, the Scottish crime writer, and Alistair Marquis (District Governor) gave us certificates in recognition for our writing.
    National Young Writer Competition Presentation
    National Young Writer Competition

    Why did I want to work for MVA and the third sector?

    • At MVA there will be a lot of scope for me to get involved in different projects and initiatives – promoting these causes and making a difference appeals to me.
    • The third sector, volunteering and charities especially make a massive contribution to society and it is an industry where there is a lot of transformative work happening.

    What advice would I give to people who want to volunteer? And those who are job searching and looking to ‘stand out’ in applications?

    • GET IN TOUCH with your local volunteering provider! Particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic a lot of charities/other non-for-profit organisations need as much help as possible.
    • Volunteering is great for your mental health and career prospects – this was the case for me! Your job prospects increase a lot as you are helping your local community and learning a lot of different skills in another context outside of work. The opportunities are endless and help you stand out!

    My future plans?

    What I hope to get out of my time at MVA is to gain valuable charity experience that will allow me to continue in a communications role in the third sector. With the experience and training I hope to receive from this role, I’d love to eventually become a brand strategist in a PR or marketing agency creating and implementing strategies for a range of different clients and brands.

    Shondra Riley

    Nominated by: Jenny Bruce of the Little Social Media Company

    Shondra runs Made in Midlothian on a voluntary basis and fulfils several management roles within the organisation. Everything she does is with the local community in mind. She is enthusiastic and encouraging and continues to challenge herself and inspire others. She’s also a fantastic volunteer manager who is approachable, supportive and understanding to all those who meet her.

    Monika Dyczko

    Nominated by: Health in Mind

    Monika Dyczko is the volunteer manager for Health in Mind’s Equal Access service in Midlothian and East Lothian. Monika recruits, trains, inducts, and supports a wide variety of peer volunteers. She started as a volunteer herself with Health in Mind, providing befriending support for people from minority ethnic communities. Monika is an inspiration to her volunteers. Notably, two of the volunteers she has recruited and trained have successfully applied for paid positions and are now volunteer managers themselves.

    Michael Huddleston

    Nominated by: Alzheimer Scotland

    Michael is responsible for managing a team of volunteers in Midlothian, ensuring that Alzheimer Scotland activities are well run and volunteers are properly supported and informed. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael managed a small befriending service and very quickly developed a Telephone Companion Service when the nation went into lockdown. Michael supports 5 key volunteers who have provided an incredible 1100+ calls for 18 people and their carers during the pandemic. He provides the volunteers with regular updates and close support and supervision. He also creates time for peer support and organised an online ‘Volunteer Gathering’ during Volunteers’ Week in June 2020.

    Mark Wells

    Nominated by: Food Facts Friends

    Mark is the founder, manager and driving force behind Food Facts Friends (FFF), which operates a foodbank and offers advice services to those in need. Mark is a remarkable person – unselfish of his time, determined and very persuasive when necessary. It was his resolve to continue to provide food for the most vulnerable in the community that enabled FFF to overcome the considerable challenges of the past year. As elderly team members shielded, he took on and trained their replacements. In the following months he and his highly motivated team succeeded in meeting an incredible seven-fold increase in demand.

    Gorebridge Resilience Partnership

    Nominated by: Gorebridge Development Trust

    Gorebridge Resilience Partnership is a team of local organisations that led the Covid-19 community response in Gorebridge during the pandemic. These volunteers put themselves before the most vulnerable in the local community during what was a frightening and anxious time for everyone. No questions. No hesitation. The group’s work wasn’t just about responding to the crisis of the pandemic; it was also about dignity, respect and community spirit.

    Food Facts Friends Volunteers

    Nominated by: Food Facts Friends

    The volunteers at Food Facts Friends (FFF) have provided food for the most vulnerable in the community since 2016. They have also risen to the considerable additional challenges and demands of the past year to provide for many others. Working long hours receiving and organising food, making up food bags while following health and safety procedures and doing all the extra cleaning necessary for Covid-19 purposes, they satisfied a huge increase in demand as the closure of other services, furlough and unemployment were felt by the community. Even at the present time, demand is still 4 – 5 times what it was a year earlier, but the FFF volunteers have more than risen to the challenge.

    Grant Stanley

    Nominated by: Councillor Paulin Winchester, Midlothian Council

    Grant set up a Facebook group called ‘Our Stars Family’ in 2020. The group provided live entertainment every weekend, raised money for numerous good causes and kept people better connected and supported during the pandemic. The group he created wasn’t just an entertainment page – it also turned into an online community where people could chat or express how they were feeling, where someone would always be happy to listen and give support throughout the tough months of lockdown. True to the name of his Facebook group, Grant is an absolute star!

    Vernon Miles

    Nominated by: Midlothian Voluntary Action

    Vernon has made his mark as a ‘litter picker’ over the past year in Bonnyrigg, inspiring and influencing others in the community to care about the environment so that everyone could enjoy it during lockdown. He only recently moved to Bonnyrigg and has shown a personal commitment to making the community a nicer, safer place for humans and for nature. During a time when many people have felt helpless and found it difficult to see beyond the pandemic, Vernon found an individually powerful way to take environmental action. He deserves to be recognised for that.