• Eva Hesketh-Laird

    Organisation: Glencorse Centre and Penicuik Storehouse

    Eva has put in a significant number of hours of volunteering, initially for the Glencorse Centre in Auchendinny and more recently for the Storehouse in Penicuik. A truly versatile individual taking on lots of roles, Eva has made a big impact and clearly wants the Storehouse to be the best it can possibly be. Her commitment, enthusiasm, and creation of ideas for improvement show how Eva strives for excellence for both the organisation and the customers it serves. She is a great asset to the Storehouse and to the wider community in Penicuik.

    Kyle Anderson

    Organisation: Loanhead Lego Club and Zoom Minecraft groups

    At just 16 years old, Kyle stands out as a truly inspirational young volunteer. He has shown real initiative in creating and delivering the Lego Club and, latterly during the pandemic, Zoom Minecraft clubs for children and young people. Kyle quickly realised that the Zoom sessions he was running were about more than just Minecraft. Indeed, they were also about reducing loneliness and isolation, positively impacting on the mental wellbeing of the other young people involved. Kyle’s dedication has been remarkable. He sets a brilliant example to other young would-be volunteers.

    Samantha Gough

    Organisation: Bright Sparks

    Samantha is a truly remarkable individual who has shown great dedication as a young volunteer. Not letting Covid-19 get in her way, Samantha has remained busy and motivated throughout the pandemic so far. She has put new ideas in place, delivering weekly ‘Bingo, Quiz and Craft’ sessions, as well as helping with food donations for children with disabilities and their families receiving support from Bright Sparks. Having attended Bright Sparks herself from the age of 18 months old, she has gone on to show loyalty and appreciation by giving back a phenomenal number of hours as a volunteer. The level of commitment this young woman has shown is truly impressive. Samantha would be a very worthy winner of a Saltire Summit Award.

    Naomi Knights

    Nominated by: Volunteer Midlothian

    Naomi coordinates the ‘Connect’ project at Volunteer Midlothian and has done so for the past three years. She is a dedicated volunteer manager who does her utmost to ensure that her volunteers provide a great service when supporting isolated older people in Midlothian. Naomi was quick to shift the Connect project into a telephone befriending format when the pandemic and lockdown were announced. She is extremely committed to the people she supports (both clients and volunteers), has a strong ‘social conscience’, and is always one of the first to anticipate potential changes that might impact on her service.

    Penicuik Ambassadors

    Nominated by: Midlothian Council Communities and Lifelong Learning.

    Penicuik Ambassadors played a critical role in providing support to the community during the 2020 lockdown and continue to do so today. Volunteers provided vital services such as social support, shopping and delivery of prescriptions to those who were shielding. Busy group members also led initiatives such as starting a mask making group, opening a lending library and running a school clothing bank. The Ambassadors have been instrumental in facilitating the localised response to Covid-19 in the Penicuik area. They have proven themselves to be an incredibly active and committed group of resilience volunteers.

    Winner: Volunteering Team of the Year

    Amazing Brains Committee at Art Club

    Nominated by: Art Club

    The Amazing Brains Committee at Art Club directed the majority of youth work activity in Dalkeith during the pandemic. They meet once a week on Zoom, in parks and in forests to run their meetings and make sure that Art Club remains youth led. During the summer of 2020 they volunteered at the Summer Art Workshop where they risk assessed the site, registered participants and assisted the artists. At Junior Rangers they litter picked, removed invasive species, built fences and increased the biodiversity in the woods. Members also ran a weekly online art exhibition and directed a host of creative activities. What an amazing team of young volunteers!

    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.