The 2019 Dumfries and Galloway VOscars have been held to celebrate the impact of volunteers and volunteering on the region.
Eight winners were chosen at the ceremony in Castle Douglas on Thursday evening in front of an audience of just over 100.
Nominations came in from across the region before a final shortlist of nominees were selected by independent panels and invited to the event, organised by Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway to coincide with this year’s Volunteers’ Week.
Winner of Young Volunteer – sponsored by The Holywood Trust – was Damola (Dami) Samuel, who volunteers at several places within Dumfries, including local food bank First Base and the Salvation Army. She also volunteers with Youth Work Dumfries and Galloway and was a Year of Young People Champion, regularly helping at the Oasis Youth Centre. Dami also has a part with The Toon, an issue-based drama production, which uses peer education to inform other young people of issues that they may face and how to get support.
Adult Volunteer – sponsored by Burns Developments – was Sylvia Armour, of Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service (DAGCAS) where she has volunteered since the organisation was founded in 1997 and prior to that at the old Citizens Advice Bureaux in Stranraer. She has advised clients at three offices in the town since becoming a volunteer: Hanover Street, Lewis Street and now at DAGCAS’s present location in Burns House seeing hundreds of clients.
This year’s winning Board Member – a category sponsored by Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce – was Jane Simons. Involved with Annan charity Kate’s Kitchen since its creation 10 years ago, Jane started as a volunteer befriender and since then has helped the charity grow to its current 10 staff and 35 volunteers, supporting over 200 service users per year. She has hosted many fundraising activities, including fashion shows, ceilidhs and coffee mornings.
In the Children and Young People group category – sponsored by the Theatre Royal – Dumfries Arts Award Programme was selected as winner. The programme provides young people with additional support needs the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the creative and performing arts in a safe and supportive environment. The project not only teaches young people about the different roles in the theatre and arts sector but also a variety of transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and organisation.
It gives members – often isolated in the community – an opportunity to grow in confidence and have a meaningful experience that allows them to see how valuable they truly are. They are also taking part in a new multi-sensory storytelling project in partnership with the organisation Promoting A More Inclusive Society.
Creetown Initiative was selected as Social Enterprise of the year – sponsored by Loreburn Housing – with the organisation now employing five full-time and seven part-time staff. They have carried out several major projects in Creetown including the redevelopment of the playpark and MUGA; restoration and re-opening of the village hall; and the redevelopment of an old pub into the Barholm Enterprise Centre to offer quality accommodation, an arts and craft co-operative, community shop and a home for a bike hire and car scheme. The initiative has brought in over £3.5million in funding for projects within the village and its work in Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas and Stranraer has helped bring in over a further £10million of funding for a wide range of projects – the most recent being £2.6million for Johnston School in Kirkcudbright.
The Community Group category – sponsored by Dumfries and Galloway Council – was won by the Young at Heart Group from Summerhill Community Centre. Developed in 2012, this group’s main aim is to improve the quality of life and opportunities for older people at grass roots level in the heart of their community, all done by volunteers. There are 10 committee members and an additional 12 volunteers committed to the smooth running of all events, totalling over 25 hours per week. The work of the dedicated Committee goes beyond just a weekly gathering of 60 or more older people in the Summerhill area. They also create the activities and manage a bigger programme of regular day trips, holidays, a weekly lunch club and several weekly fitness groups.
The Inclusion award – sponsored by the Equalities Partnership – was won by The Usual Place. It helps young people with learning disabilities, autism, physical and sensory impairments, mental health problems; those who are looked after and accommodated and all representing a range of ethnic groups. The Usual Place challenges the prevailing stereotypes for disabled people and the poverty of expectations and ambition, discrimination and exclusions that young people with additional support needs experience. It works in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway College, the Employability/Skills Team and another Social Enterprise Café in Motherwell, Windmills, to develop and deliver a range of accessible accredited qualifications enabling these young people to achieve greater parity in qualification and work experience.
The final award, Outstanding Contribution to Volunteering – sponsored by Anderson Kilts – went to Jane McCulloch, the driving force behind a team of highly committed volunteers at Moffat Town Hall Redevelopment Trust. Described as an outstanding leader, she demonstrated tremendous dedication to developing the Town Hall over many years, involving the volunteers in these developments. The trust has also seen the creation of a Friday Club to offer social contact, a hot meal and activities with 65 people attending; and a Monday Wellbeing Club catering for people with mental and/or physical disabilities. Also, with Jane’s help a Thursday Reading and Discussion Group has been created for people with visual impairment; along with a Changing Places facility and a Meals on Wheels service when the regional service was cut.
The awards were presented by broadcaster Bruce McKenzie and welcomed Margaret McGroggan, volunteer co-ordinator for NHS Dumfries and Galloway as guest speaker. The event was also supported by The People’s Project, Solway Print and Dumfries and Galloway Life.