The unsung heroes of Cardiff were rewarded at the Cardiff Volunteer Dinner last week.
150 volunteers from across the city were invited to a special meal at Cardiff Castle with dignatries including the Lord Mayor Keith Hyde.
A huge cross section of the volunteering community will be represented, including people who work with children, health groups, community groups, disability organisations and the homeless.
It is estimated there are up to 150,000 people doing some type of voluntary work in Cardiff and the dinner is a way of saying thank you for their efforts.
Councillor Judith Woodman, executive member for communities, housing and social justice, said: “There is a great history of volunteering in Cardiff. We have the oldest Volunteering Bureau in the UK and the city’s history is illuminated with the contributions of those who have given their time voluntarily for the benefit of local people.
“If you were to multiply the population of Cardiff by the citizenship survey’s volunteering percentage, then by an average number of volunteering hours and the average hourly rate of pay in Cardiff the annual economic value is over £140 million.”
Community Champion Awards
As well as being rewarded at volunteer dinners, the South Wales Echo has just launched its eighth annual Community Champion Awards and we’re looking for your nominations. If you know an unsung hero or someone who goes the extra mile working for a charity then head on over to nominate them.
Volunteer stories: Tracy Shailer, 38, mother of three, setup Busy Bees Baby & Toddler Group
Worried about the lack of opportunities for under-5s care in Cardiff, Tracy Shailer started up her own baby and toddler group in St Mellons.
She said: “I started the group when my little one was six months old and the response has been wonderful. I remember saying to myself if we get 10 people to the first meeting it would be a success but then 23 children turned up.
“It’s been a delight running the sessions and seeing the children grow, and the parents as well. The feedback we’ve had from them has been wonderful.”
The group meets at the St Mellons Community Centre and Tracy is thankful to Communities First for their help and funding.
“We’re hoping to do two sessions over the summer holidays,” she says, “and this is because of the real lack of provision for under-5s in Cardiff. You struggle to find places to take your child as a parent that don’t cost a fortune.”
Tracy has three children, aged from one and a half to four-years-old and her friends are amazed she finds the time to run the group and look after her children.
She said: “It’s for my own sanity I think that I run this group, it gives me something that is removed from my everyday life. It doesn’t make sense for me to return to work at the moment, and it would cost me a fortune in childcare.”
Volunteer stories: Emma Thomas, 37, trustee with Bullies Out
Emma Thomas started out as an online mentor for bullying charity, BulliesOut, and is now a trustee. The charity started in 2006.
Miss Thomas said: “I was an online mentor when I first joined. I would spend four to five hours a week speaking with people who were being bullied via the internet. It was completely annonymous and gave people the chance to tell their problems.”
Miss Thomas, who lives in Pengham Green, found she had a knack for offering advice and was soon helping to organise community events, raise awareness of the charity and do school visits to advise children about where to go if they were being bullied.
Her passion for volunteering comes from wanting to stop children going through the same things she did as a child.
“I was bullied myself at school,” she says, “it’s something that stays with youi and now seeing other people going through it is hard. I feel for them and want to do what I can to help them.
“My earliest memory is in primary school but the bullying carried on into secondary school. I didn’t go anywhere to get help and I regret that, I just got on and dealt with it.”
Speaking with young people who are being bullied is difficult for Emma, who works full-time for the Housing Association, but she knows how important it is to listen.
She said: “We can speak to young people who are in a very desperate situation. Sometimes there’s nothing left for them to do but want to end their own life. It can be very difficult but you’ve just got to show them that people do care and want to help them.”