Award-winning volunteer workers providing a support network for South West military families during periods of separation on duty have received royal recognition with a Queen’s Birthday honour.
The Royal Naval Area Community Organisation (NACO) Volunteer Project (funded by the Royal British Legion) have been newly awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The annual Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service rewards excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community and was presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon at a ceremony at County Hall, Exeter.
Lorraine Richmond, project coordinator, said: “I was delighted and thrilled to learn that the NACO volunteering project had been officially recognised by this prestigious award, It is a huge honour. I would like to thank and congratulate all the volunteers who have given their time energy as a gift to support service families in our community. “I am so proud of all the hard work, dedication and generosity shown by all our volunteers. This award is only given for excellence, this is an incredible achievement. I would also like to thank the Royal British Legion for funding this project; this has enabled the volunteers to receive training which will develop their skills and knowledge.”
Dan Richmond, Naval Area Community Officer (Western Area), said: “This award recognises the important role that volunteers have within community, for without this support many of the groups and activities would not be able to continue.” The volunteer team has also been recognised for their achievements by receiving the Volunteer Team of the year award in Plymouth (2010) and being runner-up in the Spirit of the Community award (2011).
The NACO Volunteer Project covers all aspects of volunteer recruitment, induction, retention and development, developing initiatives to market volunteering opportunities to varied groups within the community and converting interested people into volunteers. The emphasis is to ensure that there is a good range of volunteering training and placement opportunities which supports the workplace delivery therefore achieving highly motivated and valued volunteers.
NACO volunteers are involved in the delivery of approximately 63 support groups and activities for service families and the wider community (through centre based provision and outreach work); catering for between 400 – 800 children, young people, families, and friends of service and ex service personnel per month.
Much of the work focuses on projects such as, play work, youth work, community work, social functions, informal educational activities, along with support groups for deployed families (Families and Friends of Deployed Units (FAFDU), Anchor Group for children with special needs, and Foreign and Commonwealth Families; working in partnership with local authority and other voluntary and community sector groups to deliver this work.
FAFDU fulfils this support through monthly get-togethers, catering for between 100-300 families at each event. The Anchor Group is a tri-service (parent-led) support group for families with a child or children with additional or specific needs. Over the years the group has organised day trips, Christmas and Easter parties monthly meeting.
Plymouth Fijian Community Support Group is a (volunteer) committee-led community group divided into general support with a sub-committee concentrating on the religious needs of the community; catering for over 300 Fijian families in Plymouth. A bulk-buy co-operative has been formed by the Fijian community with help from the NACO workers while volunteers also run a monthly cultural kitchen to cater for the foreign and commonwealth community.
Youth and play projects cover Plymouth, Torpoint and Yeovilton supported by 15 volunteers. These volunteers give up one or two evenings a week to work with children, young people and young adults between the ages of 6 and 23.
All activities which the volunteer team are part of offer the families, young people and children of
service and ex-service personnel an opportunity to meet others in similar circumstances, being inclusive of all the community rather than exclusive to service personnel.
The volunteers, many of whom have family members away on deployments, meet on a regular basis in order to plan and review the activities, remaining proactive with these projects while increasing their levels of commitment due to the emphasis on ongoing deployments, such as the Afghanistan campaigns. They are also able to access training and qualifications in community and youth work, achieving NVQ award in Youth or Community Work.