Over a million people in Wales help their communities and each other in all sorts of remarkable ways. And since 2004 the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards has been shining the spotlight on these incredible people.

There are six categories:

  • adult (25 years and over)
  • young volunteer (under 25 years)
  • 'green' volunteer (individual of any age who volunteers with an environmental organisation or project)
  • trustee
  • groups (two or more individuals, whether as an informal group or a formally constituted organisation)
  • international (for individuals who have volunteered with international partners/organisations in Wales)

The awards are currently closed for nominations, but will return in 2017.

Winners of the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2016

You can find details of the amazing and inspiring winners of the 2016 awards below organised by category. Winners were presented with their awards at a heart warming ceremony, hosted by BBC presenter Sian Lloyd, which took place in Cardiff Castle.

ADULT

Sue Osman

Rather than putting her feet up, former neonatal nurse Sue Osman has spent her retirement helping families of children with disabilities to benefit from her expertise.

The 72-year-old from Gwent volunteers at the city's Serennu Children's Centre for the Sparkle Appeal, which provides leisure, play and support services for disabled children and their families.

'Families at the early stage of diagnosis are often scared, shocked and overwhelmed by the news that their child may have a life-long disability,' said Clinical Psychologist at the Sparkle Appeal Sarah Brown.

'Sue helps to normalise this for parents, and supports them to explore their fears and concerns in the safety of a warm and positive relationship. Her experience as a nurse at the Royal Gwent Hospital for many years helps her to connect with families and help them make sense of their experiences so far.

'It has been such a privilege to work alongside her - she is an inspiration to all of us,' Sarah added. 'From her welcoming smile when she is meeting families at the Serennu reception, to the support she gives to parents at the early stage of diagnosis, she makes a difference to the families here every step of the way.'

Sue said that since she started volunteering at Serennu she has been very aware of the joys and rewards that being a volunteer can bring. 'I love all aspects of my different roles, the fact that everyone is so appreciative makes the job more worthwhile. To receive this award is absolutely amazing. I feel very humbled and honoured. Thank you.'

Beryl Bennett

At 90-years-old, Beryl Bennett is still opening up the Red Cross shop at Singleton Hospital, Swansea three days a week, receiving a weekly early morning stock delivery, marking up prices and buying any missing items from alternative suppliers.

She returns at the weekend to do a thorough stock check, helping to organise the shop and stock room and placing an order for the next delivery, all while 'cheerfully and compassionately' serving patients, visitors and staff.

Beryl, of Swansea, joined the Red Cross in 1990 and has been an 'exemplary volunteer, going out of her way to provide the best support to the patients and staff at the hospital and retail shop in Swansea,' said nominator Nikki Mather, Service Co-ordinator.

In 2014 alone, she gave over 360 hours to the hospital and took an active role in fundraising activities.

'After more than 25 years of impeccable service, Beryl has not faltered in her commitment to the Red Cross but instead fulfils her role to such a high standard that the shop volunteers hold her in the highest esteem,' Nikki added.

'She is seen as a sort of hero by her fellow volunteers and is treated with a great deal of respect and affection. Within the current Singleton team of over 60 volunteers, Beryl Bennett has undoubtedly made the biggest impact on the Red Cross services in Singleton Hospital.'

Beryl said that she was delighted to be nominated and receive an award for her volunteer work. 'I very much enjoy my work with British Red Cross at Singleton Hospital and I am very grateful for the support of my fellow volunteers and BRC staff.'

Marie Williams

Single mum Marie Williams has transformed her experience of difficulties into expertise she uses to help others in the same situation.

Marie, 32, of Riverside in Cardiff, volunteers with the Creating Connections self-management project for single parents, a Mental Health Foundation programme supporting lone parents to develop skills, strategies and networks for maintaining their mental health and wellbeing.

'We believe that people have a lot to contribute to managing their mental health and Marie has transformed her experiences into expertise that she uses to help herself and others,' said Jackie Fisher, from the Mental Health Foundation. 'She is an inspiration to other parents because she can truly empathise with their situations.

'Due to her modesty, Marie often underestimates the role model she provides to others. She manages to fit all her volunteering into a busy life, caring for her son alone, applying for jobs and volunteering for other organisations.'

Marie said she felt very honoured to be receiving the award. 'It has been a great pleasure, and an amazing experience, to volunteer on the Creating Connections project.

'This past year and a half has been a wonderful opportunity to make a difference and be able to support other single parents, and be part of a fantastic team of people, who are all passionate about supporting single parents to break down isolation, build confidence and establish friendships with others in their communities who have similar experiences.'

Ceriann Goddard

Ceriann Goddard was the driving force behind the reopening of a twice-weekly Cardiff lunch club that is a 'social lifeline' for elderly and vulnerable local people, marshalling other volunteers to help turn it into a hub for community groups.

Ceriann took over running the Wyndham Street Diner in Riverside when it closed in 2014 after funding was cut. She brought people together to decorate the centre, run training to equip volunteers with the skills to carry out their roles and encouraged the use of the diner by local groups.

'The aim of the lunch club is to provide a safe and welcoming place to have a low-price, balanced and freshly prepared meal,' said Kathryn Williams from Cadwyn Housing Association.

'However, more than just food, it's a place for people of all ages to meet up and chat, to break down barriers of isolation and loneliness. It had been a social lifeline for lots of elderly or vulnerable local residents for whom it was a reason to get out of the house.

'Ceriann always seeks to ensure those that want to be involved can and provides an open door for whoever needs it and she understands that for some the journey can take a long time and be more difficult than for others.

'She is also always the first person to stand up and talk about the difficulties she has herself faced so that others can know that they are not alone and hopefully can use her story as inspiration and encouragement to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel if they need it.'

Ceriann said: 'My recovery has always involved taking part in volunteering. The Diner project is the most enjoyable and close to my heart yet. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning.

'Volunteering is not me just giving of myself, it gives back to me. I have support, empathy, understanding, purpose, friends, a new social life, confidence, self-esteem, pride, new skills, fun, laughter and so much more.

'I've also had headaches, blisters, sore feet and exhaustion, but the sense of achievement that comes with working so hard is worth it. Volunteering means the world to me and I am so grateful for the opportunities it has given me.'

YOUNG PERSON

Imogen Peach-Mason

Imogen Peach-Mason 'should be a role model for all young people thinking about volunteering', according to Fred Weston from Monmouth's Building Bridges Community Centre.

The teenager from Monmouth volunteers at Caerwent Inclusive Youth Club, working intensively with young people with complex needs to help integrate them into the group. To meet their needs, she is learning sign language and Makaton - a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate.

'Imogen spends hours upon hours in her own time researching ways of working with young people with disabilities and creating plans and resources to make her work more effective,' said Fred. 'This is far above and beyond anything we would expect of a volunteer - and especially for someone of her age.

'Imogen commits 110% to her volunteering work and displays all of the qualities and more than you would expect from a superb payed worker. She will make a fantastic member of staff for any team when she enters the labour market.

'She is a real ambassador for the commitment, competence and willingness that young volunteers have to offer, and should have the opportunity for her efforts to be recognised and celebrated. She should be a role model for all young people who are thinking about volunteering.'

Imogen said: 'I am overwhelmed and extremely grateful that my voluntary work in the community has been recognised. I would like to thank Lucy Rooks and Fred Weston for their support and guidance.

'I have realised that helping vulnerable people has not only made a difference to their lives but also to my own, in terms of developing my self-esteem and confidence.

Since I have been volunteering, I now feel that this is a career path I would like to follow. I would just like to express again my gratitude for this amazing opportunity.'

Ryan Anthony Crewe-Rees

A Level student Ryan Anthony Crewe-Rees is helping young people across four South Wales counties to be more aware of issues around their sexuality and potential exploitation.

The 18-year-old from Varteg, Pontypool has also helped develop a youth-led LGBT group in the Torfaen area, where there was previously no known LGBT provision for the young people who wanted it.

Ryan is a volunteer on the Sex Matters Too project at Volunteering Matters, which aims to raise awareness of relationships issues and increase protection against potential exploitation for young people aged 13-25 in Torfaen, Newport, Monmouthshire and Caerphilly.

Ryan designs and delivers workshops in schools, colleges and youth settings across Gwent, as well as organising weekly meetings for LGBT young people and networks with other organisations.

'Ryan has done all this alongside revising for and sitting his A Level exams, and very much wants to stay involved in the project as much as possible whilst in university,' said Cara Battrick, Volunteering Matters Project Manager.

'He is passionate and motivated in helping young people and aspires to become a teacher. With his determination and support, Ryan has motivated other young people to join the project and also expand the LGBT group to another youth provision.'

Ryan said: 'To win this award is to highlight how my voluntary work with the Sex Matters Too project has been worthwhile. I would never have thought I'd ever win an award such as this, but I'm extremely grateful and hope to continue volunteering with Volunteering Matters in the future.'

Ayesha Khan

Ayesha Khan has blossomed from a shy, quiet teenager into a wheelchair sports competitor, 'amazing ambassador' for a young people's charity and an 'utterly exemplary' role model to her peers.

The 20-year-old from Newport was badly bullied at school, avoided talking to other people and rarely went out before receiving a lightweight wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz and joining the charity's Cardiff Ambassador Club for young wheelchair users aged 14-25 in 2010.

In her role as young leader, Ayesha runs group activities and delivers training, acting as a mentor to other young people at Whizz-Kidz residential camps designed to help young disabled people develop new skills, make friends and have fun.

'She supports and encourages young wheelchair users to become more confident and independent, and to try activities they would previously have only dreamed about,' said Whizz-kidz Manager Jo Rhodes-Jiao.

She also finds time to play wheelchair tennis and has been a 'fantastic' fundraiser for Whizz-Kidz, raising more than £1,600 to date from activities included participating in the Cardiff Half Marathon

'Ayesha's commitment to volunteering is utterly exemplary,' Jo added. 'She is not only an amazing ambassador for Whizz-Kidz and its work, she's also a role model to other young people.

'Ayesha is an inspiration to the staff, young people and other volunteers. She is always the first to volunteer and always so passionate about the volunteering she does. The organisation is so lucky to have a volunteer like Ayesha and what she contributes to the organisation is so valuable.'

Ayesha said she felt honoured receiving the Volunteer of the Year award. 'I would like to thank Whizz-Kidz for nominating me,' she added. 'Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. They have supported me right from when I first started to now, and I feel humbled being a part of an organisation which has such a friendly bunch of staff.'

Ruth Owen, Chief Executive at Whizz-Kidz, added: 'We're so proud of Ayesha, and we're thrilled that her inspirational commitment to volunteering has been recognised with this much-deserved award.

'As a volunteer - and a fundraiser - Ayesha is not only a fantastic role model for her peers, she also embodies all of Whizz-Kidz values. We're delighted for her!'

Jack Devulght

Jack Devulght is the youth mentor and chairs the young person's Youth Forum at The Roots Foundation Wales, to increase the participation of other young people who are in care.

Jack is a volunteer on the CARE Project (Children at risk of exploitation) where he assists with the running of workshops that focus on raising the awareness levels of young people in care who may be at risk of exploitation.

The community in which Jack's volunteer activities take place is classed as an area of social deprivation, with an increasing number of young people in care and finding they need increased support.

Jack is a young person who lives in kinship care (living with extended family members), and as such, takes it upon himself to act as a positive role model for other young people in care, also providing an increased support network.

'Jack has shown he does not let being in care be a barrier to his own development and is open in sharing his own stories with others to demonstrate that a positive solution is always achievable,' said Josh Price, from The Roots Foundation Wales.

'Jack performs his role despite his own disabilities and focuses on others rather than himself when doing so.'

GREEN VOLUNTEER

Donna Macliston

Working on a gardening project for people with mental health problems gave Donna Macliston the confidence to help others make the same progress.

After two years of being supported by Solas Cymru Housing Association to take part in its community allotments scheme in the Vale of Glamorgan, Donna is now herself volunteering to show people with similar issues how to dig, plant, and pot and look after the plants they grow.

The products that are grown are used to eat healthily and to help the community gaining a better understanding of healthy food.

'The allotments benefit people with stress and anxiety and provide a community hub for them to meet others who have had similar experiences,' said Sarah Davies from Solas Cymru. 'They have helped them to feel less isolated and more united.

'Donna is no longer supported by Solas, as she has achieved her goals set out at the beginning of her time receiving support,' Sarah added. 'She has developed as a person and her volunteering has given her pride and ownership of something she enjoys and can feel a part of.'

Diane Mansell

'Human' nurse and emergency hedgehog carer Diane Mansell also cared for 100 baby hedgehogs in the course of one summer.

A volunteer carer for Hedgehog Helpline in Caldicot, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases wild hedgehogs in South East Wales, Diane has hedgehogs referred to her through calls to the charity's helpline or from vets, to assess, diagnose problems - such as internal parasites seen under microscopes - and treat accordingly.

Diane admits baby 'hoglets', which require a specialised, much more intensive level of care, from one-day-old through to eventual release back into the wild. 'Last summer, she took in 100 - which is amazing - especially when a few hours/day-old hoglets are on two-hourly feeds,' said fellow volunteer Susan Hooper.

The charity also runs hedgehog courses and Diane has written a training programme to educate fellow carers on hoglet care.

'The amount of effort and time Diane puts into both hedgehogs and writing guidelines for our training courses makes her stand out as one special person,' Susan added. 'She is modest and calm, a "human" nurse by trade, and she should be recognised for her quiet presence, empathy and in the education of others.'

Diane said it was a great honour to be nominated for the award and for recognition of
the fantastic work done by everyone involved in Hedgehog Helpline.

'Although at times very emotional and demanding, caring for these amazing creatures is so rewarding. This award will help promote our work, increase public awareness in promoting an environment for hedgehogs to live safely and thrive in the wild.'

Michael Baker

Michael Baker is the most committed volunteer in a team running the hugely successful toogoodtowaste, in Ynyshir, Porth, a charity established in 1995 to offer a wide range of services to communities in Rhondda Cynon Taf through re-use and recycling.

The company has a loyal team of core volunteers who are very committed to the organisation and its charitable causes and without their day-to-day involvement, the organisation would be unable to function.

'Our most committed volunteer is Michael Baker,' said Shaun England from toogoodtowaste. 'He has overcome multiple personal barriers including literacy, numeracy, petty crime and drug addiction to become our most valued volunteer, team member and leader.'

Michael, 50, takes newcomers to the charity under his wing showing them all aspects of the job role and specific skills, actions and activities they will need to succeed as a volunteer. 'But, more importantly, he genuinely cares about the person, treats everyone equally and works to develop their motivation, self-belief, confidence and self-esteem,' Shaun added.

His main goal is to 'build people up' while they spend time in his department by sharing his journey and the influences that shaped him, to help others overcome their barriers allowing them to succeed.

'Michael is fully committed to toogoodtowaste, having volunteered without a break in services since 2009. From January 2010 to December 2015 Michael volunteered a staggering 7,705 hours. Michael has helped very many other volunteers succeed with toogoodtowaste in supporting them with their development and progression into further volunteering and/or employment.

'Without doubt, Michael Baker is too good to waste.'

Michael said he was thrilled to be recognised for the award. 'I believe that we all have a duty to help others - supporting people gives me a sense of purpose and helps build better local communities.'

TRUSTEE

Valerie Mitchell

'Marvellous' Valerie Mitchell has been instrumental in a campaign to save an historic building, now being renovated with the aid of a £4m Lottery award.

Retired from a career in the probation services, Valerie, of Llandaff, Cardiff has dedicated the past 25 years to saving nearby Insole Court from sale for private development - work which resulted in the largest Community Asset Transfer Scheme in Wales.

She was a member of an action group campaigning against the sale of the building, then of the Friends of Insole Court, and now as part of the Insole Court Trust which is leading the Lottery-funded renewal project.

Valerie is the Chair of Friends and sits on the Board of the Insole Court Trust - roles sufficiently demanding in themselves. However, her commitment to the project over the past year has seen her take on further responsibilities, putting in up to 100 hours of volunteer time each month, often more.

'We have many valuable volunteers but to my mind Val is exceptional, not only for the amount of time she has given and the number of different tasks taken on, but for her extraordinary willingness to get involved and to learn,' said Insole Court Trust Project Director Neil Richards.

'Val Mitchell is marvellous. She doesn't volunteer her time with the intention of standing out - but she certainly does stand out and does deserve special recognition on behalf of all the volunteers at Insole Court. The project is better, stronger and more enjoyable for her tremendous contributions.'

Valerie said: 'This award is not just for me, but for all the dedicated friends of Insole Court who have stepped up over the years to ensure that this wonderful Victorian mansion is preserved for community and heritage. Pulling together despite inevitable differences has resulted in the breathtaking transformation of the stable yard and, in due course, the house itself.

'I am so excited by the prospect that this truly community effort has resulted in a destination which will enrich the lives of all who attend classes and events, and also visitors who will be delighted when they visit Insole Court.'

Bernie Ford

Bernie Ford ensures the 'vital' IT at his branch of Samaritans runs smoothly, while also providing support to people in despair - and running his own business.

Actively involved in the running of Powys Samaritans in Llandrindod Wells since 2006, Bernie has been a 'strong and committed participant', contributing more of his time than anyone else to the unpopular night shift and taking various leadership roles.

He chaired the management committee for two spells of three years each. In the first of these he helped lead the project to move the branch to more suitable premises. In the second, he led the branch through its transition from an unincorporated charity to a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO).

In addition to his leadership and management role, Bernie procures, installs, and maintains the branch's complex IT and telephone systems. 'These systems are fundamental to the work of Samaritans and any failure must be repaired swiftly,' said Trustee Phil King. 'He also doubled the branch's capacity to respond to callers' emails and texts.

'Bernie leads by example,' Phil King added. 'As well as running his own business he has successfully steered the branch through a move to new premises, opening of a charity shop to raise needed funds, a new computerised phone system and a major change in structure.

'Bernie's foresight, courage, attention to detail, hard work, commitment, good governance, and superb leadership deserves national recognition in the Volunteer of the Year Awards.'

Bernie said volunteering with the smallest branch of Samaritans in Wales required 'by necessity the adoption of a personal multi-tasking volunteering ethos.

'This, although very demanding on individual time, offers one the reward of being part of an intricately intertwined and interrelated locally based mutually supportive team, emotionally and logistically, which contributes to a complex national support organisation the primary focus of which is to support those in distress and despair,' he added.

'I see winning this award as recognition that the fantastic efforts by all those that volunteer with Powys Samaritans in Llandrindod Wells are appreciated and valued.'

Christopher Mill

Christopher Mill is playing a major role in aiming to reduce the number of suicides in the South Wales Valleys by establishing their first-ever Samaritans branch.

The former Samaritans Trustee for Wales from Cardigan, a listening volunteer in Haverfordwest, is Chair of Samaritans Valleys Steering Group, which is overseeing the establishment of a project in the Valleys to raise awareness of the service and the importance of seeking help. The project is also delivering emotional support in various locations including in the centre of Merthyr Tydfil, on the street and in job centres.

'Christopher had for some time wanted to establish a Samaritans presence in the South Wales Valleys where we have no branch,' said Sarah Stone Samaritans Cymru Chief Executive.

'It is an area of significant need and we are well aware of the link between socio-economic deprivation and suicide. He has played a major role in designing the South Wales Valleys Project, in achieving funding for it and in recruiting a volunteer director and a paid project officer,' she added.

Christopher had also been a mentor and troubleshooter for his local branch and regional directors and trustees, while continuing to be a listening volunteer, listening to callers during his weekly shifts.

'Christopher Mill's contribution to the cause of reducing death by suicide is exceptional,' said Sarah Stone. 'He has the confidence of volunteers and staff from the chair and throughout the organisation and has been outstandingly generous with his time and wise counsel.'

Christopher described volunteering with Samaritans as 'challenging but exceptionally rewarding. This award is for our hundreds of volunteers and supporters in Wales, and for all those in despair and anxiety they help to feel safer, listened to, and better understood,' he added. 'Join us - they need you.'

GROUP

World Heritage Youth Ambassadors

Young people working to promote the World Heritage town of Blaenavon have inspired other young people in a community where it's considered 'uncool' to be 'involved'.

The World Heritage Youth Ambassadors has been running for just a year, but achieved 'a phenomenal amount', said Cllr Gareth Davies, who recently completed his term as Mayor of Blaenavon.

The volunteer programme was set up with the aim of empowering young people aged 13 to 21 to learn about and have an active voice in the World Heritage Site and be represented in community and civic decisions.

They help out at events by being stewards and running community stalls, raising money for community groups and at Blaenavon World Heritage Day.

'The Youth Ambassadors are empowered to influence other young people through positive activity - they engage with other young people and bring them into the project and demonstrate that they can make a real difference in the area,' said Cllr Davies.

'In a community where it is "uncool" to be "involved", they proudly participate and promote young people as good role models. They give the young people of Blaenavon and the area a voice to be heard- this is why they should receive special recognition.'

Youth Ambassadors member Ashleigh Taylor described receiving the award as a huge honour for the group. 'It's a real testimony to the hard work and dedication of all our young people who have made such a difference in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site,' she said.

'It is amazing to be recognised as a programme that not only makes a real impact in our community, but gives young people a voice they would not have had otherwise. We are thrilled and incredibly proud to be receiving the award and want to thank Blaenavon Town Council for nominating us and WCVA for choosing us!'

Friends of Polly's Park

A group of more than 100 volunteers has turned Polly's Park in St Thomas, Swansea - the only green space in the community - from a 'no-go wilderness' to an open inviting recreational space frequently enjoyed by many people.

St Thomas is a Communities First area with higher proportions of babies and children under 15, people aged over 65 and lone parent households. The park is its only recreational area.

Friends of Polly's Park secured a grant of £25,000 from the Aviva Community Fund to redevelop and transform the park. The funding was spent on new apparatus and an adventure trail, a new wildlife area with a 'bug hotel' and pond, 'fairy houses', a sensory garden and picnic areas.

'Friends of Polly's Park has only been going for 18 months but already achieved an incredible amount in such a short space of time,' said local resident Gloria Moore. 'They are creating magical memories and these are the things that children will remember.

'The volunteers spend hours upon hours of their own spare time carrying out action days at the park, which has gone from a no-go wilderness to an open inviting recreational space which is frequently enjoyed by many.

'The group has brought real community spirit back into our area and I feel the project has improved the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of many local residents. Barriers have been broken down and it seems as though people have more time to talk, the talking point centring around the park.

'They are also making the older residents feel part of the project and making us feel young again. There is a buzz around the area.'

Hayley Gwilliam from Friends of Polly's Park said: 'We are absolutely delighted to have been nominated by our wonderful friend and neighbour Gloria Moore. We have had tremendous support in our local community for the work we have been doing.

'What has been achieved would not be possible without the hard work of our many volunteers adults and children who give up their free time; the school and the student council who have helped and the local library who have been so very supportive.

'We have an excellent pool of volunteers who all have different strengths and abilities and this creates a winning team. It has been a wonderful couple of years for the group and we look forward to the future and being able to enjoy the park.'

Cwmni Cymunedol Cletwr

A quiet mid Wales parish in Powys has seen a huge revival in its community spirit, thanks to a 50-strong team of volunteers who bought and transformed the local shop into a vital focal point.

Cwmni Cymunedol Cletwr (CCC) - which is managed as a social enterprise by a volunteer Board of Directors - runs a community shop and café, staffed by residents ranging from accountants, web designers and builders to retirees and vulnerable people.

The shop supplies competitively priced fresh local produce, a wide range of fruit and vegetables, local meats, dairy and organic wholefoods - all helping to keep the village healthier, said local resident Louise Halestrap.

'Welsh language practice is encouraged, even a few words, which makes both English and Welsh speakers more self confident in sharing a few words of greeting and creates cross-cultural links,' she added.

'The CCC has managed to get the best out of the community - villagers get to know each other much more, because we meet either as a customer or a volunteer, and the training given enhances essential job skills

'Older people have found a new avenue for their wealth of skills and experience - we have many older volunteers who are happy to give time and expertise to help the Siop run and to train younger people.'

Shelagh Hourahane from Cwmni Cymunedol Cletwr said: 'The WCVA award recognises the hard work and enthusiasm of a dedicated group of volunteers, without whom Siop Cynfelyn would not have been able to open and to operate for the last three years.

'This award marks an important milestone in the development of our long-term vision to provide a valuable and sustainable community service and to increase resilience in a vulnerable rural area.

'It is with a sense of pride that we showcase this project, which we hope will set a standard for similar ventures throughout Wales.'

INTERNATIONAL

Molly Davies-Briskham

Teenager Molly Davies-Briskham was the youngest person in a team from Wales helping children and young people in an impoverished part of India to learn English and take part in sport.

At just 19 years old, Swansea resident Molly completed a month-long international volunteer placement with Empower - Be The Change in Tamil Nadu. 'The youngest volunteer we received on the project, she took the brave decision to travel to India to take up this opportunity,' said Jo Clay

'Molly adapted with ease to this completely different environment and quickly became a natural leader and source of inspiration for the other two volunteers who were undertaking placements at the same time,' she added.

All the volunteers live in the local boys' orphanage, delivering English lessons and sports coaching sessions there and in local schools and college.

'The role of the volunteer is essential in breaking the cycle of poverty,' Jo Clay added. 'Volunteers instil a sense of belief amongst these young people that they can develop and use their talents to create better opportunities for themselves.

'Molly's commitment, time and energy alone is enough to nominate her for this award. From the minute she arrived to long after her placement, Molly worked tirelessly to plan and deliver fun, interactive, interesting and memorable sessions for all the lessons that she delivered.'

Molly said: 'Sometimes things come along that genuinely do change your life - for me, my trip to India was one of those things. It moulded me into the person that I have always wanted to be.

'I loved every single moment of my placement in India from the moment I stepped on the plane, to my goodbyes. My experiences, the country and its people continue to be my biggest inspirations everyday in everything I do.'

Josh Lewis

Despite a tough childhood and adolescence, Josh Lewis from Swansea is determined to become a youth worker to help other young people with similar problems.

A senior volunteer at the YMCA, he has assisted during and out of group times to ensure the smooth running of the service and youth department. He assists with organising trips and volunteers on a Saturday to take the young people to various events.

Josh, aged 24, has also volunteered in Togo, Africa with YCARE International, which provides overseas volunteering opportunities for young people. Josh was more than willing and straight away started to plan fundraising ideas.

'Josh describes this as a transformative and invaluable experience, learning things that challenged his personal, social and educational skills,' said YMCA Swansea Youth Worker Ashleigh Cullen.

'Josh is a lot more confident at taking the lead with tasks and activities and he says that he finds skills such as finding destinations he has never been to before much easier now.

'He is very determined to become a team leader for YCare International and to visit other places around the world. He has completed a Level 2 Award in Youth Work Practise with YMCA Community College to begin a career in youth work because this is something he is very passionate about,' Ashleigh added.

'Josh has had a tough childhood and adolescence - but despite his experiences, he is a warm, genuine and caring person. He is a good listener and cares deeply about the world, rights and young people. Josh is now trying to gain every experience he can in order to develop his skills and form a career path as a youth worker. I believe that he will develop into an excellent youth worker that young people will relate to well.'

Josh said: 'I am very humbled and proud of being a recipient of this award. It is always great to be recognised for your achievements and the work that you have done. Over the last two years I have met some incredible young people and volunteers and I would like to think that me receiving this award could inspire them to follow in my footsteps and receive similar awards.

'Everything I have achieved this year, and over the last two years would not have been possible without some of the amazing people I have been lucky enough to meet along the way, in France, Togo and back here in the UK. Thank you all!'