You can find details of the amazing and inspiring winners of the 2017 awards below organised by category. Winners were presented with their awards at a heart warming ceremony, hosted by WCVA Vice President Tom Jones, which took place at Cornerstone in Cardiff.

Adult category


Sarah Hayward (Swansea)

Sarah Hayward

After single-handedly setting up Swansea City Rowing Club more than 20 years ago to introduce young people to the sport, Sarah Hayward has since coached juniors to Henley Regatta standard.

Currently running extra evening coaching sessions for between 40 and 50 novices that were inspired by the Olympics, she is also competing herself - on top of working full-time and having family commitments.

The club lacks basic amenities enjoyed by others - the 'clubhouse' is a pair of containers, boat storage scaffold racking in a public car park, and toilets in the nearby supermarket or yacht club.

'The premise upon which she built the club was to give young people the opportunity to discover rowing, and this has grown to embrace people of all ages and abilities including Adaptive Rowing,' said club member Dr Dawn Brace.

'Despite the fact there is no changing room, no social area, no white board to go through plans and no gym, she maintains morale, creates a true club atmosphere and enthusiasm and the desire to compete,' she added.

'I have never met anyone like her.  Nobody deserves to be recognised more - she is amazing.  Without Sarah, there would be no City of Swansea Rowing Club.'


Nick Cann (Chepstow)

Stroke survivor Nick Cann has worked tirelessly to help others affected by the condition to regain their communication abilities.

After being left unable to talk for a significant period, the 54-year-old from Chepstow leads an 'aphasia café'. Aphasia is a complex language and communication disorder resulting from damage to the language centres of the brain. While stroke isn't the only cause of aphasia, it's by far the biggest.

'Nick was still working when he had his stroke and found his whole world turned upside down,' said Stroke Association's Phoenix Project Coordinator Lauren Heath, who is also one of the volunteer managers.

'At that time, stroke services in Monmouthshire were limited so Nick, along with his family set about fundraising to help set up more things in the area to support younger stroke survivors in the future,' she added.

This resulted in the Phoenix Project, which is aimed at helping younger stroke survivors return to work and offering longer term support for people across the county.

At the café, Nick helps people use iPad apps as a tool to work on improving their speech, reading, writing, comprehension and sentence forming.

'Nick works tirelessly to get stroke on the map and to promote awareness,' said Lauren Heath.  'But most of all, he offers hope and inspiration to members of the aphasia café who come into their journey potentially only able to say yes or no and unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  To them, he is an idol and their beacon.'

Jacqueline Corr (Abergele)

Jackie Corr has been volunteering with Welsh Women's Aid services in North Wales and has assisted in setting up an informal peer support group in Colwyn Bay.  She has also helped break down the myths of about who is affected by abuse.

Jackie is herself a domestic abuse survivor having left an abusive marriage of over 40 year, when she was 64.  Issues for older women may be different to those affecting other survivors too.

Welsh Women's Aid supported Jackie, providing community-based advocacy to ensure her safety and that her individual needs were being met. Nominator Claire Thomas from Women's Aid Colwyn said: 'We had no idea that Jackie would soon be supporting our organisation, and others, to improve the lives of women affected by abuse around Wales.

'Speaking publicly to others about such personal and traumatic experiences is not easy. However, Jackie realises the power and significance of survivors' voices in raising awareness and understanding of domestic abuse, and in terms of shaping appropriate service delivery.'

Jackie has helped organise domestic abuse awareness raising days at a local college, inspired by the White Ribbon Campaign and the  the UN International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, and International Women's Day.  She has taken part in training videos, the launch of the Live Fear Free Helpline launch, as well as making sure that responses to older women in Wales are improved and their specific needs addressed.

'The contributions of volunteers like Jackie are hugely important; she is an inspiration to all and I feel she should be recognised for her bravery, strength, and dedication to all women affected by abuse in Wales', said Claire Thomas.

Phyllis Tomlinson (Rhyl)

The voluntary work of 'remarkable' retired district nurse Phyllis Tomlinson is helping make emergency hospital treatment less traumatic for patients and their families.

Not only is the 85-year-old from Rhyl a Robin Ward Volunteer befriending often distressed patients and relatives, she has also turned a patch of wasteland outside Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan into a garden, 'a wonderful place to contemplate or remember'. 

Known to everyone as Phyl, her role entails providing refreshments for patients, informing them of waiting times and keeping them updated, and talking to and reassuring patients who are unaccompanied or relatives who may need assistance.

'Coming into hospital can be a very stressful experience, especially if it is unexpected,' said Pauline Strugnell, who supports the volunteers on behalf of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. 

'Spending time in the emergency department waiting to be seen or just waiting to hear about a relative or loved one can be very distressing.  Knowing that there is a friendly face to hold your hand and provide that much needed drink and reassurance when it is needed may seem a little thing - but it makes a huge impact on someone who may be upset or worried,' Pauline added. 

'Phyl tends the gardens at Bodelwyddan Castle and has been doing so for sometime, transforming forgotten areas and bringing new life with colour to existing beds. She was also an active member of the local WRNS (WRENS)  and attends memorial and military events, remembrance parade and other military events.

'Phyl fully embraces the meaning of a volunteer, she gives without expecting anything in return.  With her warm nature and wealth of knowledge, Phyl is often sought out by the public or staff for advice on plant care or just to share cuttings, which Phyl gives freely from her own collection at home or from the garden. Phyl is truly a remarkable person and it is honour to know her.'

Young volunteer


James Wilkinson (Cardiff)

James Wilkinson

In less than a year as a volunteer with The Big Issue Cymru, James Wilkinson has become an integral member of the distribution team, providing vital and regular 'on-pitch' support to Big Issue vendors in Cardiff.

The 24 year-old devotes three full days of his week to coordinating the volunteer team and ensuring vendors have constant access to magazines, shows them 'a friendly and familiar face during their day, and gives them someone to talk to when they are so often ignored when out selling'.

'Homelessness is increasing across the UK and rough sleeping increased significantly across Wales over the past year, particularly in Cardiff,' said James's Big Issue team leader Beth Thomas.  'James is an essential part of the team working to provide support to those in need.  Not only does he support Big Issue vendors, he also supports homeless people on the street by telling about the opportunity they have to become a Big Issue seller and earn a legitimate income.'

Despite only having been a volunteer since September 2016, James has earned the respect of both vendors and volunteers, and he recently gave a lecture on The Big Issue, homelessness and social enterprise to a class of Cardiff Metropolitan University students.

'More than anything however, James stands out and is a real inspiration,' Beth Thomas added.


Nerys Harries (Blackwood)

Nerys Harries has attended more than 120 '999' emergency incidents as a volunteer with the Welsh Ambulance Service - while holding down no fewer than three part-time jobs.

Since qualifying as Community First Responder on the Bargoed Team in 2014 at the age of 19, Blackwood resident Nerys has amassed a total 374 hours on call duty.  She has also carried out cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on two occasions, both with successful outcomes.

'During her first volunteering shift, she experienced incidents including three patient fatalities, a heart attack, a four-year-old falling down the stairs and a stroke,' said Bev Boulton of Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO).

'Despite this emotionally challenging first shift, she returned the following week to continue volunteering and provide a service to the community.'

Nerys also manages the Maesycwmmer Community Defibrillator - for which she secured funding - and until recently, was a Brownie leader, from which she was forced to stand down due to work commitments as a school breakfast club, Wrap Around Meithrin and after school assistant.  She is hoping to eventually become a paramedic.

'Nerys actively supports, through her work and volunteering, the whole community of Caerphilly community both young and old,' Bev Boulton added.

'She is an inspiration to her generation, and us all, because she is prepared to go the extra mile to succeed and help anyone and everyone she comes in contact with.'

Bethan Greig (Swansea)

At the age of just 12, Bethan Greig is not only Morriston Playscheme's youngest volunteer, but also one of its hardest-working and most successful.

The charity provides free play sessions for children and young people in an identified area of deprivation and Bethan helps run games and activities as well as peer mentoring new volunteers who are often older than her.

'Bethan is our youngest volunteer, but she is also one of our best - always smiling and hard working, and keen and willing to learn,' said Nick Moule, her line manager at Morriston Playscheme.

'She is a key member of our team, well liked and respected by staff, children and parents alike, and it's great to see the progress she's made.  Bethan is a worthy recipient of this award because she has had to work incredibly hard to become the confident and outgoing person that she is now.'

Mr Moule said when Bethan started volunteering, she had undergone a traumatic experience which led to her becoming shy, withdrawn and timid.

'The development and progress this young lady has made over the past 16 months is incredible, and she is an inspiration to our other volunteers and other young people,' he added.  'Her determination not to let the trauma she suffered get her down, and her positive approach to everything she enters into, makes her a worthy recipient of the award.'

Thomas Jones (Bangor)

Thomas Jones's volunteering is benefitting his local environment, Bangor Cathedral and people who rely on foodbanks to survive.

The 21-year-old Psychology undergraduate  at Bangor University runs 'the Big Give', a project that collects food left behind by students over the academic holidays and donates it to local charities - last summer, volunteers collected 1040kg of food for the Cathedral's foodbank, providing residents with an emergency three days' supply.

'Prior to the Big Give donation, the Cathedral had to regularly buy food from the local supermarket as they were not receiving enough donations from the community,' said Gareth Williams Volunteering Co-ordinator at Bangor  University.  'After the project was completed, the Cathedral had enough food to last until Christmas, saving a vast amount of money.'

Tom started off with Student Volunteering Bangor (SVB), as Project Leader for the biannual Tea Party, an event run by SVB since 1952 to give elderly local residents the opportunity to socialise with one another and the university volunteers.

Tom sits on the Student Sustainability Action Group (SSAG), which works closely with the students' union staff and the university's Sustainability Department to develop projects - such as a tree planting - making the city and surrounding areas more sustainable and aesthetically pleasing .

He is also Project Leader at the Hergest Mental Health Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd, organising volunteers to carry out befriending work and support to the patients twice a week.

'Tom has always been an asset to SVB, and can always be relied upon when last minute volunteers are needed, no matter what the project is,' Gareth Williams added. 'His can do attitude always comes through, no matter what the time, place, or job and it passes on to his fellow volunteers.'



WRAP Volunteer Team (Cardiff)

WRAP volunteers

A team of volunteers - including two former life sentence prisoners - has prevented hundreds of young people becoming offenders by sharing their own experiences.

The WRAP (Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership) volunteers have been trained as restorative practitioners and trainers, and travel across the country raising awareness about the ripple effects of harm for victims and families and the reality of prison, while deglamourising crime. 

They have acted as mentors for young people in school inclusion units and community anti-social behaviour diversion activities, and worked with parents struggling to manage their children's harmful behaviour.

The two ex-lifer offenders had served 22 years of prison between them after going to prison when they were young after committing very serious crimes.  They had also been victims of serious harm and crime as children before offending, and generously share this aspect of their lives with young people.  They are active members of the Board of Directors.

The group also includes Board Director Ted Shiress, a language and communications graduate and a stand-up comedian, who also has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.  His exemplary communication skills and personal experience is enabling a review of training to be more accessible.  Ted also enhances the group's social media profile by his impactful tweets and blogs. 

'The volunteer group are exceptional and inspirational, and have unique diverse qualities as well as shared drive,' said Education Consultant and the group's nominator, Ruth Smith.  'What they have in common is their willingness to be open and vulnerable and use their specific personal challenges generously to become strengths and assets, to inspire others to engage in restorative work and change for the positive.  They are role models in how to live a life restoratively to benefit of others.'


Gwent Defibbers (Tredegar)

A support group for cardiac arrest survivors and their families has been 'monumental' in helping its 90-plus members come to terms with living with the condition.

The 'Gwent Defibbers' group was set up in 2009 by Mike Morgan - who suffered a cardiac arrest many years ago - and Sandra Davies, whose husband is also a survivor. 

'People who have Cardiac Arrest (CA) have a high risk of experiencing another and are offered an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) - a matchbox-sized device implanted into the chest with lead(s) implanted into the heart,' said Mandie Welch of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. 

'This device can save your life by delivering an electric shock directly to the heart, these shocks can be very painful, and living with this device is known to cause anxiety and depression. Gwent Defibbers has been monumental in helping others come to terms with living with their ICD.' 

The group runs a buddy system, where patients have the opportunity to discuss their ICD implant with others who have a device, it has raised funds for defibrillators in public places and has a website offering up to date information for all aspects of living with an ICD;

'All of this is done on a voluntary basis - the arranging of meetings, venues and speakers is a huge task to take on, but they both do it regardless.' Mandie Welch added.  'Mike has recently been diagnosed with severe heart failure, as has Sandra's husband Jeff, yet they continue to provide their ongoing support to others who need it.  They are both inspirational and deserve to be recognised for their ongoing support and hard work.'

CHAaT (Newbridge)

A group of retired NHS professionals in Newbridge, Caerphilly are volunteering to ensure that care home residents are happy and being properly looked after.

CHAaT (Care Homes Ask and Talk) was set up to support residents who may be unable or unwilling to make suggestions or raise concerns about their standards of care.

CHAaT started with only eight volunteers and now has more than 20.  Their aim is to find out whether residents are content in the environment in which they live and identify and act on what may need to change.

'They are inspired to improve care standards for residents and act as a voice for people who are unable to raise their own concerns,' said Liz Durlucia of Ty Bryn Care Home, Pontypool.  'They challenge things that are wrong for service users, share good practise from other care homes and change lives for individuals.'

The role is valuable not only to service users, but also to the managers of the care homes who say the volunteers' findings give them the confidence to change care and push boundaries to fulfil the lives of residents to the maximum.

'I feel care standards are definitely being driven forward for the better of our service users because of the experience they have,' Liz Durlucia added.  'CHAaT have suggested homes set up friends' groups to include residents, families, staff and community members.  This again ensures voices are heard.'

Green volunteer

WINNERS - Steve Hunt and Dave King

Aerial shot VotY

Steve Hunt (Barry)

A popular South Wales country park that has more than 120,000 visitors a year and is open 24 hours a day has been kept in peak condition for the past decade with the help of Steve Hunt.

The 70-year-old from Barry is voluntarily improving the maintenance and biodiversity of the local Porthkerry Country Park, over 100 hectares of woods and meadowland in a sheltered valley leading to a pebble beach and spectacular cliffs.

The park also has nature trails, picnic sites, a café, adventure play area, barbecue areas and mini golf course. It offers a full events programme to the community, plus a highly-regarded education programme for local schools.

'The range of work and activities that Steve has helped out with are almost too numerous to list,' said Porthkerry Site Ranger Mel Stewart.  'He has been involved in nearly all aspects of running the park - maintenance activities Iike building bridges, a new decking area, new pond dipping sites for schools and new footpath; painting benches, picnic tables and buildings; fence, stile and gate construction - and his rope-tying skills are legendary!'

Steve has also helped out with a huge number of conservation projects like scrub clearing, litter picking, digging out invasive species, tree planting and a pollination project, where he helped create and enhance new wildflower meadow areas and build a new bee hive. 

'Steve has been a dedicated, enthusiastic volunteer at the park and it would be difficult to imagine it without his commitment and skills,' Mel added.  'He is a fantastic ambassador for the park and always happy and fun to be around, whether it is carrying out mundane boring tasks or turning his hand to more skilful activities.'

Dave King (Cardiff)

Dave King devotes his time to four charities and community organisations - three  protecting the environment in Cardiff and the whole of Wales and the fourth reducing the social isolation of older men, improving their mental health through undertaking practical activities.

Dave is a trustee and Treasurer of Keep Wales Tidy,  where he helps to ensure that the organisation is run with good governance, and continues to meet its aims and objectives.

Along with 5 other volunteers Dave formed Cardiff Rivers Group (CRG) in 2009.  Cardiff Rivers Group's main purpose is to clear areas around waterways of rubbish and debris, making them more attractive and safer for community members to use and enjoy, and safer for the wildlife. Having grown from the original 6 members to a distribution list of over 400, CRG were awarded the prestigious Queens Award For Voluntary Service in 2015.

With local residents in Grangetown Dave set up Keep Grangetown Tidy, an initiative that has been going for two and half years to tackle the litter around Grangetown and to try and get the community more aware of the need to be environmentally aware. All three organisations  have direct positive impacts on the environment in Wales and Cardiff.

Dave also founded the Dusty Shed, an independent social enterprise which is part of the Men's Shed movement, which aims to tackle social isolation amongst older men.

 'One of our members has reported that his life has purpose again, thanks to attending the Shed,' said Dusty Shed co-trustee Alison Pritchard.

 'I think Dave deserves special recognition for the sheer volume of time and devotion he gives to this organisation,' she added.  'The Dusty Shed simply would not exist without Dave's drive, passion and determination to see it happen.  We are now essentially at capacity for the number of attendees we can have per day and are looking for a larger space to ensure we can keep supporting older men in Cardiff, and that is all down to Dave's leadership.'



Phil Treseder

Phil Treseder (Swansea)

Phil Treseder's volunteering with YMCA Swansea has been 'critical' to the survival of the organisation and helped turn it from having a staff of four with a £150,000 turnover to employing more than 25 members of staff with a £1.4m turnover.

As well as working four days a week at Swansea Museum, Phil is Deputy Chair at the YMCA and spends one full day a week there working on funding applications and planning new projects. To fit this in, he occasionally has to work extra hours on his others days at the museum.

'His expertise in the youth work field has been a saviour, along with his knowledge of the third sector and how we must fight to remain open for the sake of the community and vulnerable groups that we support,' said YMCA Swansea colleague Carlie Torlop.

Also the volunteer minibus driver for young people's trips, he takes care of the YMCA building and is currently writing a funding application to completely refurbish the 105-year-old listed building and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of YMCA Swansea branch in 2018.

 'YMCA Swansea is a massive building,' Carlie added.  'When he started volunteering here, it consisted of a gym and a couple of office desks.  Phil knew that in order to survive as an organisation, the building needed to be used to full capacity.

'He has helped identify tenants that were like-minded organisations that were needed in the community - and now every square inch of the building is being used to help transform and change people's lives.'

Carlie concluded: 'Phil's knowledge, skills and expertise of the sector has been instrumental, because whereas other third sector organisations during this time have been forced into liquidation and have closed their services to the community, with Phil's support and influence YMCA Swansea has stood strong and has achieved accomplishment after accomplishment.'


Kieran Vass (Cardiff)

'Incredible' volunteer Kieran Vass has contributed over 400 hours of his time over the past year as chair of a students' charity supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged people - while also holding down a job and studying for a Master's degree. 

The 22-year-old is a trustee and recently-appointed Chair of Student Volunteering Cardiff (SVC), a student-led charity that runs 27 different projects across the city.  Its aims are to provide vulnerable community members - adults with mental health conditions, homeless people and adults and children with disabilities  - with volunteer support to enhance their lives.

Their work is helping to dispel often negative stereotypes of students while also developing positive relationships between Cardiff residents and the student population.

'As Chair, Kieran's role is a position of big responsibility, particularly for a younger person, said SVC colleague Adrienne Earls.  'He is an open, friendly, approachable individual who encourages these attributes throughout the charity. 

'He is so committed, passionate and reliable, and attends the majority of SVC events and one-off volunteering opportunities, while also organising and leading fortnightly board meetings.  He has also volunteered with disadvantaged young people to help with their academic development, mentored and supported new volunteers and joined the Board of Trustees.

'Kieran is such a fantastic role model for everyone at SVC.  It's hard to truly put into words the affect Kieran's work has on the community.  However, he ensures that SVC operates an open and family community, helping all volunteers to feel valued.'

Digital volunteers

WINNERS - City of Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers and Sharon Palmer

Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers & Sharon Palmer

Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers

A team of over 60 volunteers including people who have recently moved to Cardiff from foreign countries are helping other new arrivals to the city - such as refugees - to settle in and find work.

Cardiff Council Hub Volunteers also help the local authority's services run more smoothly by devoting more time to customers on a one-to-one basis than paid staff are able to due to the sheer volume of visitors.

The 12 community hubs across the city bring together the services of the council and other agencies under one roof.  The volunteers support staff in Job Clubs and Digital Inclusion sessions helping clients search for jobs and use social media; they also work with the money advice team and support clients to complete welfare benefit forms; there are reception volunteers, greeting and assisting customers with enquiries; and they support children at homework clubs.

'Cardiff is a diverse and multi-cultural city,' said Cllr Lynda Thorne cabinet member of Housing and Communities, of Cardiff Council.  'The volunteers mirror this diversity and speak a total of 18 community languages, so are able to support customers in their mother tongue. This instantly puts some of the most vulnerable people in the community at ease - especially those that have recently fled their native countries and are now refugees in the city.

'This group stands out because many come from a variety of backgrounds around the world.  So not only are they in a foreign country but they are also learning about a different culture and language.  These initial barriers to integration, together with their desire to find employment, are what lead them to volunteering.'

The Cardiff Council Hub Volunteering team has been in operation since April 2014 and has seen 268 volunteers recruited and a total of nearly 5,000 volunteering hours given to the services. As well as building confidence and skills 124 volunteers are now in paid employment, which shows how volunteering really is a route into work.

Sharon Palmer (Swansea)

Sharon Palmer is playing a vital role in a disadvantaged community, helping people overcome barriers to employment and engagement improve their literacy skills and overcome a fear of technology.

A former social and life skills lecturer and trained librarian, Sharon has always enjoyed helping people to improve their chances in life and joined KPC to help unemployed people develop employability skills, access IT, create or update their CV, gain confidence in job searches and learn how to apply for jobs.

'The role which Sharon helps with is vital within our socially disadvantaged community, which has large pockets of Community First areas within it,' said Alison Mawby KPC Youth and Community Manager of the project which Sharon volunteers at.  'Statistics show that we have a higher than average level of low skills within our adult population, and also high levels of unemployment.'

The volunteer role has been of great benefit in helping Sharon develop and update her own skills, experience and knowledge.  She has also attended various courses, including Digital Champion Training, and achieved a City & Guilds Level 3 Award in Education and Teaching.

 'I feel Sharon has proved herself to be a fantastic and much valued volunteer, and a very important part of our team.  She is flexible, supportive, and even though unpaid shows a great commitment to what our charity and project offer, and the clients who access our provision.

'We feel Sharon is an inspiration to other potential volunteers - who as well as gaining experience and skills is also making a big difference to other unemployed adults, and helping them have better chances in life.'


NPT Homes Digital Helpers (Neath)

Older people across Neath Port Talbot are changing their lives for the better through new technology, thanks to the work of a group of digital volunteers.

Sheltered housing residents have learned how to trace their ancestry and keep in touch with family living abroad, making new friends and overcoming isolation and loneliness as a result.

NPT Homes's Digital Helpers Project delivers sessions across 13 Haven Housing sheltered schemes.  Comprising volunteers aged from 17-80, the group offers support to tenants in groups and on a one-to-one basis.

'Some older people are at first not interested, too afraid or feel too old to learn,' said Group Coordinator Janet Weaver.  'Almost 100 are now digitally aware.'

One 87-year-old resident has purchased an iPad, learned how to Skype and is in regular contact with her sons who work in Egypt and Cardiff

'Residents feel more engaged, included and more positive, as there are more choices and opportunities to take part in modern digital activities such as exploring holiday destinations, crafts and other hobbies,' Janet added.

'The volunteers show true compassion and understanding of others and make others feel very relaxed and calm while learning at their own pace in their own environment.'