Inaugural Volunteer Hero Awards celebrate essential support to services over lockdown

Our star volunteers have been presented with their Volunteer Hero Awards to say thank you for months of dedication to helping end street homelessness

Inaugural Volunteer Hero Awards celebrate essential support to services over lockdown

This year has seen not only an unprecedented increase in demand for many of Thames Reach’s services, but also the need to adapt as quickly and effectively as possible. Volunteers across different projects have helped enormously with these efforts, and to say thank you earlier in the year we asked staff and service users to nominate their star volunteers for our inaugural Volunteer Hero Awards, marking those who have gone above and beyond to help our projects and services across London. Although social distancing guidelines meant we were not able to host a full ceremony with all winners and staff together, over the past few weeks, winners have been presented with their Volunteer Hero Awards by chief executive Bill Tidnam.

From supporting outreach services to gardening projects at a residential project, each winner was nominated by either a staff member or service user for their outstanding contribution to Thames Reach’s vision of ending street homelessness. There were twelve winners overall, this is what some of them had to say after finding out they had won:

“It is my privilege to be able to volunteer for such a dynamic charity. I am always excited to get out there working alongside fantastic staff who have such dedication and passion for the work that they do. Everyone at Thames Reach have shown me nothing but kindness and patience and that is replicated with the poor souls who they meet living on the streets. I am struggling to get my head around the fact that i was even nominated as i think that i am simply doing what most other people would do if they were given the opportunity. Each time that we get someone off of the streets feels like a great moral victory to me as it does to all of the wonderful people who i work with. I would recommend that everyone should try volunteering at least once in their lives.”
– Paul, Rapid Response Team

“For me, volunteering is a snack for the soul. It’s a way to give back to my community and contribute in my own way. The pandemic was more of an incentive for me to get out there and help out. To quote Billy Ocean, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.”
– Manos, Rapid Response Team

“Back in March I was lucky enough to do the TRaVEL (Thames Reach Volunteering and Employment for Life) course as a learner, I thought that with PTSD and anxiety I was no longer able to help anyone let alone myself. The course rekindled my desire to encourage others to reach full potential and I was accepted to volunteer for the next TRaVEL course. The course has rewarded me immensely, not only am I gaining invaluable skills from working with Lisa and the learners but also find that this experience has changed me for the better. I want to push myself towards a career that involves helping others. This experience has opened my heart. It was an honour to be awarded one of the Volunteer Hero awards and the recognition really humbled me.

“I have learned that job satisfaction is more than money. To be given this opportunity to help in a time of crisis has made me realise there is no lockdown on hope.”
– Joe, TRaVEL

A selection of nomination comments from staff and service users:

“Faye has been with us since 2019 and has been a fantastic volunteer throughout. She is consistent, committed and is always willing to be flexible even when we have had to make last minute changes. Faye was fantastic during the pandemic and recently supported Jamie [Lead Manager, Rapid Response Team] in explaining the role of volunteers within our team at a volunteer Streetlink event. She was particularly good at explaining the realities of outreach on the ground and this is a testament to her sound communication skills and empathy. She is a perfect volunteer!”
– Nomination for Faye, Rapid Response Team

“During the pandemic, often we were short staffed and Vicar Rob stepped up many times so I could complete early shifts and day shifts. It was an eerie and scary time, yet he remained calm and professional and never once let me down in sometimes manic situations. All the services you take for granted i.e coffee shops, cafes and loos (!) were all shut down and his church St Barnabus became my beacon of light.”
– Nomination for Vicar Rob, Newham SORT

“During lockdown Clare continued to make weekly contact with her clients and support them via the phone; she was keen to remain in contact with them and support the SI [Social Inclusion] service during these very difficult times. She is consistent, extremely enthusiastic, reliable, approachable, friendly, understanding, compassionate and selfless and has created invaluable bonds with her clients. I have received great feedback about Clare from her clients; they look forward to her visiting and calling them, she helps them feel motivated and focused and often gives purpose to their week. She always has a non-judgmental attitude and accepts them for who they are.

“One of her clients has progressed hugely, which is down to the support she has received from Clare; they now have a small support network they didn’t have before and get out for weekly walks with a group which she would never have considered before.”
– Nomination for Clare, Social Inclusion Project in the Tenancy Sustainment Team 

Our teams helping people experiencing street homelessness