Volunteers at Aberdeen Cyrenians have been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The charity has spent more than 50 years offering support and a helping hand to people affected by homelessness and other forms of crisis in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Aberdeen Cyrenians is one of 241 charities, social enterprises, and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.
The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.
Connection is a ‘fundamental human need’
The charity’s Street Alternatives service is one of those innovative initiatives.
It is entirely volunteer-run, and offers people without access to cooked food, laundry or showers, the chance to refresh and spend time connecting with others.
Sadly, the life expectancy of those affected by homelessness is vastly reduced, and the deaths of familiar faces and friends can occur.
Following the death of one of their friends, many service users found they were struggling.
The night before the funeral, people had gathered at Aberdeen Cyrenians to connect with others and share their grief.
Staff helped service users find outfits from donated clothing for the funeral, while volunteers made time to chat one-to-one with service users who were grieving.
They shared their grief and fears, and were offered support as they shared how they felt about their own lives.
The charity said at least 15 service users that night were given essential support.
During their chats, they talked about how desperate they felt until chatting to volunteers, clearly still grieving.
However, Aberdeen Cyrenians emphasised the power of being able to talk to someone and the impact volunteers provide in supporting and enhancing its services, adding: “That connection between two people when one really needs to express how they are feeling, is a fundamental human need”.
Volunteers played key role during pandemic
Representatives of Aberdeen Cyrenians will receive the award crystal and certificate from Barney Crockett, Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeen, later this summer.
Two volunteers will attend a garden party at Holyroodhouse in July 2022, depending on restrictions, along with other recipients.
Monday also marked the beginning of Volunteers Week, an annual campaign entering its 37th year, which sees charities, voluntary groups, social organisations, and volunteers themselves come together to recognise the incredible impact that volunteering has had on local communities.
Mike Burns, chief executive at Aberdeen Cyrenians, said: “To win this prestigious award is a wonderful achievement for our volunteers and services that have dedicated their time and compassion to supporting people going through overwhelming and traumatic circumstances.
“It’s also fantastic that we get to celebrate this achievement on Volunteers Week when everyone comes together to celebrate all of the volunteers within our communities.
“It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the Covid-19 pandemic response.
“During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life have stepped up to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community – just as they do every year.
“Our volunteers inspire us every single day with their amazing attitudes and infectious energy.
“Without them, we couldn’t carry out vital activities such as making up and delivering food parcels, sorting donations, and helping us behind the scenes: they are all very important in keeping Aberdeen Cyrenians operating and helping those in need.
“We’re looking forward to celebrating with all our volunteers once restrictions are eased and cannot wait to show our appreciation and gratitude for all their exceptional work.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for Aberdeen Cyrenians can find more information on their website.