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Islington’s unsung heroes honoured at Volunteer of the Year Awards

PUBLISHED: 19:06 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 19:06 09 November 2018

Mayor of Islington Cllr Dave Poyser with the Volunteer of the Year award winners. Picture: Sean Pollock

Mayor of Islington Cllr Dave Poyser with the Volunteer of the Year award winners. Picture: Sean Pollock

Sean Pollock Photographer

Big-hearted volunteers who do everything from supporting vulnerable women to organising sports for disabled youngsters were recognised at an awards bash on Wednesday.

Guests at Volunteer Action Islington's Volunteer of the Year Awards. Picture: Sean PollockGuests at Volunteer Action Islington's Volunteer of the Year Awards. Picture: Sean Pollock

The 2018 Volunteer of the Year awards saw workers from multiple organisations rewarded for their contributions, which ranged from supporting vulnerable women to organising sporting activities for disabled youth.

Introducing the ceremony last night, Phil Kelly, chair of Volunteer Action Islington, said: “Volunteers are the bedrock of what we do in Islington. Tonight is to celebrate that and say thank you for everything they do.”

The five award categories were: young volunteer of the year, volunteer of the year (26- to 60-year-olds) older volunteer of the year, the Pat Haynes memorial trustee award, and volunteer team of the year.

Fatima Zahri Abri won the award in the 26- to 60-year-old category for her work with the Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation (MEWSO). Fatima helps mainly Arabic-speaking women adjust to life in London and advises them on their rights in cases of domestic abuse.

Mayor of Islington Cllr Dave Poyser with Fatima Zahri Abri. Picture: Sean PollockMayor of Islington Cllr Dave Poyser with Fatima Zahri Abri. Picture: Sean Pollock

She said: “I’m so happy to win, but it’s not just about us [MEWSO]. It’s great to come here and meet others – organisations we didn’t know about – so that we can work together in the future.”

The award for older volunteer of the year was given to Beverly Richards. Following the death of her son Kevin, she set up the Kevin Richards foundation centre to help other families cope with similar losses. Beverly makes hospital visits and daily telephone calls to those in need, despite suffering from her own health problems.

Her husband Alphonso, who accepted the award on Beverly’s behalf, presented it to his wife as a surprise at the Loraine Estate Community Centre in Holloway Road on Friday.

“I’m very proud to have won,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but I enjoy doing it.”

Guests at Volunteer Action Islington's Volunteer of the Year Awards. Picture: Sean PollockGuests at Volunteer Action Islington's Volunteer of the Year Awards. Picture: Sean Pollock

Karl Donaldson of Wipers Youth, which works with the foundation, said: “It’s amazing Beverly won. She does everything at the centre – she organises activities, cooks for everyone and gives the centre a real sense of belonging.”

Meanwhile, the youth award winner was Aidan Tsen from KEEN London for his extensive work organising sports activities for disabled young people.

Olivia Morton was awarded the Pat Haynes trustee award. Ms Morton is a lawyer but finds time for regular visits to artists with disabilities and supports them with their projects.

The volunteer team award went to Mary’s Youth Club, an organisation that encourages young people under the age of 18 to get involved with the community.

Mayor of Islington Cllr Dave Poyser presented the prizes. He said: “I was honoured to give out awards that epitomise the spirit of Islington. Congratulations to all the winners.”

Martin Cree, HR officer for the event sponsor DoubleTree Hilton, said: “It was a fantastic evening. It’s very difficult to decide the winners because there are so many good nominations. You just want to reward them all.”

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