Judges struggle to choose Islington’s top volunteer

Judges struggling to choose between the good work of some of Islington’s most selfless residents gave up and decided to name two women as “volunteer” of the year.

Barbara Firebrace, who has been reading to children at the same primary school for 27 years, shared top honours with Sue Jandy, secretary of the Friends of Gillespie Park, at Voluntary Action Islington’s (VAI) annual awards ceremony last Wednesday.

Mrs Firebrace, who started helping out at St Mary’s Primary School, in Fowler Road, Islington, in 1984, said: “I go in twice a week to read with children who need a bit of a push or are lacking in self confidence. It’s such great fun being with young children and it’s really rewarding to see them improving and getting better.”

Her fellow winner Ms Jandy fought to save Gillespie Park from the threat of development in the 1980s and has worked hard for Islington’s second-largest green space ever since.

The two volunteers were handed their certificates by the Mayor of Islington, Cllr Phil Kelly, at the VAI headquarters in Pentonville Road, Islington.

Other winners included Kin Fun, who scooped the older volunteer of the year category for her selfless work with the Islington Chinese Association in Hatchard Road, Archway, where she has helped out for 14 years.

Chief executive Katy Tse Blair said: “Chinese women by tradition stay at home and look after the family, but she broke that mould and is a real model to other Chinese women.”

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The VAI also took stock of a tough year – it has lost two-thirds of its workforce and had its budget slashed by �1million – in its annual general meeting.