Dedeicated volunteers receive prestigious award nominations
ABERDEENSHIRE volunteers have been nominated for prestigious awards for their significant contribution towards improving the health and wellbeing of many in their local communities.
Josée Kellas has been nominated for Health Walk Volunteer of the Year, while Daviot Community Trust and Aboyne Paths and Tracks have both been nominated for Community Path Group of the Year at the 2020 Paths for All Volunteer Awards.
The Volunteer Awards received over 57 entries to this year’s virtual awards ceremony.
Josée Kellas, Health Walk Leader at Aberdeenshire Health Walks said: “I was very surprised to have been nominated for the Health Walk Volunteer Award as I see my volunteer role as just a normal part of my weekly routine. I started volunteering over 15 years ago when I sadly lost my husband to cancer and the local community gave me so much support throughout that time. From doing my ironing to collecting my shopping – I felt I had to do something to give back to the community.
“All the members of the walking group mean a great deal to me, and we have formed a strong friendship. For most of them they love being able to interact with other people so I started to bring my grand-children along to some of the walks and the members just loved to be surrounded by them and hear their stories.
“During the pandemic we couldn’t go out on our walks so instead, when it was allowed, I would visit some of the members from a distance and stand by their windows or have a phone call with them. I also delivered lettuce from my vegetable bed to keep their spirits high as some couldn’t go out shopping.
“The pleasure I get from volunteering is why I love doing it so much. Seeing how happy it makes the members makes me want to continue volunteering for as long as I can. The group members enjoy hearing the community news, and I really think it opens their world and gives many a new lease of life. I have become very attached to this group of people.”
Founding Chair of Aboyne Paths and Tracks, Jonathan Kitching, hopes that their nomination encourages more people to get involved in the upkeep of paths and tracks across Aberdeen.
He said: “It’s wonderful to have been nominated for this award. To be recognised for this clearly shows the work we have been doing has been valued and appreciated by the local community. We would like to say a big thank you to the ongoing support from the Community, the Community Trust and Aberdeenshire Council.
“Principally it is about improving the wellbeing and health of our local community. By maintaining, developing and promoting these paths and tracks we are seeing an increase in people using the pathways since we started the group in Spring last year. Another important element of our work is to help support local businesses and by maintaining these paths we are able to attract visitors to the village.
“We have recently created information leaflets which are to be distributed throughout the local community to encourage people to get out and walk, and to provide us with feedback on how best we can service the paths.
“Before our group started people maybe didn’t see the need for improvement, but as we have become more of a presence, we have found many have valued our place within the community. We are doing our bit to keep everyone as well as they can be, and so we are delighted to have been recognised with this nomination. “
Another group nominated was Daviot Community Trust, which was set up to manage and develop 22 acres of land and woodland. Director William Sinclair said: “It’s a great honour for our group to be nominated for the Community Path Group of the Year Award!
“Speaking on behalf of all our volunteers, it’s encouraging to be recognised for the work that’s been done over the years and especially this year during Covid – 19, the trust has carried out extensive work to create a network of paths and leisure areas and planted around 600 – 700 trees, wild flower areas and new grass areas created for picnic tables and seating.
“The volunteers come from various backgrounds and put their diverse skillsets to good use; not only in making use of their expertise but also helping others to learn new skills.
“The paths network has enabled easier connectivity between the various parts of the community – primary school pupils, in particular, now have a safe, traffic-free means of walking or cycling to school – and people of all ages and physical abilities have the opportunity to walk, run or cycle in a safe environment.
“During lockdown there has been a noticeable increase in ‘traffic’ due to the restrictions and many have commented on what it has meant to have this facility on their doorstep. People have mentioned an improvement in physical and mental well-being by being able to get out into the countryside and have a relaxing seat on one of the many strategically placed benches.
“Due to some of the recent bad weather, considerable damage has been caused to some paths resulting in technical expertise of the volunteers being called upon and more ‘heavy graft’ being required by others to rectify the damage. The trees, which were planted, also need regular tending and there is a lot of grass cutting to be undertaken on almost a weekly basis during the summer months.
“There is no doubt that we have accomplished a great deal over the years and there is no limit to what we can do in the future – I would like to see us develop more physical amenities for the users.
“It has been a great team effort to achieve what has been done but the most rewarding aspect of it all has been how much the community as a whole have made use of it and appreciate what has been done so far.”
13 different awards will be up for grabs at the first ever virtual ceremony which will be hosted by BBC Scotland’s Fiona Stalker on 4th November at 6pm on Paths for All’s YouTube channel.
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All, said: “Although the awards ceremony will be a bit different this year with it being virtual, we are looking forward to what I’m sure will be a very special and positive event celebrating the outstanding work that volunteers who support our work have carried out in local communities across Scotland.
“The work of volunteers is fundamental to encouraging more people to walk every day and everywhere as projects across Scotland make more opportunities for better environments for walking, cycling, and wheeling to help more people get more active.
“We are very proud to have such a strong community focus and every volunteer involved in our work should be extremely proud of their contribution and dedication, especially throughout the last few difficult months.
Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiatives.
The charity supports volunteers and voluntary projects with training, grants and resources.
To find out more which Health Walks you can join in Aberdeen, visit: www.pathsforall.org.uk/healthwalkfinder
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