Dedicated East Lothian volunteers have their hard work recognised with a prestigious award nomination
TWO East Lothian women have been nominated for a prestigious award for their significant contribution towards improving the health and wellbeing of many in their local community.
Sue Jardine from Ageing Well East Lothian and Elaine Peach from East Lothian Council have both been nominated for the Health Walk Volunteer of Year at the 2020 Paths for All Volunteer Awards.
The Volunteer Awards received over 57 entries to this year’s virtual awards ceremony
Sue Jardine found Ageing Well East Lothian while looking for voluntary work following a career break which would combine her love for walking with making a difference within her community. Sue joined the organisation and never looked back.
She said: “I joined Ageing Well East Lothian and undertook training with Paths for All where I met people from all walks of life. They inspired me to I ask my Ageing Well co-ordinator if there was scope to base a new walking group in Aberlady, which then launched in May 2016.
“For me, it has kept my mind and body fit and healthy and I enjoy seeing my walkers benefit in this way too. We have explored routes/paths that some may not have known before, it’s fun and rewarding to share these moments.
“Volunteering has made me become more aware of the needs of the whole community. I had undertaken some fundraising walks for my community before being a Walk Leader but now I can directly help people improve their physical and mental health. We all feel better out walking in the company of others.
“There was a pivotal moment last year when I realised that my walking group had become more than a weekly meet for a walk and a coffee afterwards. I saw group members swapping plant cuttings, books, DVDS, overheard some arranging to give lifts to other activities – it was then that I realised how many positive changes the group had made to people’s lives. I love the fact that when new walkers come along, they are made very welcome by all and seem to enjoy their experience with the group from the outset.
“I always encourage people to just try to get out walking if they haven’t before, haven’t for a while or would like to do more! To start off they just need to put their comfiest pair of shoes on and walk out the door and down the street and back without thinking about speed or distance. Then they can gradually increase from there.
“For me it has become more than just a volunteering position. As a group we look out for each other and support each other. We have a great time while out walking and I can’t wait until we can welcome more of the group back and continue to expand as lockdown restrictions lift. I’m really humbled to be nominated for the Health Walk Volunteer of the Year and I’m very thankful for the members in the group who kindly nominated me.”
Elaine Peach originally started walking with the group and trained as a Walk Leader with Paths for All for East Lothian Council in 2016.
She said: “I was stunned when I found out I’d been nominated for Health Walk Volunteer of Year – I’ve always loved walking.
“The walks have been essential for members of the community, especially during the pandemic. We had to pause our group walks for a period of time, so people had to continue individually, however we managed to resume in October.
“In my job, I learned how to deal with the public so I have the confidence to stand at the front of the walking group and speak to them all at the beginning. We have around 16-20 people in each group.
“Someone in the group even thought I had been a teacher in my previous job because of the way I’m able to lead people which I found quite funny!
“It’s quite difficult to take a big group out in Haddington because of the narrow country roads, it’s difficult to keep your distance from people that you’re passing so we have had to take great care on our return as the health and wellbeing of our group members is paramount.
“It’s been a great way for people who are moving to Haddington to meet new people and make friends. The bonus is when we have new members join, we get to show them the lovely walking routes and hear suggestions of new routes.
“I moved to Haddington a couple of years ago, but it didn’t feel like a new place because I had so many friends there from walking!”
The East Lothian duo will be among six nominees for the Health Walk Volunteer of the Year at the [11th] annual volunteers awards.
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 East Lothian, visit: www.pathsforall.org.uk/healthwalkfinder
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