A UNIVERSITY has celebrated the difference its staff and student volunteers have made to the North East region.

The Durham University Volunteering Awards, which took place on Wednesday June 24, recognised the most outstanding examples of how volunteers from the University have made a positive contribution to local communities and further afield in the past year.

The Northern Echo:

Eighteen awards were presented in total, across projects covering education, social inclusion and complex needs, fundraising and the environment.

The Northern Echo:

The Student Volunteer of the Year prize went to Amathul Farhath, a Law undergraduate at Trevelyan College, who volunteers with the County Durham Youth Offending Service as a mentor and for young offenders and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, helping tenants with housing issues.

The Staff Volunteer of the Year prize went to Jennifer Smith, an Instructional Design Officer at Durham University, who organised hampers to be packed for distribution by the charity Feeding Families and ran a ‘wear your pyjamas to work’ day to raise money for the cause.

The Northern Echo:

Each year, over 2,000 Durham University students undertake volunteering; giving a total of almost 40,000 hours of their time.

In addition, last year over 400 University staff undertook volunteering; giving over 6,000 hours of their time. Last year was a record for how many staff volunteered, how many hours they volunteered for and the impact they had.

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Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “At Durham University we pride ourselves on the positive contribution we make to local communities: economically, culturally, through our world-changing research and, in the case of volunteering: directly to our society.

“Of course, Covid-19 has affected volunteering greatly, as with so many other areas of everyday life. But I am very proud of how our staff and students have responded to the crisis in support of others.

“We would also like to thank our many community partners who work with us to host volunteers. Our staff and students could not make the difference they make without your support.”

Due to Covid-19, the ceremony took place remotely via Zoom and Facebook and many of the nominees had undertaken volunteering linked to the pandemic, such as technical staff Paul White and Colin Wintrip, who organised colleagues to make face visors and shields for frontline workers.

The Northern Echo:

The ceremony comes shortly after the Student Volunteering and Outreach received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given for volunteering in the UK.

The full list of winners were as follows:

Best Environmental Initiative: ECO DU, a student environmental campaign group.

Best Cultural Volunteering: Xinran Lu, for Out of the Shadows, an art project at Collingwood College for survivors of domestic abuse.

Best Social Inclusion and Complex Needs Volunteering: Carers Respite Committee, a Van Mildert College initiative to support disabled children and their families.

Best Educational Volunteering: Mahek Vara (Code Camp), an NGO that has helped nearly 80,000 Indian children gain computer skills.

Best Example of Collaboration: Sophie O’Sullivan, for various initiatives including co-ordinating volunteers to help the local homelessness charity Durham Action on Single Housing (DASH).

Best Fundraising Activity: John Snow College Boat Club, which raised over £1,500 for MIND through a sponsored ergathon.

Most Improved Project: Durham University Student Volunteering and Outreach Generations Together, which has increased its work with older people.

Most Committed Volunteer (Staff): Judith King, who has worked to support Stray Aid animal charity, in Coxhoe.

Most Committed Volunteer (Student) – three joint winners: Christian Palmer, who supports junior rowing programmes; Emma Graham, who supports children with disabilities to enjoy horse riding and swimming; and Paul Burgum, who established BCT Aspire, a Community Interest Company which aims to raise aspirations of children and young people in Billingham.

Outstanding One Off Event (Staff) – two joint winners: Colin Wintrip, who organised colleagues in the Engineering Department to make face visors; and Paul White, who organised technicians across the University to use 3D printers to make face visors for frontline workers.

Outstanding One Off Event (Student): Rebecca Fraser, who organised the John Snow College Fashion Show in aid of the charity Heads-up Durham.

Volunteer of the Year (Staff): Jennifer Smith.

Volunteer of the Year (Student): Amathul Farhath.

Outstanding Newcomer: Alex Moorhouse, who restarted a Further Maths club for sixth form students and is tutoring online during Covid-19.

The Finalist Award (for final year students): El Conway, who has tutored school children and volunteered with Durham for Refugee Kids Club.