The winners of this year’s Shetland Youth Volunteering Awards (SYVA) were announced at a ceremony in Lerwick Town Hall this week.
From a strong field of 18 candidates, Claire Antonio was declared the individual winner for her work with Shetland Children’s Rights Service. Her commitment and dedication was judged to be helping to improve and support the lives of other young people.
Shetland Young Promoters Group beat five other contenders to win the award in the organisation category for their role in enabling and encouraging young musicians.
In a night of celebration on Tuesday, The Rotary Club of Shetland which, along with Voluntary Action Shetland had launched the award scheme last year, announced it had also gained from its participation in SYVA with a national Rotary honour.
The SYVA aims to recognise the contribution young volunteers aged between 12 and 25 make to the lives of others through two awards – one for individual involvement and the other for an organisation which enables young volunteers to participate.
Voluntary Action Shetland (VAS) chairman Gussie Angus welcomed the large turnout on what was a very blustery evening. He thanked the trophy sponsors, Harry’s Department Store and Shetland Windpower, and the SIC for hosting the event.
Mr Angus highlighted the growth and importance of volunteering, both locally and nationally, and said currently there were over 360 volunteers registered with VAS. The ceremony not only celebrated the SYVA awards, but it also acknowledged “Make a Difference Day”, the UK’s largest day of volunteering.
Mr Angus pointed out that this year’s activities were being concentrated from 22nd October through to 6th November and reminded the audience that MSP Tavish Scott and MP Alistair Carmichael both regularly volunteered in their constituencies. He introduced a video from Mr Carmichael, which had been prepared by SIC graduate placement worker in youth services Cara McDiarmid.
Mr Carmichael said he regretted not being able to be present and congratulated all nominees on their efforts. “There is a very strong sense of community in Shetland,” he said. “Volunteering takes so many different shapes and forms and every little bit of help makes a little bit of difference to someone.”
The diversity of volunteering was reflected by one of the judges, Leona Mullay, who said it was “fantastic” to see the number of nominations. She said the judging panel had spent two nights and many hours trying to decide between the many deserving nominees.
“Tonight is about the voices of young people and they should be heard,” Ms Mullay said. “I hope with the support of VAS and The Rotary Club of Shetland this award can continue.”
Mr Angus welcomed MSYP Nicole Mouat to the stage and she presented certificates to all those who had been nominated, with the three nominees shortlisted in each category saved for last. She said it was “amazing to see how much work goes on” in the volunteering sector.
The shortlist for the organisation award was introduced by Mr Scott who said: “It’s great to be here for what is becoming a winter fixture. The SYVA awards celebrate the achievements of those who work to help us in different ways.”
Mr Scott praised Comet Conspiracy, the young band who had entertained the audience at the start of the evening, joking they were better than many hopefuls on X Factor.
The MSP will be supporting Making a Difference Day by volunteering at the Shetland Community Bike Project during the afternoon of 18th November.
The first organisation on the shortlist was InIT – a newly-formed youth group whose purpose is to help older members of the community to develop their knowledge of information technology (computer) skills. They are supported by Adult Learning Centre and youth services in Sandwick and Scalloway.
Next up were Maddrim Media – a film and media group and production company involving young people aged between 11 and 25. They have been operating on a voluntary basis since 2005. They encourage their members to develop their skills and their work benefits communities through voluntary work in schools, youth centres and Shetland Youth Voice.
Shetland Young Promoters Group, aged mainly between 14 and 18, completed the shortlist. They aim to help and empower young people to host musical events in a safe, alcohol-free environment. They work alongside experienced promoters, technicians and professionals to give young musicians and groups an opportunity to perform, enhance their skills in a supportive atmosphere and give them practical experience.
What happened next took everyone by surprise – a loud, entertaining X Factor-style video created by Martin Summers of Shetland Youth Services and shown on a large screen.
It announced the winners of the SYVA Organisation Award – Shetland Young Promoters Group (SYPG) – represented on the night by Chloe Robertson (secretary) and Eilidh Jones (chairwoman), both also of “Comet Conspiracy”, Wendy Lowe of Shetland Youth Services and Bryan Peterson of Shetland Arts.
True to the style, the film gave a background slideshow of what the winners had been doing. To hearty appreciation from the audience, they collected their award.
In an amusing short speech Chloe and Eilidh thanked “all the grown-ups who had helped them” and said that as everyone had seen what they did “there’s not much more to say except thank you”.
Mr Angus welcomed last year’s individual winner, MSYP Emily Shaw, to introduce the individual winner. Acknowledging the nervousness of all the young nominees she said: “I know how you feel. Last year I was nervously sitting there awaiting the announcement. The award last year gave me the confidence I needed to push myself. Being nominated for the award made me see that what I did was valued by others and made a difference to my community and those around me.”
Since winning the award last year Miss Shaw has gone on to become an elected member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and has gained other national positions. She congratulated the nominees and thanked them for all their hard work, then announced the individual shortlist.
First up was Claire Antonio from Lerwick who was nominated for her work with the Shetland Children’s Rights Service (SCRS). She had contributed to the <i>Who Cares Scotland</i> DVD and is involved with the national consultation on the reform of Scotland’s Children’s Hearing system.
Miss Antonio is consulted on and informs policy-making locally and nationally with the support of SCRS. Her input ensures other vulnerable young people can receive the support and assistance they need at often difficult, significant times in their lives.
Brae girl Hannah Hunter was next. She was nominated for her volunteer work which began while she was attending Brae High School. She worked with several others providing support for the Additional Support Needs department. She impressed the judges because after she left school she returned to continue her volunteer work.
The third person on the shortlist was Nicole Petursdottir from Gulberwick. She has been a volunteer with the Shetland Amateur Competitive Swimming Club for three years, providing classes in the club when other teachers have been unavailable. She has acquired many teaching certificates throughout her volunteering and is regarded as a vital member of the club.
Miss Shaw then made way for the X Factor-style show to declare Miss Antonio the winner of the individual award. To huge applause she said: “Thank you to everyone. Everything makes a difference. Thank you all for coming.”
Closing the evening, Rotary Club chairman Peter Campbell, said it had been an inspiring evening. So often negative comments were directed at young people, he said, and it was good to hear all the positive comments.
In addition, Mr Campbell revealed that the Shetland branch of the Rotary Club had benefitted from its involvement in the award. It had been recognised for a National Level Vocational Award for District 1010, which was basically the area north of Stirling.
Mr Campbell said he hoped where Shetland had led other Rotary clubs would come forward and support young people. He thanked everyone who had participated in the ceremony and said he looked forward to next year’s event.