Town hall celebration for volunteer youths

The volunteers who received their certificates on the night from Tavish Scott MSP. Seated centre (from left) are Gwen Williamson (youth volunteering development worker, VAS), Mr Scott, Catherine Hughson (executive officer, VAS) and Marilyn Stewart (VAS director).

A celebration of youth volunteering in Lerwick Town Hall last night marked the end of the popular nationally-recognised MV Awards scheme and the launch of its successor – the Saltire Awards. This year of the 67 young Shetlanders who had qualified, 24 had completed 50 hours, 19 had achieved 100 hours and 24 had gained the 200-hour certificate.

Voluntary Action Shetland (VAS) director Marilyn Stewart opened the evening and told the audience the MV scheme was an initiative, backed by the Scottish government, to recognise and reward volunteers aged 16-25 years. In the six years it has been running in Shetland almost 500 certificates have been presented: 246 for 50 hours of volunteering, 157 for 100 hours and 90 for 200 hours. The work had been done all over Shetland, she said, and was “impressive and inspiring”.

Activities included working for charities, to support children’s rights, in sports groups, in Scouts and Brownies, in nurseries, as representatives for Shetland and in many more organisations.

“Communities enjoy benefits far beyond a financial aspect when young people get involved,” she said. “They gain a generation of young people who care about their community, who care about where they live and who care about others.”

She explained there were similarities between the MV award scheme and the new Saltire Awards. They will still be recognised nationally and are hourly-based, but the new scheme has extended the age group to 12-25 years, enabling VAS to recognise and reward this younger age group for the first time. In addition, anyone achieving 200 hours and continuing to volunteer is now eligible to be nominated for a Summit Award. Full support and all paperwork will continue to be provided by VAS at Market House, Lerwick.

Mrs Stewart then introduced MSP Tavish Scott to present the certificates. He said he had visited another volunteering group on Tuesday, The Samaritans. In Scotland, they only have one member of staff who is paid, he said.

Everyone else gave their time without any recompense. The Samaritans was one of these voluntary services where, due to its nature, the benefits were not always known to the wider community, only to those who have benefited from its services. They are looking for young volunteers, he said, who can help engage with younger clients. Mr Scott said it highlighted the continued importance of volunteering.

Mr Scott told the audience how the MV Awards scheme had grown over the years, from a group of 12 being presented in a small room at Market House, to the auditorium at the museum and now to the town hall. He said it was a “great tribute” to the efforts of the youngsters that 67 were eligible for certificates and said he wanted to recognise the work done by VAS youth volunteering development worker Gwen Williamson, who runs the scheme. It was, he said, a local and national success story.

The presentations then took place with Mrs Williamson introducing each volunteer and telling the audience how they had gained their hours.

Maddrim Media, a film production company composed entirely of young people, then screened their short film, Shoormal. Introducing it, Cara McDiarmid said she had come “full circle” since she was one of the first young volunteers in Shetland to receive an MV award and “it was amazing” to be at the final presentation.

Anthony Cox gave a short summary of the film which was about poverty and inequality in Shetland and said all the research had been led by young people. Maddrim Media chairman Joe Christie said during the making of the film the group had “improved their technical skills hugely” and hoped everyone enjoyed it.

Following the screening, Mrs Stewart said Maddrim Media had been “very brave to make the film and it was beautifully done”. She told the group it’s not often the town hall can be so full of people and yet so quiet.

She thanked everyone involved for enabling the young people to volunteer and for helping on the night, but said “special thanks are due to the young volunteers for their efforts and enthusiasm”. “Well done to you all.”


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