Scores of young people were rewarded for their volunteering achievements when the fifth annual Shetland Saltire youth volunteering awards took place at Mareel on Tuesday.
The national Saltire Awards recognise the commitment young people make to volunteering in their community – including eight who received the “Saltire Summit award”.
Between March last year and this February, 159 young volunteers aged between 12 and 25 submitted certificate requests ranging from 10 to 500 hours of volunteering which they obtained by volunteering with 70 different local organisations, groups, initiatives and schools.
The awards are managed by Voluntary Action Shetland and guests entered the ceremony as VAS’ receptionist Charity Johnson played an acoustic set, before youth volunteer development worker Neil Pearson welcomed the audience.
VAS chairman Alec Miller officially opened the ceremony and told the crowd that volunteers receiving Saltire Awards this year had collectively completed a record 22,780 hours of volunteering – just over 1,000 hours more than last year’s record.
Mr Miller said: “Shetland continues to lead the way with regards to youth volunteer involvement in our community in Scotland so thank you to all supervisors and volunteers for taking the time to complete the paperwork associated with making a reward request, without your contribution we would not be able to keep breaking records year on year.”
The Shetland Times editor Adam Civico was called on to hand out certificates as regular attendee Tavish Scott was in Edinburgh due to the independence referendum debate.
Recipients included those collecting the Summit awards – the highest accolade of Saltire which can only be achieved by volunteers who have been nominated by their supervisors for making an outstanding contribution to volunteering.
Mr Civico was also invited to close the ceremony and gave a speech that praised the young people for their volunteering efforts. He said: “As someone who has moved to Shetland I can honestly say that one of the things that has impressed me most is the sense of community spirit… at the heart of much of that activity is volunteering.
“So it is particularly pleasing to learn that so many young people are willing to step up to the plate and do their bit.”
He continued by delivering some impressive statistics relating to volunteering in Shetland including that recent surveys carried out by Volunteer Development Scotland and the Scottish household survey suggests that volunteering in our islands contributes roughly £1.5 million to the local economy each year and that over 70 per cent of young people in Shetland are thought to participate in at least one volunteering activity each year. This is in comparison to the national average of around 49%.
After the event Mr Pearson said: “Volunteering is so important to our community and the young people receiving awards tonight have really embraced that message, I don’t think they realise just how important the role they have played is to our community, they should all be extremely proud of their achievements. Each and every one of them are an inspiration to others in our community and further afield.”
VAS executive officer Catherine Hughson added: “I am so proud of all the volunteers. They continue to break all records and it shows that the investment in their communities is still very much a part of young people’s lives in Shetland”.