Times are hard, but volunteers keep giving – and winning awards

Despite current hardship caused by the recession, Wales’s premier volunteer awards scheme is proving that people are continuing to give their time for the benefit of others.

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action Awards happened on the 12th of June at Cardiff Castle. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales were over the moon to be able to nominate the Friends of Skomer and Skokholm for all their hard work on Skokholm Island and even more delighted when the group won their category.

Wales Volunteer of the YearAward Ceremony Tuesday 12 June 2012

Wales Volunteer of the YearAward Ceremony Tuesday 12 June 2012

This hardy band of volunteers put in thousands of hours of their own time to help restore and reopen a flagship Welsh nature reserve, saving the Trust hundreds of thousands of pounds on professional repairs.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales was facing a bill of close to £1m to restore visitor and staff buildings that were in such severe disrepair that Skokholm Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire – which the Trust had bought in 2007 - had to be closed to the public.

The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer (FSS), a group comprising former wardens, researchers and visitors, took on delivery of the entire project.  It has since raised and managed funds, overseen volunteers and contractors and purchased all the necessary materials.

The group safely and effectively co-ordinated major building works including re-roofing multiple buildings, and installing renewable energy sources and the first-ever electricity supply to both islands.  The final cost of the project is expected to be around £100,000 - one tenth of the original estimate.

Skokholm Workparty photo by N McCall

Skokholm Workparty photo by N McCall

‘The re-opening of Skokholm Island has allowed the Trust to employ a warden based on the island again, and the re-instatement of holiday accommodation is bringing an additional income to the local community through the provision of boat services, car parking, sale of goods, etc, to visitors,’ said nominator, Wildlife Trust Conservation Manager Dr Lizzie Wilberforce.

‘As well as the massive contribution in time and money saved, since the project could not have been delivered at all at the original cost, it is FSS’s input that has made it possible to re-open the island and recommence management for the benefit of both people and wildlife.’

Chair of the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer Committee Renate Thome said:

‘We are delighted to have won the Volunteer of the Year Award.  All our volunteers, those involved in this project and all those who have supported the Islands over the years will be pleased to see their efforts recognised.

‘The award will spurn us on to complete the renovation work this autumn, and to continue to work for the Islands in the future.  We also thank the Wildlife Trust for sponsoring us and for taking the risk and trusting that we could do the job.’