Richard Wilson
And the award goes to...

You might be familiar with the Queen’s Award for Industry, but unless you work in the sector, you may not be aware of an equivalent award for the voluntary sector – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. It is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities. This year 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups were recognised for this prestigious award. Here we celebrate three Christian charities who received it.

As you read about these different projects don’t see them simply as good works being recognised by an earthly kingdom, though we can be grateful for that. Rather, see them in the context of God’s Lordship being actively experienced in the present age by many people. And – with joyful expectation – be reminded that one day the needs and the problems being addressed now – whether hunger, joblessness, homelessness, slavery, inequality, oppression or persecution – will no longer exist.

These projects differ in scale and focus, but each one is about truly empowering the people they serve and giving new starts in life.

Bramber Bakehouse
Bramber Bakehouse was established in 2015 by two women from King’s Church, Eastbourne with a shared passion. Named after one of William Wilberforce’s parliamentary constituencies, Bramber provides a baking and employability programme for women survivors of human trafficking, equipping and empowering them on their journey to restoration and recovery.

Partnering with the Sophie Hayes Foundation and receiving support from Waitrose, currently each programme runs annually and comprises eight monthly sessions, teaching baking skills and preparing participants for work.

Women of all ages who have experienced different forms of modern slavery have participated. Among the particular success stories are one woman returning the following year to mentor others, while another was empowered to follow a new career and is now a part time social worker. The COVID-19 lockdown interrupted this year’s programme, but one participant offered thanks to the whole team for dedicating their time to teach, adding, “It has helped tremendously during this pandemic, I have been baking a lot!”

Each programme is oversubscribed and plans are now in place to increase the number of volunteers and the frequency of the courses, increasing capacity to 30 women per programme and running the sessions weekly rather than monthly, ideally in dedicated premises.

Food Bank PLUS
In 2014 Barnabas Community Projects was established by Barnabas Community Church, Shrewsbury as an independent charitable company to develop their social action work. Food Bank PLUS is now the umbrella project for the delivery of a range of individual projects: Shrewsbury Food Bank, Barnabas Money Advice, and 360 Platform for Life, which incorporates a range of services supporting clients on the journey back to work (previously highlighted here).

Food Bank PLUS recognises that feeding people at times of crisis, while essential, meets only the short term need. It has a longer term vision to help people out of crisis and poverty. The different projects work together to help people help themselves. The desire is to see everyone who is helped empowered to make their own decisions with confidence and equipped to respond to future challenges they may face.

The award recognises this holistic approach, and in nominating the charity, Councillor Pam Moseley commented, “Every client is treated with respect, kindness and empathy by the wonderful team of volunteers. Also, two recent challenges – the floods and the Corona pandemic – have shown how resilient and adaptable the team are, in keeping the service going despite everything.”

Action Foundation
Action Foundation began when City Church, Newcastle upon Tyne researched the greatest needs in their city and considered how they might be able to help meet them. Drawn to focus on the needs of destitute asylum seekers they opened their first house providing supported living for them in 2006. The breadth of the work today, including involvement and influencing at a national level, can be found in their 10th Anniversary Report. Today the work provides support to disadvantaged refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants across Tyne and Wear with two main focusses: housing and education.

Through three supported housing projects and an English language school, Action Foundation aims to plug a gap in existing provision and enable vulnerable migrants to avoid homelessness and extreme poverty, access vital services and legal support, increase their skills and employability and integrate and live independently. Working closely with local and national organisations has enabled family reunions and secured legal support for many having no recourse to public funds, as well as providing a range of other support. Last year 1,433 refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants were helped through the supported housing projects and English language classes.

The sentiments of Action Foundation’s CEO, Julian Prior, would be echoed by the leaders of all the projects when he says:

“Winning such a prestigious award like this is a huge honour and great recognition for the tireless work of our large team of dedicated volunteers. Action Foundation would not be able to provide the support we do without their selfless, skilled and compassionate input to improve the lives of some very vulnerable people that we have the privilege to serve.”


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