Sunnyside Rural Trust Wins Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2021

Living Magazines Sunnyside Rural Trust Queens Award for Voluntary Service

Congratulations to Sunnyside Rural Trust, who have followed up their recent success at the Herts High Sheriff Awards by being awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2021 – the equivalent of an MBE for charities. They issued the following statement:

So it’s a massive thank you to all our volunteers who work with us and our 150 trainees at our 3 sites. The Queen’s Award represents a tremendous achievement for our charity and we are all immensely proud to receive it – the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.’

Sunnyside is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of  innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their  local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each  year on 2 June, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They  include volunteer groups from across the UK, including an inclusive tennis club in Lincolnshire; a children’s  bereavement charity in London; a support group those living with dementia and their carers in North Yorkshire; a  volunteer minibus service in Cumbria; a group supporting young people in Belfast; a community radio station in  Inverness and a mountain rescue team in Powys.

Representatives of Sunnyside will receive the award crystal and certificate from Robert Voss CBE CStJ, Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, later in July. Furthermore, two volunteers from Sunnyside will attend a garden party at  Buckingham Palace in May 2022 (depending on restrictions at the time), along with other recipients of this year’s  Award.

Sunnyside provides meaningful and enjoyable work opportunities for learning specific skills that enable young  people and adults with learning disabilities to achieve greater independence and employment. We aim to offer paid,  supported employment posts to people with learning disabilities and currently have six former service users in paid  positions with Sunnyside – including caretakers, head of animal care, a barista and gardeners. As only 6% of all  people with learning disabilities in the UK are in any type of paid work, this is a significant number.

Sunnyside challenges the public’s perception of people with learning disabilities by focusing on what they achieve  rather than on their ‘disability’. Trainees, at Sunnyside are enabled to gain horticultural skills and, more significantly, to develop valuable social skills, becoming ‘confident, independent, happy, and healthy individuals … with … lifelong learning skills.’

We have been described as being ‘a life saver for our son, our family and hundreds of other families within our local community’ and ‘life at Sunnyside has transformed these already incredibly special people, into confident, independent, happy, and healthy individuals.’

Working within new safety protocols over the last year, staff and volunteers have continued to work with trainees throughout the pandemic. In a typical week we have 150 trainees supported by our paid team, and 37 volunteers, providing some 200 hours of work, across our three Sunnyside sites.

Volunteers support our vital work by supporting trainees to undertake hands-on horticulture, work with the animals  and do other practical tasks; volunteers often lead a team of trainees. Others are involved in marketing, fund-raising  and administration, working in one of the Farm Shops or off-site market stalls, helping make jams and preserves or  craft making. Some also drive a minibus to transport trainees or assist the driver to support trainees. Volunteers with particular skills are encouraged to use them start new work – baking or working with bees for example. At the  strategic level the Trustees are all committed to the work of the charity and bring experience and expertise in specific areas.

The day-to-day operation of the charity depends so much on the hard work and commitment of our volunteers, as  they contribute so much and undertake tasks that mean we can offer the great service that we do.

A big Sunnyside Thank You

‘We all feel very proud of this significant achievement and well-deserved recognition for the tireless efforts of every  trainee, volunteer and team member. We look forward to helping our community grow in the years to come,’ commented Keely Siddiqui Charlick, CEO.