Comunn Eachdraidh Nis and Gàradh a’ Bhagh a’ Tuath are among the 281 groups in the UK to receive this year’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can achieve in the UK.
Since its establishment in 1977, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis has continued to grow, becoming a dynamic community hub and providing vital services in the fragile area of North Lewis. The organisation operates an accredited museum featuring displays on various aspects of island life, a local history archive, genealogical records for the whole North Lewis area, as well as a café and gift shop. The project is based on community need and hosts a variety of activities including a popular day club for the elderly and socially isolated residents in the area. It is governed by community-based volunteers who are committed to developing local services and to creating worth-while employment opportunities in the area as well as providing volunteers with opportunities to share and develop their skills and talents.
Gàradh a’ Bhagh a’ Tuath (Northbay Gardens) in Barra, is known as the “Gàradh” and has grown from small beginnings into a vibrant social enterprise achieving Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation (SCIO) status in 2011. It offers a range of horticultural-based respite services and a cafè experience to adults with assessed needs in the community of Barra.
Representatives from both groups will attend the Royal Garden Party in Edinburgh on Wednesday 3 July along with other recipients of this year’s award.
The awards will be presented to the groups in Ness and Northbay by HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Western Isles Donald Martin at ceremonies later this summer. In congratulating both groups on their achievements, Mr Martin said “I was delighted to hear that the two nominations from the Western Isles had been successful in gaining these well-deserved Awards. Both groups are an excellent example of the important contribution of our volunteers in providing much valued services and making a difference within their communities. If you know of a group that makes a difference to your community, please consider nominating them for this prestigious award. We have so many in our islands who could follow the success of Ness and Barra and I hope to see more nominations from the Western Isles next year”.
Annie Macsween from Comunn Eachdraidh Nis said “Since we were formed in 1977 we have established an accredited museum, extensive archive, cafe, gift shop and meeting place with some 30 volunteers of all ages getting involved in a wide range of activities focussed around the Comunn Eachdraidh Nis collection. The centre, based in the former Cross Primary School, has recently undergone a major refurbishment and attracts more than 20,000 visitors per annum”.
Angie Foster, a founder member of Gàradh a’ Bhagh a’ Tuath said “ We are delighted at the recognition of the Gàradh project and delighted with the award. The Gàradh is founded on volunteers with a very can-do attitude to improving people’s lives, whilst also having a lot of fun along the way. We have approximately 50 volunteers some of whom need support to volunteer. We provide great horticultural gardening experiences and a supported volunteer cafè from our growing site in Northbay which is popular with locals and visitors alike. It has been a busy time for the Gàradh in terms of progressing our new build which will meet the needs of all who wish to volunteer and also provide a fantastic new facility for our local community. We are especially proud that the new build will provide the first “Changing Places” toilet in the Western Isles”.
Since the Award was introduced in 2002 only two groups in the Western Isles have previously received the Award – The Eoropie Play Park (GAIN) in 2004 and Sporsnis in 2011.
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 and winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are from a diverse background which include volunteers helping people overcome mental health problems through sport; volunteers using caravans as mobile cafe/information centres in geographically remote locations and a group mentoring those who have a parent in prison.