Volunteers of the Year 2023

The awards sponsored by DoubleTree by Hilton Angel Kings Cross and announced by the HW Mayor of Islington, Cllr Gary Heather, took place at the Union Chapel on the 1st of November, 7 – 8pm after VAI’s AGM.

Please see the awards’ introductory video here: Islington Volunteer of the Year Awards 2023 (video)

Older Volunteer of the Year 60+:

Winner: Jill Ellenby and Ben Griffith, Elizabeth House – Highbury Vale Blackstock Trust

Ben and Jill both volunteer at the Elizabeth House Food Hub and have become an essential part of the food hub team. They are a super cute community couple! They are always willing to help out in any way they can, including planting vegetables and herbs, helping with deliveries and Jill even buys a special Fray Bentos pie every week for one lucky resident who loves them. But what has been most inspiring is their dedication to recycling and composting; organising information sessions and giving inspiring talks on recycling, patiently educating other volunteers and the Elizabeth House team about recycling, and setting up hot bin composting at the centre.

They volunteer across many other organisations across Islington including the Ecology Centre and Octopus Plant Nursery, and are passionate about community and the environment. Thank you Jill and Ben for your hard work and dedication, you have helped make the world a little better!

Highly Commended: Sorrel Brookes, Islington Citizens Advice
Sorrel has volunteered with Ctizens Advice for around 9 years and is completely dedicated to helping clients with often difficult and complex cases. She never gives up when all else seems to have failed and will do whatever it takes to try and get a good result for clients or improve their circumstances.

Highly Commended: Margaret Pitt, Islington Citizens Advice
Margaret has volunteered with Citizens Advice Islington since the day they opened over 12 years ago. Margaret volunteers 2 days a week giving general advice to their most vulnerable clients face to face, and her empathy and keen desire to get justice for them shines through.

Commended: Michael Stephenson, Islington Bereavement Service
Michael demonstrates exceptional commitment, compassion and kindness in supporting bereaved community members in Islington. He gives generously and regularly of his time and has been described by clients as having a ‘truly human-focused and empathetic approach’ during a very difficult time in their lives.

Commended: Christopher Davey, Metropolitan Police Service (CN)
Special Police Sergeant Christopher Davey has been volunteering as a Police officer since 2008, and is a valued asset of the Metropolitan Police Service. He is caring, well respected, has consistently high standards and leads and encourages his team to volunteer in the same way.

Volunteering Team of the Year:

Winner: Union Chapel Asylum Seekers Project, Union Chapel
The volunteers provide community-based support for people seeking asylum at two contingency hotels in the borough of Islington, whilst they await a decision on their asylum claim. Many can struggle to navigate in their new surroundings and some live in rooms with up to 9 other people, face significant waiting times with little stimulation and their mental health suffers as a result.

The volunteers have been instrumental in providing a constant and reliable set of stimulating activities to help asylum seekers with their mental health and depression. They have been present rain or shine, running classes and clubs, and engaged the hotel guests, offering a listening ear. They have been instrumental in bringing focus, motivation and structure to the lives of many asylum seekers.

Thank you Huw Arfon Williams, Oliver Holmes, Tessa Maloney, Mohammadreza Naeimi (who until very recently was an asylum seeker himself) and Faryad Mohammadnezhad (who is currently living at one of the hotels).

Highly Commended: Oxfam Books Team, Oxfam
The 80-strong volunteer team come from over 25 different countries, speak a diverse range of languages and range in age from over 80 years old to 14. They are all proud Londoners with a love of books who want to pass that love on to the wider community. It has been a hard year for the team, as they sadly lost a much loved team member following her long battle with depression – but this has ultimately brought them all closer together.

Commended: Digital Champions Team, Healthwatch Islington
The Volunteer Digital Champions team deliver personalised digital support across Islington in multiple languages, supporting residents to gain skills and confidence around their digital device and accessing the internet to make their daily life easier.
Each volunteer brings a high level of commitment, resilience, expertise, and empathy to their work, ensuring that learners feel motivated and self-assured.

Commended: London Canal Museum Volunteers, London Canal Museum
The volunteers run the day-to-day of the museum during their shifts, including boat trips, tours, events, and exhibitions. They have already welcomed 14,829 visitors to the museum in 2023 so far, which is +71% over this time last year.

Young Volunteer of the Year 16-25:

Winner: Maryam Amla, Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation (MEWSO)
Maryam has consistently demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment and passion in her role as a volunteer at MEWSO. Her dedication to raising awareness of and assisting survivors of domestic violence has been nothing short of commendable. She has shown great sensitivity and empathy in her interactions with those who seek support, providing them with a safe space to share their experiences and receive guidance.

Highly Commended: Rebecca Finch, Arsenal in the Community
Bex came from a starting point with very little coaching experience or experience working with young people, but her confidence has grown incredibly and she has also played a key role in the progress and development of Arsenal in the Community’s projects and ever-evolving women and girls programmes, even visiting Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to develop young coaches in the camp.

Highly Commended: Alex Khan, Arsenal in the Community
Alex coaches a number of core projects, including local youth football teams, social inclusion sessions and disability groups. In all of his work, Alex forms great connections with young people, combining his maturity with a playfulness that resonates so well with young people who are crying out for positive role models. Anyone who has the pleasure of being coached by Alex will be better off for the experience

Highly Commended: Highly Commended: Deji Agbede, Mary’s Youth Club
Deji’s joined as a youth participant, but his dedication led him to volunteer, providing invaluable support to junior members. He promotes youth well-being through weekly gym sessions and boys’ group gatherings, with a focus on addressing the challenges young men face today and fostering a supportive environment for individuals to thrive.

Pat Haynes Memorial Trustee of the Year:

Winner: Anne-Marie Ellis, Cripplegate Foundation
Anne-Marie has been a Cripplegate Foundation Governor for 15 years, and has recently stepped down from her role. During that period, Anne-Marie was absolutely instrumental in supporting and steering the development of the Foundation, and the support it has been able to provide in grant funding to a very large number of charities supporting thousands of residents in the borough. She took on the role of Chair of the Foundation twice, played a leading role in the formation of the Resident Support Scheme with Islington Council and in the formation of Islington Giving. Anne-Marie has accomplished all of the this in her usual kind and unassuming way, never seeking nor needing the limelight. We think Anne-Marie is an extraordinary example of someone who has devoted much of her life to support local communities in Islington.

Highly Commended: Rose-Marie McDonald, Community Plan for Holloway
Rose is a Disability campaigner, a resident advocate, a carer, a member of Islington Housing Scrutiny Committee and the Community Plan for Holloway board. She joined the board with the objective of elevating local residents’ voices and holding the developer to account on the site of the ex-Holloway women’s prison, and her vast experience in housing advocacy has helped the organisation to challenge the developer and the Council on key issues.

Highly Commended: Helen Mylam, Marys Youth Club
Helen is the Chair of Marys Trustee board and so much more than just the Chair, she is an avid supporter of all the work they do. If there is a celebration, a community day or any event Helen is always ready to be involved, she actively seeks opportunities for Marys to showcase their work, to partner, and to create lasting change for the young people they work with.

Volunteer of the Year 26-60:

Winner: Zoe Coventry, Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation (MEWSO) | Little Village | The People’s Army | MerryGoRound
Zoe is a volunteer for 4 different organisations who have all nominated her for Volunteer of the Year, which speaks volumes about what a phenomenal person she is. Zoe has consistently gone above and beyond in her efforts to support and uplift the community, and her commitment is nothing short of remarkable.
What sets Zoe apart is not just her tireless work ethic, but also her compassionate and empathetic nature. From diligently delivering essential items to MEWSO clients to arriving at the Little Village centre each week with a car full of donations, she approaches every task with a genuine desire to make a meaningful impact, and her kindness shines through in all her interactions with clients and team members. No job is too big or too small; she is always the first volunteer to offer to help and is always willing to step in when needed.

Winner: Lawrence Curtis, Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies (HMHB)
Lawrence has been nominated for Volunteer of the Year by no less than 18 people. Whilst we don’t have enough space to upload all these nominations, there is a common theme that runs through them: the difference he has made to the lives of Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies members. Members say that Lawrence exudes amazing energy, which is at the heart of the remarkable community he has created, and has a supportive attitude, smile, and a joke behind everything he does.
Through weekly walks, activities, exercise classes and trips he has created a space where people can re-energise, grow, share, create meaningful links and feel good. As well as the in-person activities, Lawrence creates a monthly 40 page health pack for members.

HMHB is Lawrence’s project, but he does not get salary funding, even though he deserves it. He works tirelessly to make sure everyone is looked after and has made a lot of people in Islington happier and healthier.

Highly Commended: Gary Bennett, Islington Bereavement Service
Gary is a native Islingtonian (and Arsenal fan) who for the last 5 years has been dedicated to providing highly skilled bereavement support to his local community. Just over a year ago, life circumstances led Gary to leave London for pastures new in Peterborough, but he was able to keep volunteering in Islington giving remote support and has even travelled down to Islington from Peterborough. Gary supports bereaved community members going through their own unique grief journeys with dignity, compassion, patience and empathy.

Highly Commended: Jeffrey Young, Hillside Clubhouse
Jeff has been a service user with Hillside Clubhouse for the past 7 years, but in the past 2 years has really stepped up into a more active volunteering role: mentoring, making and distributing their weekly free meal, presenting to new members and supporting people in their creative group.

Commended: Ali Bin Aqel, Islington Refugee & Migrant Forum (IRMF)
Mr Ali has arrived in the UK in recent years and has made huge contributions to IRMF as an IT and communications volunteer, including website upgrading, database creating, a newsletter, as well as technical and other IT support. Through volunteering, he has improved his English language skills, gained valuable experiences, social skills and self-confidence that will help him as a route towards paid employment.

Volunteers of the Year 2023 picture gallery

To find out more about volunteering in Islington email the Volunteer Centre or visit the Volunteering Section on the website. Phone: 020 7832 5826

Volunteer Centre Islington | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |