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Volunteer of The Year

Our Volunteer of the Year 2023, Sue Gadd

We're delighted to announce MWB's Practice Director Sue Gadd as our 2023 Volunteer of the Year! In recognition she'll be receiving £250 and a further £250 to her nominated charity MidSussex Open DofE Centre.

We are also pleased to recognise Knowledge Systems Engineer Rosemary Baker for her fantastic contribution to volunteering over this past year.

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We caught up with Sue to learn a little more about her volunteering experience...

Congratulations Sue! Where do you volunteer and when did you start?

"I first got involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) as a parent when my daughter did her Bronze Award at her school and they had insufficient adults to run the expedition, so I offered to go along to help. And I have never left – I now run the Centre at her old school, 12 years later.

I volunteer at the Mid Sussex Open DofE Centre based in both Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill in West Sussex. This is a charity supporting around 100 young people (mostly aged 13 to 18) each year to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh Award, at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels."

What is your involvement as a leader?

"In the colder months between November and March, we teach theoretical expedition skills such as map reading, compass use, first aid, emergency scenarios, and camp craft for four hours each week on term-time evenings, plus practical days at the weekend on the school field once or twice each month. In the Summer and early Autumn, we run expeditions where they put those skills into practice, providing a total of 25 expedition days in 2023, in a variety of rural areas all over the country. I am regularly found on a motorway at the weekend driving a minibus full of teenagers to their latest adventure. Long Mynd in Shropshire is a particular favourite destination (apart from the M6 bit around Birmingham getting there!).

In Spring and Summer, we organise whole day walks and night walks at the weekend to teach practical navigation and map reading, and then progress to supervising the formal Practice and Assessed Expeditions in the summer and early Autumn.

At Bronze, this is a two-day expedition in Sussex, camping overnight. The participants walk in teams of 4-7 young people for around 10 miles each day with a 12-14kg rucksack on their backs, unaccompanied by an adult. At Silver this increases to three days and two nights camping in wilder moorland – we use the New Forest and the Shropshire Hills and areas such as the Peak District. At Gold, this increases again to four days and three nights camping in remote high terrain such as Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Lake District.

As a qualified supervisor, I am responsible for organising and running expeditions, and the safety and welfare of all participants (up to 42 per expedition) and leaders during that expedition. We run four Bronze, four Silver and at least one Gold expedition each year, so it is a big commitment, but we have a lot of fun as well. The other leaders at the centre have all become firm friends."

Why volunteer?

"It is incredibly rewarding to watch nervous 13-year-olds start their programmes at Bronze and help them to develop through the three award levels into mature, resilient and highly motivated young people able to plan their adventures independently, risk assess, cook, camp and hike for up to four days in an area they have never visited before.

They also discover new talents and skills through the non-expedition sections they must complete. Each participant has to choose a physical activity to improve their fitness, develop a new skill or improve an existing one, and they must volunteer for a charity of their choice. Each of these three activities must be completed for at least an hour per week for a number of months, depending on the level of the award. We see a wide variety of activities, they have such varied interests. The leaders particularly like it when they choose baking as their skill to learn and we get to test their bakes every week! One 16-year-old girl chose to learn to fly, and another learned pig-rearing skills - from piglet to freezer.

The programme also aims to improve their social and communication skills, develop teamwork and teach them to embrace a challenge. If you see a young person with Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards on their CV they will have shown incredible commitment and perseverance. They usually stand out."

What's your one piece of advice for people going for long walks?

"Comfy boots and good waterproofs - with treats in the pockets! And take a real map - phone signals are not great in the hills."

Which charity have you chosen?

"I would like to donate the £250 to MidSussex Open DofE Centre, to help to support young people who couldn't otherwise do their DofE Award because of the cost of enrolment and equipment." - Sue.

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Our Volunteer of the Year Jodie Bennet

This year's Volunteer of the Year Jodie Bennett joins us from Mayo Wynne Baxter, who not only racked up an impressive number of volunteer hours but was also nominated by one of her colleagues. In recognition, we are donating a share of £250 to two of her chosen charities - Prostate Cancer UK and Grass Roots - plus £250 to her as a token of our appreciation for her volunteering and community efforts.

Jodie is part of MWB's Switchboard team while also working part time as a tree surgeon and has recently gotten into wildlife photography.

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Volunteer of the Year

Camp 110

Here's Jodie at Camp 110 - a major Scouts event where she runs the Media team, consisting of 11 people, covering a district wide camp to celebrate 110 years of scouting in the area.

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Representing East Essex

Jodie representing East Sussex at the Lord Lieutenants annual aatherina. where the commissioners of local groups, emergency services and various mayors come together for an afternoon of networking.

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Sempahore Skills

Here she's assisting the Beavers with their Semaphore skills at the annual Beaver competition.

We caught up with Jodie to learn a little more about her and her volunteering...

Where do you volunteer and when did you start?

I'm an Explorer Scout leader which involves organising events and activities for teenagers aged 14-18. I'm also a Beaver leader, where I take part in designing a whole new set of activities for children aged six to eight. On top of that, I'm also Assistant County Commissioner for Communications, where I deal with the press and manage publicity through our social media channels and website as well as organising events for our area.

I started off as a young leader, supporting a beaver troop when I was about 14. When I turned 2, I was asked to take on a County role - pretty rare for someone so young to be offered the role! I'm now a strong advocate for bringing other young people into the organisation as it can often be full of much older people.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently working with troops across the county to better attract minority groups into Scouts - the organisation, particularly in the South East, can be pretty un-diverse and I am helping troops to find different communities who might not feel that Scouts is for them and find ways which can help them to feel included.

Have you been involved with any international trips?

Yes! In 2019 I was fortunate enough to travel to West Virginia for three weeks as part of the World Scouts Jamboree. I'm also part of the team co-ordinating some of the UK's communications with the next Jamboree in South Korea. We're currently in the planning stages of how to get updates from our people on the ground and develop a media plan in the lead up to the event.

Do you think your volunteering helps you with your job?

Absolutely. I have met many different people through Scouts from all walks of life and this helps me to be empathetic with prospective clients and people who I speak to on the phone at work. Scouts is a very traditional organisation that has similarities to a law firm so it's helpful to help understand their thinking. I think I'm able to bring fresh perspectives to Scouts - something I also try to do in my current role.

Who have you chosen for your selected charities?

I've selected Prostate Cancer UK - myself and my family support this charity as my grandfather passed away with prostate cancer. I'm also sharing the donation with Grass Roots, a local suicide prevention charity who supported a friend of mine when they trained as a mental health trainer through their organisation.

Our 2023 Impact Report

Ampa has published its first impact report, recording the wider group’s achievements and progress to date, since the relaunch of its responsible business programme last year. Making more than 30 pledges to its people, planet and local communities, the group has seen significant improvements in its commitment to increasing diversity at a senior level, reducing its carbon footprint and offering career development opportunities to under-represented groups.

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