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Groups making Welsh life better recognised at sector awards

The work of Wales's most admired and effective voluntary organisations will be recognised at a national awards ceremony. 

The annual awards run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and supported by Class Networks will be given out at a ceremony hosted by BBC news presenter Sian Lloyd at the St David's Hotel in Cardiff on Thursday 16 February.


The shortlisted groups in each category are:


The Class award for best communications 

NewLink Wales

People recovering from substance misuse have been able to 'redefine' themselves as the result of an imaginative campaign run by NewLink Wales to challenge stigma and provoke discussion.

Heroine Day, the Cardiff-based charity's most ambitious communications and fundraising project in its17-year history, was devised to celebrate the heroic effort of recovery from drug and alcohol use - rather than it being something most people avoided talking about.

University of South Wales Students' Union

The creation of a communications team resulted in the University of South Wales seeing the biggest increase in engagement in the students' union sector in the country.

Following a merger between the former Universities of Glamorgan and Wales, Newport, the union had neither a dedicated communications team nor effective, strategic way of communicating with its members.  Promotions of campaigns and activities were sporadic, last minute and without clear messages or consistent branding.

YMCA Swansea

Harnessing the power of Twitter has 'revolutionised' the way YMCA Swansea interacts with and supplies business information to both internal and external stakeholders.

Social media has become a critical business tool for the small team of staff, allowing it to communicate with the outside world.  Members were 'early adopters' of Twitter, realising they could be having direct conversations day and night with 'key strategic individuals'.


The environmental award

The Penllergare Trust

An environmental charity in a valley on the outskirts of Swansea with more than 100 volunteers ranging from eight years old to 87, the Penllergare Trust was one of only two sites in Wales last year to be presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

The Trust was set up in 2000 to restore the landscape, which contains lakes, a walled garden, waterfall and some nationally important historical features - one of the first photographs taken of the moon was from its observatory.

Canton & Riverside Grows Wild

The 'greyest areas of Cardiff' are being greened thanks to the efforts of Canton & Riverside Grows Wild, a small group of volunteers determined to make positive changes to their community.

Having adopted four neglected green spaces in the deprived areas of Riverside and Canton and developed them into wildlife havens, the group has delivered workshops to residents in growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables from gardens.

NewLink Wales - Buzzin Project

People with substance misuse issues are being helped on the road to recovery by learning how to become beekeepers. NewLink Wales is addressing clients' problems through its innovative and exciting Buzzin Project concept, which has seen the installation of beehives in the organisation's car park.

Running since April 2016, volunteers learn practical and organisational skills, teamwork and many other transferable skills.  The project has also developed qualifications for participants to enhance their employability skills, with six of them having qualified as beekeepers and about to train others. 


The health, social care and wellbeing award

Cardiff People First

Cardiff People First is run for and by people with a learning disability, with employees, trustees and volunteers all having first hand experience of what it means.

The group manages projects with partners to campaign to change attitudes, get better services and enjoy more opportunities.  Initiatives have included working with Screening for Life to create a film about cervical smears so that women with a learning disability know what to expect and why they should be screened.

Volunteering Matters

Young people across South East Wales are seeing their health and wellbeing improved through an innovative approach to peer-led sexual health education.

The Sex Matters Too project run by works in partnership with the Aneurin Bevan Health Board's sexual health outreach team to train young people aged 16-25 in areas of sexual health, sexual exploitation and healthy relationships. 

The Amber Project: Church Army

The Church Army's Amber Project supports young people aged 14-25 in Cardiff and the surrounding areas who self-harm by introducing them to the theatre, cooking, arts and crafts, music workshops, counselling and one-to-one support.

The support helps them works through issues, develop alternative coping strategies, build self-confidence and esteem and develop friendships.


The award for good governance

YMCA Swansea

The trustees of YMCA Swansea are a 'forward thinking visionary board, who have led proactively and innovatively, and who have committed thousands of hours of their time to support, nurture, represent, challenge, take risks and be strong to grow, support and improve our organisation'. 

Led by a dynamic and inspirational Chair, the trustees have spearheaded a campaign over the past 12 months to rebrand and focus key work areas and provide support to local communities based on need.

The Fern Partnership

The Fern Partnership works alongside Ferndale Community School in Maerdy, Rhondda, to raise funds for the school and assist in developing the lives and wellbeing of the local and wider communities by offering services and support to families and generations under the remit of a 'Generations Together' programme. 

The trustees have 'a burning desire and determination' to support, challenge and advise the management team ensuring high quality service and excellent standards are delivered. 

Eiriol Mental Health Advocacy

Eiriol Mental Health Advocacy trustees have embraced a model of thinking allowing them to fulfil their roles more effectively - the '3S' model - supporting management, administration and advocates in excellent service delivery; supervision to ensure standards of performance and targets from commissioners are maintained; and regularly reviewing current and future strategy to ensure needs and geographical coverage are met.

They use 'outside in' thinking when making decisions, 'stand in the shoes' of the group to ensure the best possible outcomes, and use three yardsticks of finance, mental health and operations, reviewing finances quarterly, monitoring the rate of new referrals and speed of response to them, and reviewing day-to-day activities.


The award for innovative fundraising

Awel Aman Tawe

A wind farm built by Awel Aman Tawe has helped turn the social enterprise into one of the largest in Wales, with more than £3m due to go back into environmental projects over the 20 year lifetime of the project.

The group used Twitter and Facebook to secure investment from across the UK and abroad, organised 25 public visits to see the wind farm in construction, and obtained support from celebrities including actor Michael Sheen - who is from Port Talbot, ex-Wales rugby captain Paul Thorburn and former national poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke.

Tenovus Cancer Care

A bid to halt a decline in the number of gifts in wills left to Tenovus Cancer Care has resulted in the charity seeing an estimated £1m in future income - 10 times that achieved during previous campaigns.

Wills are a vital source of income - funding a £1m a year research programme - but legacy notifications were steadily declining and the pattern looked likely to continue, jeopardising the future work of the charity. The 2016 Cancer Free Future legacy fundraising campaign was a multi-channel marketing project that included offering the opportunity for people aged 50 and over across Wales to make or update their will for free during March.

Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre's Roald Dahl's City of the Unexpected weekend in Cardiff last September was the biggest free outdoor cultural event to ever take place in the capital city. 

The celebration of Wales's most popular author's centenary saw hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets in a festival which 'took art, culture and creativity to a new level'. Organised in association with National Theatre Wales, the event raised the profile of Cardiff, hitting headlines and creating a buzz on social media worldwide.


The award for digital inclusion supported by Digital Communities Wales

RNIB Cymru - Online Today/Arlein Heddiw

Welsh people with vision or hearing loss living in communities most at risk of marginalisation from the digital world are being supported to get online by an innovative RNIB project, run in partnership with, Vision Support and North Wales Society for the Blind.

The Online Today project trains volunteers to support people with sight loss to 'begin their digital journey'.  An 'entry level' campaign, it assumes participants have no prior knowledge of digital technology.

Aneurin Leisure Trust

Blaenau Gwent Libraries-Aneurin Leisure Trust are making a difference to local people's lives by allowing them access to a network of 64 public computers and also training volunteers and staff to support and encourage them to get online. 

The informal, non-threatening environment of the county borough's six libraries puts learners at ease, with the service developed around the libraries often being the first port of call for digital help, including for complete beginners. 

Change Step

The Change Step peer mentoring and advice service led by CAIS, and delivered throughout Wales by members of the DACW consortium, supports military veterans who have difficulties with mental health including PTSD, substance misuse, involvement with the criminal justice system, homelessness, unemployment, debt and/or gambling addiction, as well as offering assistance and information to their families and friends.

Although offline engagement and interaction with veterans was already working well, the charity wanted to reach more people by enhancing the delivery of online services to veterans and families across Wales.


Award for the most admired organisation - shortlisted and winner chosen by public vote

The Fern Partnership

The members of Rhondda Cynon Taf's Fern Partnership are 'beacons of positivity' who have turned around the lives of people in their communities.

Running two successful Flying Start Childcare projects and helping deliver Communities First, the team has improved the health and wellbeing of local residents, as well as changing 'the historical culture and attitudes'. 

Headway Cardiff

Headway Cardiff and South East Wales has improved the lives of hundreds of people affected by acquired brain injury, providing invaluable support to families and individuals.
Before the charity was set up by sufferers and their families - supported by therapists in Rookwood Hospital - patients discharged from hospital were left with little or no ongoing support to cope with and adapt to the devastating consequences of brain injury.

Awel Aman Tawe

The volunteers of Awel Aman Tawe spent 18 years submitting planning applications for a wind farm which is currently supplying electricity to around 2,500 Swansea homes. 

The community energy charity had three applications turned down, was turned down twice for common land consent and lost an eight-day public inquiry and a judicial review.

Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales

Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW) is carrying out 'truly amazing work' supporting women and girls who are not receiving help for their health problems.

The charity was set up by Chief Executive Officer Debbie Shaffer after she failed to get treatment and knew that there were many other women in the same situation.  Currently focusing on endometriosis, FTWW members feel their inadequate treatment is due to the lack of specialist provision in Wales. 

Soroptimist International Wales South

Soroptimist International Wales South (SIWS), which has more than 400 members in 16 clubs across the region, has led the way in campaigning on anti-human trafficking.

The organisation is part of a global volunteer movement of women inspiring action and transforming lives locally, nationally and internationally. SIWS has developed the first anti-slavery stickers for local taxis and partnered with the Welsh Government Anti-Slavery Team on producing and distributing leaflets.


For more information please contact Lynne Reynolds or Simon Dowling on 0800 2888 329.  WCVA website


WCVA supports and represents the third sector in Wales, with more than 3,000 members including a wide range of organisations working on issues such as housing, economic regeneration, childcare, community development, transport, the environment and health.