Larne Grammar Pupil Receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services

As a volunteer with East Belfast Mission, Kaitlin Nelson (Year 13), was part of the team who were recently awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services.  The charity was only one of two organisations in Northern Ireland to receive this award, the other being SOS NI.  The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services recognises the exceptional work of volunteer groups in their communities.  It is the highest award available to voluntary organisations and holds the equivalent status to an MBE (one of the 5 classes of the British Empire).

Kaitlin Nelson – Queen’s Award Badge proudly pinned to her blazer

During the selection process for the award, charities are nominated by the general public.  This year, thousands of charities were nominated and The East Belfast Mission saw the highest number of nominations they have ever received.  A Local Assessment Panel then look into the work of the charities and select their top choices to be considered by the National Award Committee.  From here, a recommendation is made to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who send their final list to Her Majesty who gives her approval to the chosen charities.

The East Belfast Mission was set up to combat the extreme poverty that exists in areas of East Belfast and help people in a variety of ways.  The charity aims to better the lives of people in the areas affected by poverty and segregation and provide a better, safer society for all.

Kaitlin has worked with the charity for 3 years, volunteering every Saturday at Larne RE:Store.  This includes processing donated items, operating the tills, cleaning the shop and updating the social media profiles.  She also selflessly dedicates time throughout the school holidays in pursuit of helping people throughout her local community including organising a coffee morning to raise vital funds for the charity.

Kaitlin has kindly provided a report on the Awards Ceremony:

The ceremony took place on Thursday the 12th of September 2019 at Skainos square in Belfast during which over 100 volunteers from EBM attended.  From the Larne Re:Store the volunteers were Mandy, Jenny and Chris and myself with our amazing store manager Susan Rea.

The ceremony was astonishing.  It began with someone playing the bagpipes for Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Deputy Lieutenant, the Deputy Mayor of Belfast, the Head Male Sea Cadet as well as many other official representatives.

During the ceremony we got to hear the personal experiences that many of our volunteers have had over their years with the charity and the higher ups who are still involved in the helping of those who walk through the door.  Following the anecdotal tones, we heard the story of a particular young woman whose life has personally been improved by the organisation and how she came from a broken home and is now on her way to become a qualified social worker and without the help and support from EBM that wouldn’t have been possible.

Following this the giving out of the prizes occurred.  All the volunteers were told to get up and form an orderly que to go up to Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant where she gave us our badge in recognition of our services.  In the gratitude of the organisation for receiving this, a lovely bunch of flowers where given to her in way of thanks from all of us.

Following the ceremony, lunch was served in the food hall.  There was an excellent range of finger foods as well as huge slices of Victoria sponge cakes.  Everyone collected their food and we all had a lovely lunch together as part of our EBM family.

The Larne RE:Store Team

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