Crawley groups honoured with Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

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Three Crawley-based voluntary organisations in West Sussex have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The recipients of this prestigious award, which aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities, have all expressed their delight.

They are voluntary organisations Gurjar Hindu Union, Streetlight UK and Olive Tree Cancer Support

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Gurjar Hindu Union serves the needs of the Indian community in Crawley allowing its members to integrate effectively into society.

Members of Olive Tree Cancer Support at Crawley Hospital. Picture by Steve RobardsMembers of Olive Tree Cancer Support at Crawley Hospital. Picture by Steve Robards
Members of Olive Tree Cancer Support at Crawley Hospital. Picture by Steve Robards

The group offers activities for children, young people and the elderly and provides skills training for its community as well as cultural and supportive services to the Hindu and wider community.

Ashwin Soni, trustee of Gurjar Hindu Union said: “This is like an MBE for a community group that has been going on since 1968.

“We have built a mega community centre in Ifield that cost £3.4million.

“What an achievement! I am jumping! I am so thrilled.

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Ashwin Soni, trustee of Gurjar Hindu Union. Picture courtesy of Vinod NalawadeAshwin Soni, trustee of Gurjar Hindu Union. Picture courtesy of Vinod Nalawade
Ashwin Soni, trustee of Gurjar Hindu Union. Picture courtesy of Vinod Nalawade

“We are all so thrilled. All 5,000 members of the organisation will be so delighted.

“Our group doesn’t only keep our culture together, and educate our children in our culture and our values, it also is fantastic for the wider community that there is such an iconic centre.

“This is a centre that is very important to Crawley now.

“Whoever likes to understand and know about an ethnic minority group in Crawley that has been here since 1968, here is the building.

Director of Streetlight UK Helena CroftDirector of Streetlight UK Helena Croft
Director of Streetlight UK Helena Croft

“The building was all constructed and built by us without any government support or any other grants or anything like that.

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“I just cannot wait until this is announced on June 2. I have kept my mouth shut.

“The only people who know about it is about three or four trustees and myself.

“I am absolutely flying. Just imagine, a community group getting an MBE.”

Streetlight UK, a charity based in Crawley, is specifically focused on providing tangible and material pathways for women, out of a lifestyle of prostitution and violence.

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They have developed their specialism and understanding of women involved in prostitution across Sussex, Surrey, and London since 2012.

Helena Croft, director of Streetlight UK said: “Our volunteers comes from many backgrounds and experiences and are at the heart of our specialist support service for woman.

“I am absolutely delighted that their commitment, expertise and hard work has been recognised in this significant way.”

Neil Johnston, chairman of Streetlight UK Trustees added: “Streetlight relies on what has been truly amazing support from our volunteers, and it is their unstinting commitment that enables us to help so many women.”

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Olive Tree Cancer Support Group is a group of five staff and more than 60 volunteers based in Crawley and Horsham

The Olive Tree is a welcoming and trusted ‘safe place’ for its cancer patient community and for their loved ones, offering reassurance and relaxation at times of most need.

Its empathetic and supportive team provides valued services, help and key understandings that enable and empower patients to meet challenges throughout their cancer journey.

Graham Nicoll, chairman of the Olive Tree Cancer Support Group, said: "The trustees of Olive Tree Cancer Support Group are delighted that the charity has been recognised for this prestigious award and particularly commended for its exceptional performance throughout the pandemic.

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“We are so very proud of all of our staff and every one of our volunteers and thank each of them for their dedication and hard work in supporting our members and achieving these exceptional standards.”

The trio are a part of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.

The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.

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It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation.

Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including an inclusive tennis club in Lincolnshire; a children’s bereavement charity in London; a support group those living with dementia and their carers in North Yorkshire; a volunteer minibus service in Cumbria; a group supporting young people in Belfast; a community radio station in Inverness and a mountain rescue team in Powys.

Representatives of each organisation will receive the award crystal and certificate from Mrs Susan Pyper, Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, later this summer.

Furthermore, two volunteers from each organisation will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022 (depending on restrictions at the time), along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

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In an addition for this year, Olive Tree, along with selected other Queen’s Award recipients, are receiving a special designation for providing impactful support to the community in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, by managing a significant increase in our usual work and providing support in extra ways.

The Lord-Lieutenant said: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the four outstanding and diverse groups in the county that have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

“The challenges of the last year have put immense pressure on the voluntary sector across the country, and here in West Sussex we have seen countless groups and individuals give their time and expertise to help others, and we have been reminded yet again of the vital contribution that volunteers make to their communities.

"The award is a tremendous accolade for these four outstanding groups and I sincerely hope that their achievements will encourage other volunteer groups to consider putting themselves forward for nomination for this prestigious award.”