World Environment Day Natural Beauty Photography Competition

VAL’s Environmental Champions are proud to announce the winner of the World Environment Day 2020 – Natural Beauty competition!

Selected from 18 photos of beautiful nature the overall winner is Jo Rushworth, selected for her photo called ‘Robin in the Sun’. Congratulations Jo!

The judges also thought that 3 additional photos deserved a special mention for the following reasons:

  • They illustrate biodiversity (bumblebees are in decline, is hugely significant sign of climate change, pollution and poor land use; the meadow encourage variety of species of plants and attracts wide variety of insects and wildlife; Bradgate park is a unique site that promotes variety of plants and animals)
  • They represent important habitats (Bradgate is a Site of Significant Scientific Interest (SSSI) for biology and geology, garden plants encouraging bees are very important)
  • They promote/represent access to a wide public, especially children and young people (meadow, Bradgate proximity of large urban areas)
  • They are beautiful pictures (all 4)

Whilst the judges ultimately chose 4 standout pictures, they thought each photo offered an important perspective on nature.

Jo’s photo will be enlarged and showcased in the VAL offices when we are back in the building.

Volunteer Stories – Volunteering into an Apprenticeship

John Storer House

Read case study by Matthew Coleman-Haynes – Apprentice, John Storer Charnwood

After finishing my GCSEs, I started volunteering through John Storer House whilst I was unsure what step to take next in my education. I started off by volunteering at their allotment, which appealed to me because of the mix of indoor and outdoor activities working with adults with learning disabilities. This was a unique opportunity and I found it very rewarding.

The following academic year, I embarked on A level courses alongside my volunteering. Just before Christmas time, I chose to do an extra day of voluntary work at John Storer House itself. I worked with adults with learning disabilities, the elderly and people suffering from dementia. With this group we did activities such as craft, games and sewing.

I enjoyed my voluntary work so much that I started looking at apprenticeships in Health and Social Care. I decided this was something I wanted to pursue rather than following the A level path. I was very fortunate as John Storer House offered me the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship through them. I am now just over halfway through my course and have had no regrets.

Volunteering exposed me to a career path that I would never have considered previously but one that is perfect for me.

Image: Matt at the beach as a volunteer with John Storer House




This case study has been provided by Charnwood Borough Council


Volunteer Stories – Helping people

VAL was contacted by the City Council Warden for Evington, Thurncourt, Humberstone & Hamilton on  May as they wanted assistance for a lady who lived in a flat and was shielding. 

It was becoming a struggle and she had requested a sewing machine to make some PPE for the NHS as that would improve her mental wellbeing.  VAL contacted various organisations in the city and repeatedly put out requests via social media.  As a result of a post in the Leicester Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook Group a sewing machine was donated and was picked up by a VAL staff member on Saturday 16 May. The recipient said she was absolutely blown away by the gesture and was over the moon.  The donor provided a nice note that outlined how the machine worked and also donated a stash of fabric.

Image above: Lady who kindly donated the sewing machine

Volunteer Stories – Making a difference

VAL were contacted by Cllr Adam Clarke on Thursday 23 April 2020 regarding an elderly constituent in his AylestoneWard who was self-isolating and wanted someone to tidy up her garden. 

We looked at the registered volunteers in this area and contacted someone who had given previous volunteering experience of community gardening.  We contacted this volunteer on Friday 24 April, who was very keen to get involved with the project and on Monday 27 April she spent several hours tidying up the garden and left the elderly person very happy.

Comment from volunteer:

‘It was a bit of an epic garden, it hadn’t been touched since last autumn, I’m not sure but I think she was widowed last year and didn’t know where the garden tools were. Thankfully I took my own mower, strimmer, shears and stuff so was able to hack through the meadow.  At least now, she can look out onto a mown lawn’

Volunteer Stories – Oasis Pre-School

Oasis Pre-School is a not for profit, community preschool for children aged 2 – 5 in Asfordby, Melton, with a specialism around SEN and disabilities. Whilst the nursery has been able to remain open 3 days a week to support families of frontline workers and children classed as vulnerable

With the help of local volunteers, it has also taken on the role of running a food donations pickup and delivery service for local people, along with a clothes bank.

The nursery also sends ‘Home learning’ activities to families through the post, as keeping in-touch with families every week, through social media and on their Facebook page.

Asfordby is an area of deprivation and the pre-school works with many families from disadvantaged backgrounds.  The pre-school’s role in the community is therefore more than just being a nursery, it provides a focal point for the entire community.


This case study has been provided by Leicestershire County Council


Volunteer Stories – Melton Learning Hub

The Melton Learning Hub is a charity which supports young people and the elderly and vulnerable, primarily in Melton Mowbray, but also further afield. The Hub offers a wide variety of vocational qualifications to young people 14-19 who are excluded or at risk of exclusion from mainstream education.

The Hub has linked up with Melton Borough Council to create a food bank from its premises. A number of volunteer drivers and staff from the Hub are delivering food to families and people in need across Melton. The service is promoted through Facebook and other social media and is continuing to help people in isolation but also those people who have experienced a sudden loss of income.

The Hub has an industrial kitchen on site (funded by a grant from Leicestershire County Council 5 years ago) which is being used to prepare food for delivery to local people who need food parcels. A team of 22 volunteer drivers are helping with deliveries of food, essentials and also in supporting the vulnerable and elderly with getting to doctors and hospital appointments.

More details about Melton Learning Hub can be seen here:



This case study has been provided by Leicestershire County Council


Volunteer Stories – Coalville Education Partnership

Coalville Education Partnership (CEP) is an alternative education provider, which supports students who are excluded from mainstream education. One of the activities undertaken by the organisation is to offer training around cooking and meal preparation for young people.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that CEP have been unable to offer their usual activities to young learners. The organisation has however, responded quickly by utilising their on-site kitchen facilities to prepare food and deliver this to people living in Coalville and surrounding area.

Jason Knibbs from CEP said,

“Putting our catering kitchen to good use and cooking for those in need is a ‘no brainer’. Before COVID-19 we used to cook for older and vulnerable people once a week. However, that had to stop. We’ve got a catering kitchen with equipment and a contract with the charity FareShare, so I decided to make a difference and provide meals for communities in North West Leicestershire.”

Jason and his small team of cooks and support staff receive a variety of food and do not know what they will get until its delivered. From there they create meals such as Spanish chicken, roast dinners and cottage pies.

While CEP creates hundreds of meals a week, a team of 60 volunteers from the Hugglescote, Donington Le Heath and Coalville Community Response Hub deliver the meals twice a week.

Founder of the community organisation, Jade Edwards, said that she only started out cooking meals for her mother. The mum-of-four, from Coalville, said:

“I’m a carer for my mum, so when the government restrictions came in I took meals round for her and her neighbours asked for help with meals and shopping. I put what I was doing on social media and asked for people to adopt a street to help vulnerable people and within two weeks I had more than 40 volunteers. I love delivering meals in the community and seeing the smiles on people’s faces. What we are doing is making a huge difference and I’ve had people say that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the service we are providing. It wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers.”



This case study has been provided by Leicestershire County Council

Volunteer Stories – Lutterworth Crisis Action

Lutterworth Crisis Action is an inspiring community initiative which has been established to provide support to residents in Lutterworth during the Coronavirus pandemic. The scheme, which is led by St Mary’s Church in Lutterworth, came about through initial conversations between the church and a number of committed community organisations based within the town, all of whom felt the need to develop a local response to help people get through the crisis.

The agencies involved in the scheme include:

  • St Mary’s Church
  • Age Concern Lutterworth
  • Lutterworth Town Council
  • Lutterworth Community Transport
  • Lutterworth Volunteer Centre
  • Lutterworth and Villages Foodbank

The scheme recruits local volunteers and mobilises them to provide support to those most in need, particularly for people in households who are self-isolating during the Covid-19 crisis. The main tasks undertaken by the volunteers include delivering groceries and other essential shopping; collection and delivery of medication; transport to essential medical appointments; and befriending support to reduce loneliness.

In total, the initiative has recruited nearly 150 volunteers and provided support to over 200 local residents who are impacted by the Covid crisis.

More details can be seen at



This case study has been provided by Leicestershire County Council


Volunteers Week 2020

This year we’ve had to think differently about how we recognise both our own volunteers and those people who are giving up their time across Leicester and Leicestershire to support their communities.

Volunteers Week activities

Throughout the week we will share volunteer stories from ourselves and our partners to highlight and show our gratitude for some of the people doing amazing things to help others.


We will be launching a Twitter Q&A on all things volunteering – ask us any questions on Twitter using the hashtag #askVAL.


Network and Learn Session

This session will take place over Zoom, from 10:00am to 12:00pm and is aimed at volunteer-involving organisations who want to learn and share best practice. Dave Andrews, Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire, will be speaking at the session. Book your place


Internal training and celebration of VAL’s own volunteers, with personal thanks from VAL’s senior management and Chair of the trustee board.


Training – Managing Remote Volunteers

This Zoom webinar takes place between 10:00am and 12:00pm, with Dave Cliffe and Anna Barrow from our Volunteering team and the Work.Live.Leicestershire project: Book your place


Twitter Q&A – throughout the day we’ll be answering any questions people have sent us relating to volunteering, using the hashtag #askVAL.


We will be sharing data, insights, research and statistics about volunteering.


On Sunday we will be revealing a special video to thank volunteers across the city and county for everything they’ve done during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mental Health Awareness Week – Access All Areas

“When Hardip from VAL asked me to submit a piece for Mental Health Awareness Week, I was happy to oblige. I have worked with people with mental health conditions for almost ten years; predominantly assisting clients with employment training.

In that time, I have found out a lot about my own mental health and how exhausting managing mental health conditions can be. It does not discriminate, and it can affect anybody at any time. It is not an affliction of only the weak or vulnerable, physically fit and financially secure people are not immune. Our clients have described their own mental health condition as if they are being followed by the “black dog”, or living beneath a permanent dark cloud. I have tried to capture those emotions in my illustration. I also want to impart this resounding message, “help is available if you ask for it”.

‘It was a pleasure to get back on the pencils for my own mindfulness – creativity is an absorbing therapy, especially during these challenging times.’

Thank you Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) for the opportunity to support Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. Keep up the good work and stay safe.
Access All Areas are providing mental health support in Melton Mowbray during the (COVID-19) Coronavirus crisis.”