2 June 2021
The FAN Charity, a group of volunteers based in South Wales, have been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
Before the pandemic 38 FAN (Friends and Neighbours) groups met in person every week, mainly in South Wales and some further afield. FAN groups bring people together and enables them to find out what they have in common in an open, non-judgemental environment. Some participants are learning English and many are older people looking for a friendly, safe place to meet, listen and talk.
In March 2020, as a result of lockdown restrictions all face-to-face FAN groups closed with immediate effect. However, very quickly, through the determination and ingenuity of staff and volunteers they were replaced by virtual FAN groups using Zoom. People attending FAN groups often say that they feel less isolated and lonely after attending so we felt that during this most difficult time it was imperative that the groups continued.
It is a great pleasure to have a group of friendly people sharing talk, thoughts and nice feelings. This has softened the long hard days during lockdown.Omima
Virtual FAN has helped me a lot. Having been widowed for four years and not having contact with other people apart from close family I feel I am so much a part of a community. I have made some wonderful friends.Brian
I think FAN saved my sanity and helped me out of a deep depression. I love going and people are always so friendly, welcoming newcomers from the UK or other countries.Zahra
Meeting virtually has also meant that the charity has been able to welcome participants from across the globe including Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Bahrain, Zambia, France, Germany and Spain.
The FAN Charity is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award in 2021. 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. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, 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 The FAN Charity will receive the award crystal and certificate from Morfudd Meredith, Lord-Lieutenant of South Glamorgan later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from the FAN Charity 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.
On behalf of the Trustees I am delighted that the FAN Charity has been recognised with this wonderful award. When we were faced with closing our groups due to Covid-19 it was thanks to the incredible dedication and hard work of our volunteers and staff that we were able to move our meetings online so rapidly. During the lockdown period and still today our work to reduce isolation within communities by connecting people and making them feel less alone is vital to many. To some FAN participants these moments of human contact are the highlight of their week.
Any recognition of FAN is of course an acknowledgement to everyone who supports and attends FAN so this award belongs to all those people. We must also thank our generous funders the Welsh Government, Foyle Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, National Lottery Community Fund, Track 2000 and the Tudor Trust.
We hope that this award will help FAN reach people who have not yet heard of us and inspire them to attend a group. We would also like people to remember that FAN is a charity and support us if they are able to so that we can continue with our work during these difficult times.Ian Thomson, Chair, Board of Trustees of the FAN Charity