Work of Richmond volunteer who helps refugees highlighted

Bev Lawrence.

The work of a Richmond woman who uses her experience as a teacher to help refugees from countries including Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan has been highlighted by council chiefs.

Bev Lawrence, who retired from her 38-year teaching career in 2015, is a teaching support volunteer for the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses which are held in her hometown.

She has been supporting the ESOL classes for the past six years and volunteers for up to four hours every Monday, working alongside a teacher, Cath McNeil, at Richmond Town Hall.

Her work has been highlighted as one of the many volunteers who are helping to deliver services for hundreds of thousands of people in North Yorkshire.

Council chiefs say the work of community champions has made a huge contribution across England’s largest county, making it cleaner, greener and more connected in ways that would otherwise not have been possible.

Ms Lawrence said: “It has been a great experience and it has been inspirational working with these people who have come to a new country to make their home here.

“The lessons not only teach them a new language, but they give a structure and a value for how they can understand British society.

“Coming to North Yorkshire has given them the chance to integrate into communities that have been so welcoming, and it is a totally different experience to one that they would have perhaps had if they had arrived in a big city or town.

“I have loved the opportunities that volunteering has given me, as it makes me feel that I am able to give something back to society after all the experience I gathered during my career as a teacher.”

North Yorkshire Council, which launched at the start of April, says it has embarked on work with community and voluntary groups to help support volunteering.

Funding has been provided to allow the organisations which are established across the county to develop their roles and act as so-called community anchors.

A total of £1.5 million in funding, which will be spread over the next three years, will help build the capacity of the community and voluntary groups to act as key points of contact for the council, providing hubs for the public to access advice and support and to increase resilience in communities.

The value of volunteers to help deliver vital services has been recognised in North Yorkshire for many years, especially in the face of financial constraints.

Mirroring other local authorities across the country, the former North Yorkshire County Council had to consider the future of its libraries in the face of cuts in funding from the Government. The library service saw its budget almost halved from £7.8m in 2010 to £4.3m in 2017/18. However, 1,200 volunteers came forward to ensure the facilities kept open.

A long-term commitment was made in October last year when the county council’s executive agreed to grant leases for a 10-year period to support the continued operation and development of community-run libraries.

The council has opened nominations for the annual Community Awards, which recognise organisations and individual volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time to improving lives. This year sees the introduction of a new category aimed at recognising those who have launched initiatives to tackle climate change and support the natural environment.

The closing date for nominations is June 4. Nomination forms can be completed online at www.northyorks.gov.uk/communityawards

More information about volunteering in North Yorkshire is available at www.northyorks.gov.uk/TeamNorthYorkshire online.