Islington Mayor Gary Heather, reveals what volunteering means to him and explains that is why he chose Voluntary Action Islington (VAI) to be the Mayor’s Charity of the Year 2023-2024.

Volunteering is the lifeblood of any community, and in Islington this is especially true.

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with my chosen charity Voluntary Action Islington (VAI) – to put a spotlight on the value of volunteering by encouraging more local people to step forward and lend a helping hand.

The charity fosters connections in the community by providing a service that matches local volunteers with local organisations in need of a helping hand. VAI also work in partnership with their colleagues within Islington Council too.

I’ve had the honour of attending events hosted by VAI, each one a testament to the power of community spirit. From actively listening and celebrating the tireless efforts of volunteers and staff at VAI’s offices, to recognising the local champions of the community at events such as the Volunteer of the Year Award ceremony, it’s been truly humbling to witness the impact of VAI’s work.

One of this year’s many highlights has been the two volunteering fairs which took place as a joint effort with VAI. By providing a platform for local organisations to connect face-to-face with budding volunteers, so many valuable connections were made.

Following the volunteering fairs, I was privileged to have the opportunity to develop my own connections with local charities who are supported by VAI. I recently visited the Sue Ryder Shop on Essex Road and got stuck in with an afternoon of volunteering!

I worked in the stockroom, folding and hanging trousers and skirts for display. Then I priced up items, used the computer, and did some sorting and organising of clothes. It was brilliant to work with the volunteers and help out.

Also, I spent time with the Stuart Low Trust during their fortnightly community activities, shining a light on the importance of mental health to one’s wellbeing. And last week I met with The Garden Classroom’s volunteers.

I am proud to have chosen VAI as the Mayor’s Charity of the Year 2023-2024. Their commitment to expanding and supporting volunteering across Islington has made a tangible difference, especially during these challenging times, in the aftermath of a pandemic and during a cost-of-living crisis.

As my term as Mayor nears its end, I want to recognise VAI and all the volunteers who continue to work tirelessly to bridge the inequality divide in our borough and ensure that everyone has access to the support they need.

If you are interested in volunteering at VAI, then you can register as a volunteer by calling 0207 832 5826 or emailing [email protected] and VAI will provide face-to-face support to start your volunteering journey.

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