2013 Staff Winner

Dr Rebecca O'Loughlin, Careers and Employability Division

Rebecca has been a Listening Volunteer for the Samaritans for the past eleven years. This involves committing to shifts every fortnight including regular overnight shifts. Her role is to provide support to callers who phone on a range of issues, including those with serious mental health issues, or who are suicidal. Each year she gives over 160 hours to the organisation.

Over the years, Rebecca has taken on additional responsibilities. These have included being a shift leader to support other volunteers. This involved being responsible for a team of five volunteers on each shift, supporting and motivating the team, especially after any challenging telephone interactions. She has also been part of the team providing regular face-to-face support to inmates in Leeds prison. This involved going onto the prison wing to provide support to inmates who were at risk due to feeling suicidal or self-harming.

The judges were particularly impressed with the length of Rebecca’s commitment and the fact that she has chosen a role which can often go unseen and requires high levels of emotional resilience to support those in great distress.

2013 Student Winner

Alice Engelhard, School of Social Sciences

Alice is the lead coordinator of Student Action’s Women’s Shelter project. She leads a team of volunteers in organising an activity such a cooking classes, knitting and film nights every Sunday afternoon for the women, who are homeless and are staying at the shelter. They also cook a meal for them as part of the session. She has run the project with no direct support from the Student Action coordinator because the project is for women only and the coordinator is male. She has taken on this extra responsibility with enthusiasm and gusto.

Alice has responded to the needs of the women. Following the lack of outside space being identified as a problem, Alice pioneered the building of a garden at the Centre in partnership with the residents, creating an inclusive atmosphere where the women were able to be involved with the planning and decision making.

Alice is a fantastic role model for her team and her support of her volunteers is also exceptional. The Centre can be a challenging place to work but volunteers are properly supported to be able to engage with the residents in a positive way so that the project is genuinely mutually beneficial to all who are involved.

2013 Alumni Winner

Dr Sheena Tyler, PhD Zoology 1994

Sheena developed the Longendale Community Group, bringing together the local community to have their voice heard in local issues. This has included working in the deprived area of Hattersley where residents often didn’t know how to express their concerns. She has engaged, on behalf of the community with local councillors, MPs, Government Ministers and the Prime Minister.

Sheena organised a survey of residents to identify key concerns. A number of issues have been addressed including regarding the support of local retail businesses and unpopular planning decisions. For example, Sheena's hard work and mobilisation of the community led to the overturning of planning applications regarding 24 hour retail deliveries which local residents had been concerned about. The representation of community views to the local council has led the Council to create a website so that residents can more easily know about current issues that may affect them.

Sheena has created a network with link people for every street, public meetings, social events and a newsletter, leading to greater community cohesion and involvement. Sheena has ensured that the group rises above politics, focusing on community welfare issues that allow shared values to be expressed.