Local community volunteers form a vital part SPEAR’s services; from covering the reception desks, to working with our Outreach team to locate rough sleepers, to sharing skills by providing mentoring to clients. One such volunteer, Andrew (Andy) White, has shown exceptional commitment having volunteered over 474 hours in the last year. Andy’s efforts have deservedly been recognised in this year’s Kingston-Upon-Thames Mayor’s Community Awards – Andy was nominated and subsequently won The Mayor’s Covid Award for outstanding service to the Royal Borough during the coronavirus pandemic.
A successful self-employed builder, Andy found himself homeless when his marriage fell apart. Complex circumstances forced him to flee a violent and abusive homelife. He had to leave behind his home, his job and his belongings. Initially, Andy was able to rely on the good will of friends as he sofa-surfed, but this soon became untenable and he ended up sleeping on the streets. The pressure of not having a home caused his mental health to deteriorate to such an extent that he contemplated suicide. Andy contacted SPEAR and was assigned a case worker who helped him into one of SPEAR’s hostels. He started to rebuild his life again.
Andy was grateful for the support he received and wanted to “put something back in”. He volunteered to help set up fetes, moved boxes around, assisted the clothes drop-in service, and dressed up as Santa at SPEAR’s client Christmas parties. Andy undertook certified training to become a Peer Mentor Volunteer, using his lived experience to support others through homelessness. His volunteering activities really took off during the pandemic. Andy has been helping week-in-week-out with processing food donations and became a spokesperson for SPEAR in an emergency appeal on Global’s national radio stations.
Upon receiving the Mayor’s award, Andy said:
I’ve come a long way personally, but I wouldn’t have been able to without SPEAR. The people are so committed and the job they do is just inspiring, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of SPEAR. I hope I can continue to be involved. Thank you very much.”
Mayor Cllr Margaret Thompson was fulsome in her praise for Andy and commented during the ceremony:
Using your own difficult experiences shows real generosity of spirit, which is brilliant and amazing. You have made such a real difference to other people’s lives.”
Nicky Dalglish who manages our external volunteers across SPEAR, echoes the appreciation from everyone at the charity:
Andy volunteers so many hours to SPEAR – over 470 hours throughout the Covid-19 lockdown period – and I am delighted that his volunteering efforts and achievements have been recognised. Andy thoroughly deserves this Award – I hope his award certificate will take pride of place on his wall!”