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Winners of the 2021 Queen's Award for Voluntary Service announced



The highest award given to charitable organisations, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, will be awarded to 241 organisations across the UK today, including 15 organisations in Northern Ireland, as the Minister for Civil Society and Youth hailed volunteers as “the backbone of local communities” during the national recovery from COVID-19.

Organisations who were awarded in Northern Ireland.

Charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have received the prestigious award for delivering exceptional service within their communities over the past year and beyond.

The winners have carried out critical work to enhance the lives of others, and many of those honoured have adapted their services to respond to the coronavirus outbreak as the voluntary sector continues to play a vital role in the national recovery. This has been recognised through a special designation given to 164 of the group for providing impactful support during the initial lockdown.


Ten of the 15 organisations awarded in Northern Ireland were recognised in this special designation.


Organisations in Northern Ireland awarded special designation for providing impactful support to their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Coinciding with Volunteers’ Week, the Queen’s Award recognises that volunteers have been vital throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and will continue to be as the country emerges from lockdown.

Minister for Civil Society and Youth, Baroness Barran, will be marking Volunteers’ Week with a series of visits to some of the exceptional organisations carrying out critical work.

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration for the UK to recognise those who have dedicated their time to support their local community, both through the pandemic, and over many years.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Independent Committee Chair Sir Martyn Lewis, said:

“There is no finer example of democracy in action than people getting together at a local level to tackle a problem or issue at the heart of their community. This year’s magnificent award winning groups touch virtually every area of need across our society.

“They also highlight the growing and key role which volunteers are playing in times of rapid change and unprecedented challenges. Whether driven by a neighbourly passion to help others or to achieve that well recognised “high” of personal satisfaction, volunteering taps into a rich spirit of generosity, ingenuity and kindness.”


The Queen’s Award’s judges are proud to honour the achievements of those who help to make our country great.

Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran said:

“I’m extremely grateful for the work being carried out by volunteers across the country, and this prestigious award is extremely well deserved. I’d like to congratulate all of the winners, and thank them for the dedication to their communities.

“In these challenging times, charities, social enterprises and their volunteers have been the backbone of local communities.

“Recent research has shown that 99% of people who have volunteered report positive personal benefits, including a sense of purpose, achievement and feeling as though they are making a difference. I hope today’s award inspires people and I encourage everyone to consider how they could volunteer in some way.”

This year’s recipients demonstrate the diversity of organisations supporting our communities and also their ability to innovate – including the five organisations awarded in County Antrim:

A Safe Space to be Me in County Antrim provides mental health support in a rural community. During the pandemic, they delivered 48 laptops for home schooling and provided practical support and financial aid.

Atlas Women's Centre - providing opportunities and vital support to improve wellbeing, increase skills and reduce isolation.

Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens - advancing education in horticulture, preserving heritage and protecting the environment.

North Antrim Agricultural Association - annually organising Ballymoney Show, promoting agriculture, food and crafts.

Rathfern Community Regeneration Group - providing community activities for hard to reach, low- income families in a socially deprived area.



One of the organisations awarded, North Antrim Agricultural Association, annually organise Ballymoney Agricultural Show promoting agriculture, food and crafts. The volunteers all come from three local young farmers clubs with over 100 of them still active in their clubs aged between 12 and 30 years.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the volunteers helped their communities by collecting and delivering food to Food Banks, delivering food parcels to those in need, delivering PPE for Marie Curie, education packs for school children, collecting litter and sponsored challenges for mental health.


James Morrison, President of the North Antrim Agricultural Association said:


“The whole group are delighted to receive the award. They see it as recognition for all their efforts for the show and will act as motivation to expand and improve what the show has in offer in 2022.”



Speaking of the benefits of volunteering, James commented:


“We would recommend volunteering as it gives a great amount of satisfaction, especially when it is appreciated by all the visitors to the show. It brings together people from both the town and rural communities and many of those from isolated rural communities look forward each year to meeting up with others they haven’t seen for some time. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the development of the young volunteers, who are tasked with a new project and trusted to do challenging jobs which builds their confidence while at the same time having great camaraderie.”


James went onto explain that he believed the best accomplishments of the North Antrim Agricultural Association, include educating the public on the vital role that agriculture plays in caring for the environment and producing food. Also in counteracting rural isolation and giving competitors the satisfaction of producing something and the camaraderie of competing with others.



Concluding, James shared the organisations future plans, saying: “In the future, the young volunteers seek to be innovative to involve the wider community, work with other groups eg canine club. We plan to build on new ideas begun in 2019 involving local hockey, football and rugby clubs in the cookery competition. Moving forward we plan to involve more cross community groups in this.”





Nominations for the 2022 awards close on 15 September 2021.


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