21st October 2015

Devon Community Foundation hosted its annual Volunteer of the Year Awards sponsored by Quilter Cheviot last week, honouring the hard work and achievements of the many volunteers making a real difference in our Devon communities. Irfaan Jhetam from Hikmat Devon was awarded the Bringing People Together Volunteer of the Year Award sponsored by Cathedral Appointments.

Hikmat Devon, which has its own allotment in Exeter, seeks to address the issues of health inequalities, as well as to tackle the issue of social isolation faced by many people from BME communities. Group members help on the allotment, learning how to grow vegetables and plants, as well as outdoor DIY skills.

27 year old Irfaan has had mental health problems over the years and a difficult home life, which led him to breakdown last year and admitted himself to hospital. Volunteering with Hikmat Devon has supported him get back on his feet, opened up opportunities and helped him to find a part-time job, all of which continue to improve his confidence and mental wellbeing. Despite his own challenges, Irfaan is always willing to help others, get involved in activities and help wherever he can.

Irfaan said: “I am deeply honoured for being nominated and winning the award. It is a great privilege to be acknowledged for all the work volunteers do, but it's just as important that the organisation gets recognition for all the benefits it provides to the community. I have meet wonderful people along the way and found a sense of fulfilment and purpose. I think that being a volunteer is extremely rewarding. I wish to thank all those who voted for me.”

Jo Caine, of Cathedral Appointments, sponsors of the award said: “As a recruitment agency we know the importance of bringing people together; matching people’s skills and experiences to the perfect employer. We feel that Irfaan is a great example of what a difference a person can make to others given the right environment. We are absolutely delighted to recognise him for all his dedication and hard work to the local community.”

Martha Wilkinson, Chief Executive of Devon Community Foundation said: “With Irfaan, no task it too much, and his kind and calm personality and willingness to help, has made him an invaluable volunteer for Hikmat Devon.”

The nominated volunteers work with local groups to help and support others in their communities. Other winners included:

  • Rural Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers: Mary Nunn (Cheriton Fitzpaine Garden Club & Welcome Club)

  • Children & Young People Award, sponsored by Kitsons LLP: Charlie Aston (Youth Genesis)

  • Keeping People Safe & Well Award, sponsored by HSBC Devon: Liz Hitchins (Dementia Friendly Parishes Around the Yealm)

  • The Sir Eric Dancer Thriving Communities Award: Battling On