With thanks to Champion Ailene for another excellent reflection and for accompanying her colleague Rita to Perth to accept this award - L.E.A.D. Scotland is an organisation that specialises in linking education and disability. Last year we partnered with Lead to support a group of our Champions through the Adult Achievement Awards and this ceremony looks at all their learners over the last year.
This is only the second year that this James Hill Learner of the Year Award has been presented, it came into being after James Hill, passed away, and as a former champion who supported many learners in the 1990’s he left a legacy in his will to L.E.A.D. Scotland, who created the Award in his honour.
Rita Forrest and I were invited to attend the event, which started off with an early rise for the both of us, leaving Forres at 7.00am. We travelled down the A9 to Perth and the drive was fine, the weather was dull in places, but when we reached the outskirts of Perth the sun was shining. We arrived with time to spare and parked just along from the building we were to attend, we registered and had tea and cake.
The event started with the Annual General Meeting of L.E.A.D. Scotland, and was chaired by Donald Jarvie, the Executive Officer was Emma Whitelock CEO and the Vice Chair was Tricia Illsey.
Donald Jarvie gave a welcome speech to everyone there, followed by presentations from North Lanarkshire. These were given by Derek Keller & Donna Morley; Derek spoke about having a brain injury, his rehabilitation over a period of 18 to 24 months which gave him back his confidence and subsequently returning back into the community. He’s since worked with Lead Scotland for over 2 years.
Following this, we heard from a number of inspirational projects. Firstly there was a short video from Aberdeenshire project: Sara’s story - a young woman who had a lack of confidence and was housebound, but who is a beautiful artist who eventually could walk to a café in the village where she stays to meet her support worker from Lead Scotland. Sara is now attending college where she is doing art.
Then there was George Connelly who is a volunteer with Fife Befriending, where he helps a gentleman called Billy who suffered from social isolation, lack of confidence and anxiety; George and his colleague Louise Andree explained about Billy, who never left the house but now likes to go walking and has managed to climb a hill where he stays.
Lastly, there was a short Video from Volunteering with L.E.A.D. Scotland Dundee. Amy made the video, which empowers disabled people to improve their abilities through learning skills, by helping people in their homes to use computers. Teresa was the person that Amy helped and now Teresa is doing computing studies at Abertay University.
Finally, we arrived at the most important event, the unveiling of the nominees and winners of the Dr Ethel Gray Volunteer of the Year Award and the James Hill Learner of the Year Award. The Ethel Gray Award was given to Kay Mitchell. The James Hill was given to 3 individuals, a young man called Alexander Gault, a young woman called Sara Doke and our Champion Rita Forrest.
We should have guessed Rita was a winner, as when she was handed out her nominee certificate it already said winner on it! Rita received a statue, as did the other winners along with her, there is usually a shield for the award, but this could not be shared by three winners. Pictures were taken, and congratulations were given.
I was so happy for Rita, as she explained during our journey down that, she left school with no qualifications and she now is the proud owner of a Level 6 qualification which is classed as a Higher grade. Well done Rita. We then had lunch and left about 1.30pm.
In reflection, it was a lovely day we both enjoyed, with the fun and laughter in the car about silly things. We stopped off at House of Bruar and went sight-seeing at the beautiful and expensive items this place has to offer. We spent a few hours there, but then realised there was a sale shop, so off we went to the back of the carpark, and wandered around the place. Rita found something she liked and treated herself, so she was very chuffed with everything that happened.
We arrived home about 6.30pm - it was a very long day, exciting in parts, fun and laughter and eventually the tiredness caught up with us once we were back in our own homes. I am glad I went with her, I wouldn’t have missed it for a moment; I’m glad my friend won and that Barbara Taylor and Heidi Tweedie nominated her for the award in the first place. Also, I give thanks to everyone who took part and for the experience and fun, I had on our day to Perth. Thank you, Ailene.
WELL DONE RITA - YOU’RE A STAR!!!