We are incredibly proud of Alison Weare one of our Swansea volunteers who was nominated to attend the Queens garden party as a gesture of thanks for her commitment to supporting children and their families in the community.

“I was completely surprised. It’s the kind of thing you see other people doing, but never expect to do yourself. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.”

People can’t just apply to attend!  Instead, they are nominated, usually by the Lord Lieutenant, the Queens personal representative in each county. Plus-ones are welcomed, though. Each guest is allowed to take a partner or friend and Alison was thrilled to take her daughter Katherine Hood and partner Antony Bidder to enjoy the experience with her.

For the Palace, the garden parties are an opportunity for the royal family to meet and thank individuals for various good deeds they have done. The emphasis is on rewarding the unsung heroes and heroines of British society and in particular those like Alison who give their time to support others.

Alison said the day was amazing,

“It was wonderful, the tea party took place in the garden, which was beautiful, the military brass band played and the Royal family tried to speak to as many people as possible and then everyone got to sit down for a wonderful tea.

We ate finger sandwiches egg mayonnaise with cress; cucumber with fresh mint and, smoked salmon bagels and cream cheese and loads of beautiful cakes.   It almost looked too good to eat!

The atmosphere was wonderful, we walked around the beautiful garden we couldn’t have enjoyed ourselves more.  I was so proud to be there representing SNAP Cymru and to share the day with my family.”

Alison started volunteering with SNAP Cymru after retiring from a 37 year teaching career.

“I had previous knowledge of SNAP while I was a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator in Clwyd Primary in Swansea.  I had met Hania one of the Family and Young Peoples Officers in 2010, and was so impressed with the way she supported families, giving them the confidence to be fully involved in all the decisions being made for their children…. I thought, ‘I want to be a part of this’, no matter how great or how small.    I would Join SNAP Cymru as a volunteer when I retired.

I’ve been here more than 6 years and I’ve found my niche, I’ve learnt so much and have never looked back!”

In Alison’s volunteering role she is able to put her previous knowledge of Special Educational needs and working with children and families to good use, and continues to find this work most rewarding.

“I bring life experience to the role, I’m 68 and it keeps my outlook positive. I also learn new things which keeps me on my toes!

In my role I listen to families who are often very upset or frustrated, I listen to children and promote the child’s view and often help families’ complete forms and write letters if needed.  Lots of the work is about providing reliable information so parents or carers can express their views and communicate with schools and local authorities.  I don’t have to look for this SNAP Cymru has amazing resource’s which are dependable and accurate and easily accessible to me as a volunteer.”

SNAP Staff always make you feel welcomed, appreciated and thanked.  You are always supported and never worry about making mistakes, there is flexibility and volunteers are never put under any pressure.

Alison says, the feedback from families is fantastic.

 “The other day I received a note from a parent which said, “you don’t know the difference you have made!”  That’s what makes volunteering so rewarding; you’re making a difference to someone’s lives.”

There is a social side too – Alison says “I’ve made friends with my fellow volunteers and staff and we meet for lunch and a chat and give each other support. We have great fun together.”

SNAP Cymru provides all their volunteers with invaluable training, and the support is the best quality you could ever have. They are very supportive and concerned about the volunteer’s well-being, and if you ever have any questions or problems they are there to help in any way they can. “ You never feel out of your depth!”

Once trained there’s the opportunity to help with SNAP’s frontline service by becoming an advisor with the helpline service or like Alison representing SNAP Cymru on the Special Educational Needs Panels at the local Education Department.

Alison says. “The personal development of my computer skills since I have been with SNAP has been amazing. All volunteers feel welcome and valued and are part of a local team and the larger family of SNAP.

I would encourage anyone to volunteer because of how rewarding it is. You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to be yourself.

Im just thrilled that volunteering for SNAP Cymru and supporting the work they do in the community was recognised and I was invited to the Palace!”

4 hours a week, is enough a day or two even better !   Just try it to see what it’s about!  We are looking for helpline volunteers to join our team in Swansea and at our other offices across Wales.  Please contact ruth.phillips@snapcymru.org for a chat or look at the http://www.snapcymru.org/get-involved/ where you can complete and send an application form.