Llandudno gardener wins volunteering award in Tower of London ceremony

A gardener from Llandudno has won an award recognising her outstanding work in volunteering for military charity Blind Veterans UK.

Susan Sayers, 68, received the award at the Blind Veterans UK Volunteer Awards 2016 held at the Tower of London this week (06/06). The awards were held as part of National Volunteers' Week.

Susan joined the Blind Veterans UK volunteer team at the charity's Llandudno Centre in April 2015 as a gardening volunteer. She was keen to help with the creation and maintenance of the charity's two acre Centenary Woodland Garden.

The award was presented by General The Lord Dannatt, the Constable of the Tower of London and a former Vice-Patron of Blind Veterans UK, as well as the charity's Chief Executive Nick Caplin.

A citation was read by Joanna Tann, Volunteering Development Officer in Llandudno, describing Susan as "epitomising the true spirit of what volunteering is all about" 

Joanna added: "Susan has worked untiringly through all seasons and in all weathers, and we mean all weathers, to plant, prune, tame, weed and nurture both the cultivated woodland flower beds and the more natural wild features for the benefit, well-being and enjoyment of our blind veterans.

"She has virtually single-handedly maintained the woods throughout the autumn and winter, just doing whatever has been needed to be done. We recently planted 5000 daffodils and 3000 snowdrops in the grounds of our Llandudno centre and we can safely say that Susan single handedly planted a very significant proportion of these. She also has a wealth of gardening knowledge which she has shared with other volunteers and veterans."
As part of the award, Susan received a special pen handmade by blind veteran Bill Mooney. Bill is a wood turner and every pen he makes is unique. All the nominees were also treated to a talk by the only female Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London.

Susan said: "I was so delighted to have found out that I had been nominated and was absolutely gobsmacked when they announced that I'd won!

"As most volunteers say, we get so much more out of the experience than we put in. It really is pleasure to go. It is lovely spending time with the veterans and I enjoy working in the garden so much."

Susan has more recently extended her volunteering to make use of another of her talents, that of dancing. On a Friday lunchtime she will be found exchanging her gardening shoes for much more elegant dance shoes as she joins blind veterans for dancing lessons.

She added: "I love gardening and dancing and I look forward to visiting the centre every week. There is such a lovely atmosphere and I've been made to feel so welcome.

"I found out about volunteering with Blind Veterans UK through my local church. I would strongly recommend other people in the area get in touch with the charity and find out what they can do to volunteer. You can commit as much or as little time as you want and, like me, you can carry on doing things that you love."

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: "Volunteers like Susan are the lifeblood of Blind Veterans UK. It would not be possible to provide the life-changing practical and emotional support to blind veterans without the 500 volunteers that help across every level of the charity.

"We now have more volunteers than staff and as the charity continues to grow we will always welcome more volunteers into the Blind Veterans UK family."