Queen Consort Camilla shows appreciation for the work of volunteers across the country

She is determined to shine a light on the nation's amazing unsung heroes who give their time and talents to help others, and this week, the Queen Consort showed her appreciation when she met volunteer groups in Telford, Shropshire.

Crowds lined up to greet Camilla, who made her first visit to the county since her husband King Charles III became head of state. Wearing a blue cashmere coat by Anna Valentine, the royal met with groups including Read Easy, a reading support group for adults, Telford Criss Support, which provides a good bank and support services for individuals and families inc rise, and Telford After Care Team (TACT), which helps adults in recovery from addiction.

She also spoke to volunteers at East Shropshire Talking Newspaper, which provides a news and features audio service for the visually impaired, and volunteers from In Kind Direct, who support vulnerable people with donated products. Charity work is clearly close to Camilla's heart and that is why she is calling on you to nominate your Coronation Champions.

Last month, we were thrilled to announce that OK! has teamed up with The Queen Consort and the Royal Voluntary Service on the launch of the Coronation Champions Awards. Nominations for the awards – which celebrate volunteers from around the UK ahead of the coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort on 6 May – close at 23.59 on Sunday 2 April, and OK! is calling for you to nominate your extraordinary volunteers across the country.

Nominations are open to people aged 14 and over, with judges on the lookout for Young Coronation Champions, including rising stars in the field of volunteering. A total of 500 volunteers will be selected as the nation’s Coronation Champions and will receive a specially designed, official Coronation Champions pin and a certificate signed by the Queen Consort. All 500 champions will be invited to attend either the Windsor Castle coronation concert or a coronation garden party. Since OK! joined forces with The Queen Consort and the Royal Voluntary Service to launch the awards, we have received more than 1,000 nominations.

Love Island 2022 star Tasha Ghouri, 23, is a celebrity ambassador for the Coronation Champions Awards, alongside big names including Dame Judi Dench, Elaine Page, Nadiya Hussain, Felicity Kendal and Tom Read Wilson. Tasha, who is also an ambassador for DeafKidz International, tells OK!, “The awards are a great platform to raise awareness for amazing volunteers out there. I work with a charity and it’s so important to give recognition to those that have worked hard and are doing great things and don’t perhaps get the level of recognition a celebrity volunteer would. Volunteers make such a difference to communities and the causes they support and it’s all about what they contribute to the communities. That’s why these people deserve recognition.”

Tasha was born deaf and relies on a cochlear implant to hear. She says the Health and Care category is close to her heart because of all of the hospital visits she endured as a child. She explains, “Without the NHS, I would never have been able to receive that kind of hospital or GP care growing up and it was vital. The Health and Care category in my eyes is so important.”

As a teenager, Tasha volunteered at deaf clubs for children and at supermarkets, packing customers’ shopping to help raise awareness for Deafkidz International. “I wish they had the Coronation Champions Awards when I was volunteering. It’s so nice for volunteers to be able to get the recognition they deserve,” she adds.

Another enterprise that supports the awards engaging with the Coronation Champion Awards is the educational charity the Eden Project. It set up The Big Lunch in 2009, where volunteers in communities organise meet-ups to encourage people to create new connections over food and conversation. Camilla became patron of The Big Lunch in 2012 and a special coronation Big Lunch takes place on 7 May. Eden P{project Communities Programme Director Lindsey Brummitt said Her Majesty recently wrote to The Big Lunch organisers to highlight the importance of their work.

She explained, "Her Majesty said [in her letter], 'It is our connections, as neighbours, friends and communities, that make the places where we live feel even more like home.' Her Majesty's support of The Big Lunch initiative encourages p[eople to come together where they live to share time and get to know one another a little better, which is vital to our sense of community, connection and belonging – it builds trust and resilience which makes us better able to face the challenges in our lives."

Lindsey added, "The best part of working with Her Majesty is that her taking her time with people who organise events underlines the value of the work they do. Her Majesty's generous spirit makes those she meets feel appreciated. Whether sharing a cup of tea and conversation with older people, meeting someone who has been homeless or has joined a communicates as a refugee, or popping on a penny to join children making bread for a Big Lunch to share with their neighbours, Her Majesty shows a keen interest in the communities she visits and in people's lives."

Londoner Shabnam Russo has been nominated by the Eden Project for an award in the Community category. She has become closely involved in her community, using her love for food to make a difference to the lives of local people. Over the years, she's done everything from volunteering for a charity. That delivered meals to NHS staff during the pandemic, to rustling up three-course meals to raise funds for a local hospice. She said, "The UK is such a multicultural society. I moved to this country 20 years ago and didn't know anyone and had no support system. Community is everything to me – from celebrating in times of need to providing support when you're struggling. Community is family." Anyone can join in the Coronation Big Lunch celebrations – get your free pack and put your event on the map at CoronatonBigLunch.com.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is also engaging with the Coronation Champion Awards. Michelle Lam has been nominated for an award in the Animal Category, supported by Petplan, for her work as a kennel support volunteer at Battersea for the past six years.

Opening up to OK! about meeting The Queen Consort – the Patron of Battersea since 2017, after the late Queen Elizabeth stepped down from the role – at Clarence House last year, Michelle reveals, “I was lucky enough to attend a celebration to mark the 160th anniversary of Battersea. It was such a lovely day and I got to chat with The Queen Consort about the work I do for Battersea. “She was really friendly and interested in what we do. It was a really nice sunny day too, so it was wonderful to see the dogs out and about and enjoying the celebrations.” Michelle, who helps feed the dogs, and clean the kennels, adds, “I’ve always known about Battersea but it never occurred to me that I could volunteer there. When I found out about volunteering for them, I was so excited as it meant I could get my dog fix."

Camilla, who adopted Jack Russell Terriers Beth and Bluebell from Battersea in 2017, is renowned for her love of animals, especially dogs, which is always clear during her visits to the charity’s centres. In 2010, the Queen Consort opened Battersea’s new London cattery, the Veterinary Hospital and Centre of Excellence in 2016 and the Duchess of Cornwall Kennels at Battersea’s Old Windsor centre in 2020. She also visited Battersea’s Brands Hatch centre, in Kent, for the first time in February 2022. Peter Laurie, Chief Executive of Battersea, said, “Battersea is extremely fortunate to benefit from the kind and generous support of Her Majesty The Queen Consort.”

Another charity that supports the Coronation Champion Awards is the National Literacy Trust. NLT CEO, Jonathan Douglas CBE, said Her Majesty’s “invaluable support of the National Literacy Trust helps us to ensure children and adults across the UK have the literacy skills they need for a happier, healthier and more prosperous life.”

He added, “Her Majesty met privately with foster carers in our Swindon Hub, who were all part of a support group for individuals caring for looked-after children (early years age). It was a meeting with no cameras or press, just Her Majesty seated and chatting to the foster parents about the challenges they face, the joy of books and how reading together can promote bonding and communication.”

Volunteering has been identified as a key component of this year’s historic coronation celebrations, and it’s clearly something close to the King and Queen Consort’s hearts, following previous successful projects. To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Royal Voluntary Service called for nominations from around the country for Diamond Champions – older people who volunteered in their local communities. And last year the Queen Consort supported the Royal Voluntary Service’s Platinum Champions Awards, an official project to recognise volunteers as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

In tribute to the King and Queen Consort’s own public service, the Coronation Champions Awards – which the Queen Consort said she is “delighted” to be launching “to shine a light on the herculean efforts of our nation’s volunteers” – will recognise volunteers from eight categories including Supporting Older People; Supporting Young People and Children; Crisis and Welfare; Community, supported by Sky through its Sky Cares programme; Sports, Culture, and Heritage; Sustainability and the Environment; Animal Welfare, and Health and Care, supported by Simplyhealth.

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive at Royal Voluntary Service, said, “I know there are many more people out there with astounding stories to be told, and I want to encourage everyone who has the good fortune of knowing a dedicated volunteer, to step forward and nominate them for this once in a lifetime award, because they really deserve it. “When you’re nominating a volunteer, be sure to talk about what a difference they’ve made, how they have shown initiative or creativity, and tell us how they have inspired people or perhaps been a role model for others. We’re also on the lookout for nominees aged 14-18 who are rising stars in volunteering, to be awarded as our Young Coronation Champions.”

Those feeling inspired to try volunteering are encouraged to take part in the Big Help Out, a day dedicated to the cause, on Monday 8 May. Members of the public can search by their postcode, the type of activity they want to be involved in and the organisation they would like to volunteer with. Organised by Together Coalition, Royal Voluntary Service, Scouts, and other leading organisations, the day is another official Coronation project aiming to encourage newcomers to volunteering, bring communities together and create a lasting volunteering legacy from the Coronation weekend.


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