Project Volunteer Award Nominees

HUSSO – Hull
Hull students will benefit from first-hand experience of an active role in police investigations, as Hull University Social Services Organisation (HUSSO) launches the pioneering Appropriate Adult scheme – only the second project of its kind in the country.

HUSSO, which is part of Hull University Union, has opened the project to students in partnership with the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office. With intensive training, the students will be able to take up the role of an Appropriate Adult in police questioning at Clough Road Police Station in Hull.

An Appropriate Adult’s role is to be present in interviews with a vulnerable adult who is being questioned by police and to protect their interests, support and advise them, ensure that they understand their rights, assist with communication and many more functions.

The unique project was launched with nine student volunteers having been appointed roles, with applications now open for more. Students who are currently involved are from courses such as Criminology, Law, Psychology, Sociology and Business Economics, and they have an interest in working with the police or helping vulnerable people.

Chloe Crooks is the project’s student lead. Chloe is responsible for coordinating volunteers when an Appropriate Adult is required. Chloe, 19, who is a second year Law student, said: “We help represent vulnerable people in custody to ensure their human rights are met, as well as making sure they understand what is happening. This is alongside essentially just being there for them, as this can be a daunting experience, especially with some of their vulnerabilities.”

Training is provided by National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN). NAAN is a registered charity which aims to ensure the rights and welfare of the most vulnerable people in society by developing appropriate adults.

Fiona Gell – Leeds Big Bookend
Fiona Gell set up the Leeds Big Bookend in 2012 and has continued to work tirelessly, giving up her own time unpaid, to help promote the Leeds literary scene, giving writers a platform. This includes novelists, playwrights, poets, spoken word performers – people of all ages and backgrounds – championing the people of the ‘Fringe’, as well as those more well known.  She is also co-founder of the first ever Leeds LitFest for 2019, helps run the Northern Short Story Festival and also works for the Leeds Library.

Louise Brown – Fulford Rocks, York
Fulford Rocks is a rock decorating and hiding project for all ages and abilities. People decorate rocks (using paints, pens or decoupage) and hide them outdoors (streets, parks, landmarks etc). It’s primarily a “kindness project” meant to make the finder of the rock happy and improve their day. People add positive words to a rock, paint pictures and theme them to their interests, e.g. books, science, cartoon characters. The “finder” can keep the rock or re-hide it for someone else. Makers and finders can post photos to the Facebook group to track each rock’s adventures.

Louise started the project at a very difficult time whilst waiting for an autism diagnosis. She was struggling to connect with the world and people around her. When her daughter started school, she realised that she needed to try and manage her anxieties about the walk to school and being in the playground.

She had previously (throughout childhood and adult life) used less helpful coping mechanisms (eating disorders, self harm), but did not want this to happen again, because of a drive to stay well for herself and her daughter, as a single mum.

She began painting lots of rocks, and found it relaxing and it made her happier. She hid them on the walk to and from school with her daughter. She finds the rocks grounding to feel and hold, and this has made her other sensory difficulties far less overwhelming.

Having the project and working alongside hundreds of lovely members of all ages is what she loves to do every day. Having rocks around has made her feel more confident in lots of areas of life, which has had a big positive impact on her home, social and school life.

At school, when collecting her daughter, she is now able to talk to other mums, arrange dates and parties which, before she had rocks to talk about, was too hard.

It is such a popular group for adults and children in the area and Louise has asked for it to be a category in this year’s Fulford show, which she has volunteered to help judge with her daughter.  They have seen photos of rocks travelling the world and other people setting up their own groups having been inspired.

The teachers at the local school have told Louise that excited children take Fulford rocks in for show and tell. Parents report that it encourages children to walk to and from school, as they are rock hunting!

Louise has volunteered to make “sensory rocks” for a non-medical room within a doctor’s surgery. They’ve been handled by lots of people who have felt isolated and who are bereaved, and the peace it brings them to hold and use mindfulness and relaxation with a rock is lovely to see.  Louise has also made some story stones and volunteered to meet with a children’s centre to help advise them on how to use rocks to aid children’s literacy and numeracy.

Now Louise has her autism diagnosis, she feels that her life can be different and quirky! It is such a relief to know it is okay to be different and okay to have such repetitive interests (rocks!)  The creativity and strengths Louise has because she is autistic can be used really well in volunteering and running the project.  

Fulford Rocks is really exciting. Louise has lots of ideas, such as volunteering at the local coffee club for older people to show them how to decorate and hide rocks.

The project has made a difference to so many children and adults. Louise receives many private messages about how people’s mental health is improving or how their child is engaged in a hobby that they can afford thanks to rocks.

Louise feels able to continue developing all her volunteering to engage more amazing people in Fulford Rocks and give them a safe space to add to their own special journey, and improve their health and wellbeing.

In July 2018 she had a stall at the local school and sold over 100 rocks for their fundraising. The school was so grateful. Two years ago she would never have run a hugely successful and busy stall.

She has also written a book based on the project.