Kishor Shah, a 54-year-old IT consultant, had come from St Ives in Cambridgeshire where for the past three decades he has been the mainstay of his local hockey club. “From training to kit to umpiring to matches, Kishor is across them all,” wrote the club’s chairman, Richard Jones in nominating him. “He’s an inspiration. Quite simply the place wouldn’t run, and wouldn’t be the same, without him”.
The second name on the shortlist, 28-year-old Katie Metcalfe, had travelled up with her mother, Penny, from Truro in Cornwall. Her nomination came through the charity AYME – Association of Young People with ME. Having first got involved as a recipient of AYME’s services at the age of 18, when developing ME meant that she had to forego her place at university, Katie had felt well enough three years later to become a volunteer herself at the charity, working to organise the sort of self-help groups she had been attending. She now runs a group of 20 other young volunteers, coordinating the support AYME offers nationwide.
“I’ve started doing an OU degree,” she said. “I worry that no employer will ever want me because I have nothing to put on my CV, compared to my contemporaries, who all have degrees now, but a lot of the work I have been doing as a volunteer at AYME has a direct application in workplaces. I hope it will one day persuade an employer to take a chance on me.”
And the third individual on the Telegraph shortlist, and in attendance, was 43-year-old Elizabeth Ewart from Wanbrough, near Swindon in Wiltshire. She had been nominated by members of her local community. After being diagnosed with cancer five years ago, this mother-of-two had reassessed her life.
“I had a strong sense that if I didn’t do what I’d always wanted to do now, I might never do it”. She gave up work as an accountant in the oil industry during her treatment, and as part her recovery started to get involved in volunteering. “I wanted to give something back to my local community that had been so supportive during my illness.”
She began by reading with children in her local primary school, then moved on to running sessions for residents in an old people’s home, taking the family’s pet retriever, Darcy, with her. “Some of the people there have sensory impairments, so they just like the experience of stroking him. Others have suffered strokes and have impaired use in their arms. I’ve developed some exercises for them where they throw a ball and Darcy brings it back. Very simple things but they bring such joy to the residents.”
She has also joined the Samaritans, manning the phones regularly, and now spends another evening supporting troubled teenagers through the charity Step. “Every time I got involved with one thing,” she said, “it led on to another”.
And, on the night, it was Elizabeth Ewart whose name came out of the golden envelope. She was called up on stage to receive the Daily Telegraph readers’ Volunteer of the Year award from Boris Johnson. In their citation, the judges wrote: “She is a true all-rounder, a self-starter, a real example of how lending a hand leads to something more and more and more – and an inspiration in terms of putting something back after life took a bad turn for her”.
The same could have been said of many others there in City Hall’s main chamber. It was an uplifting evening full of inspiring stories of volunteering.