Monday, 16 June 2014

Beat Volunteer Awards

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I had a very exciting trip up to London for the Beat Volunteer Awards at The Houses of Parliament. The charity has been fighting back against eating disorders for 25 years now, and throughout the year they are celebrating this with various special events, which include these awards. I thought you might like to hear about it, as it’s not every day you get to go somewhere so grand!

Rewind back a few months – I was browsing through my e-mails when I saw one from the lovely people at Beat. I’m on their database for volunteering and media, so I assumed it was another e-mail about something like that, but on reading it I found I had been nominated by two people, my youngest sister and a member of Beat staff, for a volunteer award! It was obviously lovely to be nominated, but I assumed that was all I would hear about it, as they said they’d be in contact if I happened to be shortlisted.

I didn’t really think any more about it for a couple of weeks, but then one day as I was browsing my e-mails, another from Beat popped up, this time telling me I had been shortlisted for the ‘Public Award’ in Campaigning and inviting me to a ceremony in the House of Commons in a couple of weeks time. I must admit it felt pretty surreal, as looking through the other nominees I felt like I hadn’t done half as much as they had. Still, it was an exciting opportunity so I started planning how I could make it while still unwell. I just want to say that Beat were fantastic with organising disabled access and making sure everything I needed was sorted out.

Wednesday 4th June came around, and after spending the morning resting, I dolled myself up and travelled to our nearest station with my Mum, Dad and youngest sister.

I decided to use my wheelchair, as I’m struggling with walking at the moment and wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible so nothing could spoil the evening. As I can walk a bit, we didn’t need to worry about booking assistance and thankfully I had plenty of people to help me on and off the train, while my Dad looked after the wheelchair.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on our train journey up to Waterloo. It took us about 40 minutes to get there and thankfully it wasn’t too crowded so I could make myself comfortable as we travelled. After hopping back into my chair at Waterloo, we headed outside the station towards the taxi rank.

We found a lovely taxi driver who helped us get the wheelchair into his cab. If anyone is ever in London using a wheelchair, I can’t praise the black cabs enough. They all have a ramp, so if you can’t get out of your chair it is easy to get into the back, and the driver we had was so accommodating.

We were dropped off just outside the Houses of Parliament, where all the roads were closed off as the Queen had been there in the morning. While policemen were turning everyone else away, we presented out invitation and were ushered through the roadblock towards the entrance. I felt like a celebrity!

As we had the wheelchair, we had to go a different way to everyone else, so were directed towards a ramp past the Houses of Parliament and into the back entrance.

We went through copious amounts of security screening, with my Dad managing to set off the alarms like he always does! A guide then took us through a maze of hallways, where we bumped into John Prescott and a few other recognisable MP’s.

Arriving at the Terrace Pavilion in the House of Commons, we were greeted by a fairly empty room (we were very early as we thought security would take a long time, which apparently it did for everyone else!) A few Beat staff were hanging around though and came to greet us. It was lovely being able to finally put faces to names, and after getting an orange juice from the bar, we had a lovely chat with Louise, who I’d been e-mailing about various things for a few months before.

The location was beautiful. The view over the Thames and the London Eye were just perfect, and the sunshine even made an appearance for us (before pelting it down with rain just as the awards started!)

My Dad was very excited to see a Cormorant on the river, and spent quite a while trying to get a decent photo of it!

As more people began to arrive, the most amazing canapés started to appear, and just seemed to keep coming! I actually found that eating little amounts spread over half an hour or so seemed to suit my tummy problems better. My Dad suggested that perhaps I should just live on canapés!

Once everyone had arrived, Caroline Noakes MP, who we had chatted to before hand, opened the awards. Caroline chairs the All-Party Group on Body Image, which has included getting eating disorders talked about in the Houses of Parliament, and is actually the MP for Southampton and Romsey, so not that far from me. After hearing from Caroline, Nick Hurd MP spoke and presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Diana Davies, a helpline volunteer.

Various other figures went on to present other awards for achievements ranging from innovation to service to community and from fundraising to education. Then came the category I was nominated in, campaigning, which recognised

“A volunteer who is a passionate and powerful champion; demonstrating enthusiasm and passion, they provide a voice in helping to achieve Beat’s mission.”

I was nominated alongside a fellow media volunteer, Sarah Robertson, Beat Cymru Ambassador Helen Missen and Rosie Driffill, the Self Help and Support Groups Facilitator and Publicity Officer. The winner was announced as Sarah Robertson, who I’d actually already predicted would win thanks to the amazing work she has done so far! Obviously winning would have been marvellous, but to just be nominated was an honour and being able to visit the Houses of Parliament was such a privilege. Compared to a lot of others, I’ve done very little work in campaigning so far, but I intend to continue to stand up and be honest about how eating disorders affect lives. I want to quash the stigma attached to mental illness, and the only way for this to happen is if we continue to speak out and be honest about what it’s really like to experience mental illnesses. This is something Sarah does amazingly, and you can find her over at her blog, Daydreams and Reality.

At the end of the awards I was presented with a certificate for being shortlisted, which was a lovely memento to keep. A lot of people stayed on after the awards for more canapés and chatting, but I was feeling pretty wiped out so we decided to head home.

After collecting my Beat goody bag, we hailed another black cab and headed back to Waterloo.

While my Dad and sister headed to get some food and drink for the journey home, my Mum and I popped into WHSmith to pick up a couple of magazines. The train arrived and we bundled on and I curled up with a book, nodding off at every opportunity, until we reached our local station.

I want to thank Beat for inviting me to such an amazing experience and for giving me the opportunities to talk to the media about eating disorders. I hope that I can continue to campaign for awareness and research into these illnesses that destroy lives. If you’d like to see the other fantastic nominees and what they have done, you can find them all here.

Do you have any questions about eating disorders, or mental illness in general? Have you ever campaigned for awareness and understanding into mental health problems?


  1. Congratulations for being shortlisted! It looks like you had a great day xx

    1. Thank you Samantha :) It was a great experience xx

  2. What a great experience and so lovely that you were acknowledged for your work.Glad you had a good night.Not many people can say theyve been to The Houses of Parliament either :) xx

    1. Thank you hun - like you say it was a great experience even though I didn't win :) xx

  3. Congratulations on being shortlisted. Sounds like you had an amazing time at the ceremony. Xx

  4. Congratulations! Looks like it was a great time. The canapés look delicious. :-)

  5. Thank you Sara it was a great evening and the canapes were lovely! xx