Mental Health Foundation Volunteer named National Winner in 2016 Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards

Mental Health Foundation volunteer Marie Williams, 32 from Cardiff, has been named National Winner in the adult category of the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2016.

Marie volunteers with the 'Creating Connections' self-management project for single parents run by the Mental Health Foundation, organising and delivering a drop-in and self-management course for single parents living in Nightingale House- a hostel for the homeless.

In Cardiff 31.7% of all households with dependent children are single parent households. Research has also consistently shown that single mothers have approximately three times the prevalence of depressive episodes compared with other groups.

Creating Connections supports lone parents to develop skills, strategies and networks for maintaining their mental health and wellbeing. Self-management is about giving people with mental health problems or at risk of developing them, the skills and tools to maintain or improve their mental wellbeing. It takes place in small supportive peer groups of single parents who share similar experiences.

Marie attended the very first Creating Connections self-management course in September 2014 and has been part of the project ever since.

Of the course, Marie said:

“I came to be on benefits and a single parent at age 28. I was dealing with bereavement, depression and low self-esteem while trying to rebuild our whole lives from scratch. I struggled for two years to get back on my feet and adjust to being a single parent, doing everything myself with not a lot of support.

“By joining the Creating Connections self-management course run by the Mental Health Foundation, I learnt something new during every session: from goal setting, mental wellbeing, and tools for managing emotions and stress, to training opportunities and services for single parents. I learnt there were others who struggled too. The course material, other members attending the course and the course facilitators have been a great support that has helped me so much and still help me now.”

Jackie Fisher, Project Manager at the Mental Health Foundation said:

“Marie manages to fit all her volunteering into a busy life caring for her son alone, and due to her modesty, she often underestimates the role model she provides to others.  I am so pleased to see her dedication and caring publicly rewarded by this Volunteering Award.”

Since September 2014, 155 single parents have completed the self-management courses and over 720 single parents have been reached through other Creating Connections activities.

The award ceremony takes place today at Cardiff Castle and will be hosted by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA). BBC News presenter Sian Lloyd will host the award ceremony. 

Marie Williams pictured right, Image courtesy of the Mental Health Foundation