Wow – what a night at this year’s North West Charity Awards! We can’t put into words how humbled we were to attend the awards with such amazing and inspiring third sector organisations from across the region. The room was full of people whose true calling is to help and support others

We were honoured to be shortlisted for four categories alongside so many different charities – big and small – but all with the same aim, to help make a difference to peoples’ lives.

Our Operations Director, John Hutchison, walked away with Charity Director of the Year and our amazing volunteer team were Highly Commended for the work, time and dedication they have given us over the past year. The competition was stiff, and to triumph in these areas really is a testament to how hard these people work in our organisation.

From Independent Advocate to Charity Director of the Year 2018!

John originally joined our charity as a volunteer four years ago. He came to Advocacy Focus with over 20 years of experience in management and private sector, after leaving a senior Sales and Marketing role when a negative experience led him to reevaluate his career and search for a new purpose.

Over the past four years, John has played a pivotal role in developing the organisation and has been a key driving force in the growth of our charity. Not only this, but John fiercely supports his employees, putting mental health at the heart of the employee engagement agenda.

One of John’s employees says:

“I came to Advocacy Focus after I lost my job due to extreme anxiety. I had three anxiety disorders when I started and was terrified of letting anyone know. John’s attitude to mental health and his ongoing support was really refreshing. It was strange to feel like I didn’t have to hide these disorders and that having anxiety had absolutely no effect on the way I was perceived at work. It led to me not only becoming more understanding and accepting of mental health, but my own mental health too, which was key to my recovery. John is a great manager who always has time for his staff.”

Justine Hodgkinson, CEO of Advocacy Focus also says:

 “I could wax lyrical about John’s character and integrity, however I simply want to say that John not only shared and supported my vision for our organisation from day one, he has been instrumental in making it happen and helped to turn things around quite magically.  He is my right arm man and without him our organisation would still be in League Two as opposed to the Premier League.  No-one deserves this award more than John and I just know that he would be delighted to receive it for what can sometimes be a thankless task when you head up logistics and operations!”

Our Highly Commended Volunteer Team

We also walked away with a Highly Commended accolade for Volunteer Team of the Year. Just last year, our Volunteer Manager also received a Highly Commended award for Volunteer Manager of the Year.

We currently have over 30 volunteers in our charity who are integral to the work we carry out and the support we offer to the local community.

Last year, our volunteers completed over 2000 hours of free advocacy work, supporting 100s of people at their most challenging time.  They provide vital support to people who have been left without support due to funding cuts and those who have no friends and/or family.

Many have used their own personal experiences to support others and often come to us with their own challenges.

Five volunteers have gone on to become paid members of staff within our organisation and several others gained employment with other organisations due to their experiences from volunteering for us.

Our Volunteers say:

“Mental health is something I feel really passionate about, especially after suffering myself. I feel like everything that I have gone through in my life has led me to this point.  To empower other people so that they don’t go through what I have and really believe in my heart that I am capable is a dream come true and I’m beginning to know my worth.”
“I find it hard to explain just how much volunteering with Advocacy Focus has done for my confidence and self-esteem. I feel I’ve got a purpose again. I’m a lot happier with myself and even my family have noticed. The support has helped me to achieve things I never dreamed of.”

Our Volunteer Manager says:

"It is hard to explain just how valuable our volunteer team is to us and how amazing the work is that they do with the people we support. They have been strong enough to use their own difficult experiences and challenges to support others to have a more positive experience of life and ensure nobody is left without support. This award would be another way of showing our volunteers just how far they have come and how appreciated they are. As someone who has regularly volunteered in the past I know how much recognition can increase confidence and I would love to give our volunteer team the same boost that they have given to so many people across the North West."

We would like to congratulate all the finalists and winners on the night and commend all the charities for their amazing work in their local communities. Until next year…