Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

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Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Tony Bourke receiving the award outside St Albans Cathedral on Monday 3rd August

On Monday 3 August, in the magnificent setting of St Albans Cathedral, Computer Friendly, was officially presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive.

Inevitably, COVID-19 affected the ceremony, however the restricted number of people allowed to attend, socially distanced, as well as interested on-lookers, enjoyed the moving occasion under sunny skies.

In the first physical event he has attended since the beginning of lockdown, the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss, CBE, made the presentation on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. He said that he was extremely proud of all the winners of this prestigious award in the county, which is known as the MBE for Volunteers. It was especially significant for Computer Friendly given the pandemic, as it supports inclusion by ensuring that elderly and disadvantaged local residents are less isolated.

Rosemary Farmer, past Major of Harpenden, who had originally nominated Computer Friendly, said, ”I was delighted to nominate Computer Friendly for The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.”

Deputy Lieutenant, Stuart Nagler, alongside Deputy Lieutenant Penny Williams praised Computer Friendly saying “I am delighted to be present to see Computer Friendly get a very well-deserved and highly prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. They excelled in meeting the criteria required – good governance, sustainability, big impact in their community and most important truly volunteer-led.”

On 2 June, the day of the announcement, Computer Friendly held a celebratory Zoom meeting with many important guests.

Computer Friendly Celebrates receiving Queen’s Award

Computer Friendly held a special Zoom meeting to celebrate receiving Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  Over 40 people joined the meeting, including a number of special guests and many Computer Friendly volunteers.

After welcoming everyone Tony Bourke said, “And now I am Pressing the button that Upgrades this Special Update meeting to A Moment of History for Computer Friendly! I am delighted and immensely proud to confirm that Computer Friendly has won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, it doesn’t get much better than this!!!”

This award is a fantastic recognition and tribute to all the volunteers both past and present, who have dedicated their time and effort in helping adults in the St Albans District. After mentioning a few key members who had made a special contribution since it was founded in 2002 Tony thanked Rosemary Farmer, past Mayor of Harpenden, for nominating us for this award.

Two Deputy Lieutenants, Penny Williams and Stuart Nagler, rigorously assessed us over several months last Autumn, and it was quite an experience! It was always reassuring though, that as they were challenging us with some rapid fire penetrating questions, they told us, “We are on your side!”

Robert Voss, Lord-Lieutenant, gave us a bit more information about the Lieutenancy and the Queen’s Award.  He congratulated Computer Friendly and pointed out what a fantastic achievement it was and raised a glass of water to us.  Penny Williams, Deputy Lieutenant, added her congratulations and pointed out how fantastic the achievement was, as they had to show in the assessment that Computer Friendly was exceptional nationwide, not just in Hertfordshire.

Tony explained how we had adapted to the Covid situation, replacing face to face activity by giving help over the phone and via email, adding pages to our website with vital information.  We have been delivering free Tablets with SIM cards to some very isolated and vulnerable people. We’ve been getting them up and running so they can be more connected: training somebody who has never used a device before and doing it remotely over the phone requires super human powers and masses of patience.

Next we moved onto Computer Friendly’s version of Question Time and on the panel we had Teresa Heritage, Deputy Leader Herts County Council, Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, and Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, who have all been great supporters of Computer Friendly. Each added their congratulations and gave their views on the priorities/importance of digital inclusion especially now in the Covid 19 situation and what Computer Friendly should focus on to support these priorities.

In wrapping up the meeting Tony again congratulated all Volunteers and thanked our special guests for helping us celebrate on this day of days.

Computer Friendly’s Zoom call

Welcome by Tony Bourke:

Introduction by Tony Bourke:

Robert Voss, Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire:

Penny Williams, Deputy Lieutenant:

What we are doing During lockdown:

Teresa Heritage, Deputy Leader Herts C’ty Council:

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden:

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans:

Wrap-up by Tony Bourke:

BBC 3 Counties Radio Interview