Burns by Your Side, a community scheme initiative led by Burns Pet Nutrition, received the award for Best Volunteer Group (over 25) at the Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) Volunteering Awards on 7 June.
Burns Pet Nutrition is a family company in Wales that makes specialist foods designed for the health and wellbeing of pets. The awards, which took place during National Volunteers Week at Regency Hall, Saundersfoot, celebrated the work of volunteers who donate their time and commitment within their communities in Pembrokeshire.
Burns by Your Side is a specially developed reading-to-dogs scheme. It uses trained volunteers and their companion dogs to help children improve their reading skills and communicate more confidently.
The scheme, versions of which are very popular in countries including the US and Sweden, is endorsed by The Kennel Club’s Bark and Read Foundation. The act of children reading to dogs has been proven to help build confidence and literacy skills due to the comforting and reassuring effect of a dog’s presence.
The Burns by Your Side scheme is currently made up of 25 volunteers. It recently launched a recruitment drive to increase the number of volunteers across the South West of Wales; particularly targeting Swansea and Ceredigion over the next six months.
In addition to the group award, Burns by Your Side volunteer Kim Jameson and reading dog Toby took home the Mary Sigley Award, which celebrates individuals who have transformed their lives through volunteering.
Kim Jameson said: “I am so delighted and honoured to have won the award. However, we are a team and without everyone else – both fellow volunteers and coordinators, I could not do what I do.
“The progress I see in the children make this so worthwhile. I have made so many new fabulous friends and likeminded people over the last twelve months and long may it continue.
“This award is not just about me, it is the whole concept of Burns by Your Side. The awards just make it all so special.”
Carol Lincoln, manager of the Burns by Your Side scheme, added: “We are thrilled to have won Best Volunteer Group (over 25) at the PAVS Volunteering Awards 2017.
“This achievement is testament to our fantastic volunteers who express complete dedication and enthusiasm in what they do for us and the Burns by Your Side scheme. We couldn’t do what we do without them and we are extremely grateful to all our volunteers.
“Introducing our reading-to-dogs scheme to the hundreds of school children we currently support is something that is making a huge impact to their lives; their confidence as well as literacy skills are improving and the children love to meet the dogs and their volunteers. We are extremely excited to see what the future holds for Burns by Your Side.”
For more information visit www.burnsbyyourside.org.