CHILDREN & FAMILIES – Caroline Smith

Main Award – Caroline Smith

Caroline carried of the main award in this category after our Panel read about the difference she makes at Dudley Canal Trust, organising and supporting activities for younger visitors.

Please click here to watch her nomination video and below is her nomination, plus photos from the evening.

Volunteering Activity:

Caroline helps with a variety of our children’s activities including our Toddler boat trips and school group visits

Reason for nomination:

Volunteers have always been at the heart of the organisation. The Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust was originally set up in the early 1970s by a group of volunteers who were determined to protect the local heritage of the Dudley canals and tunnels and ensuring the public continued to have access. Since then the charity and its volunteers have continued to ensure that visitors can enjoy these waterways and discover more about their local heritage and learn about why Dudley geology is so important and famous.

Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust’s new Portal visitor centre opened in 2015 as part of our Portal Project. The vision for the project is for the Portal to connect people with the rich heritage of the Dudley Canal Tunnel and Limestone Mines. To this end over the last 3 years we have developed a variety community activities at the heart of which has been our team of volunteers.

We started running the tunnel tots trips in spring 2016. It is an opportunity for toddlers to engage with their heritage in way that is appropriate for them. To this end we made the boat trip shorter – just 25 minutes – and instead of the usual commentary the volunteers read stories and got the passengers singing children’s songs. Fundamental to getting the Tunnel Tots project started was the recruiting of a team of volunteers who would be able to lead the trips. Without the volunteers it would not be able to run it.

Caroline started volunteering with us in September 2016. She heard about volunteering with us through the Dudley CVS and having spent many years raising her two daughters was looking for a chance to gain experience within a work place whilst at the same time having a positive impact on the community.

Right from the start Caroline made her mark and quickly became an invaluable part of the early year’s activities volunteer team. It took a little while for Caroline to build up her confidence to lead the boat trips on her own but now she is one of the key members of the team often taking trips on her own – telling the stories, singing nursery rhymes with the children and playing games on the boat trip. She also has taken on the behind the scenes preparation ensuring that each week we had a different story and set of songs which were relevant to the time of year as well as learning a new Makaton sign each week to teach the children.

It is not only the tunnel tots that Caroline has helped with however. Once she had settled into the Early Years Role Caroline was keen to give even more of her time to the organisation.

This year alone, Caroline has helped out with over 18 school groups having an impact on over 860 children. Our school group visits play an important role in engaging the young people of the local community with their heritage. And it is only with the support of our volunteers that we can engage with such a large number of children.

Another way in which our local community can get involved with the charity is through our family events program. Once again Caroline has shown great enthusiasm for the events and will give many hours of her time to help ensure they run smoothly. In just this year alone she has helped at 16 events.

In total Caroline has given 604 hours of her time to Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust. Her passion and enthusiasm helps ensure that every child leaves us with a smile on their face; Caroline is a dedicated and reliable volunteer and it is a pleasure to have her as part of the team. As her confidence and experience has grown she has taken new volunteers under her wing; I know that I can always pair a new volunteer with her and she will make them feel part of the team.