DurhamWorks volunteers help spread festive cheer

Young women from County Durham gave up their time this Christmas to spread a bit of festive cheers to others.

Courtney Ashe and Paula Palmer volunteered to spend some of the festive period preparing Christmas dinners and presents for those who were isolated and alone, or who struggled to afford a festive meal.

Courtney and Paula volunteer through Durham County Council at PACT House in Stanley, a one-stop-shop for local people looking for practical and emotional support.

The duo is among a team of volunteers who cook and serve free meals for members of the local community every Wednesday; through the council’s DurhamWorks programme, which helps 16 to 24-year-olds from the county to find education, employment or training.

They have been involved in DurhamWorks’ Plan 4 Life programme, which offers training in a number of skill areas which support employment.

Courtney, 17, was up until recently homeless. Supported by Plan 4 Life and PACT House, she now has somewhere to live in Stanley and is undergoing an autism assessment, having struggled through school and college prior to her diagnosis. Courtney recently won an award from Karbon Homes in recognition of her efforts at PACT House.

Paula, 22 and also living in Stanley, has suffered from anxiety but learned new cooking skills on a Plan 4 Life teambuilding course and National Open College Network programme.

The duo helped to prepare Christmas dinners to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic, PACT House delivered rather than serving on-site. They are also prepared knitted toys and gifts to be distributed with the meals.

Courtney Ashe, DurhamWorks participant handing out advent calendars to the vulnerable.

Paula Palmer preparing meals in the kitchen

Courtney said: “Volunteering is great, it’s something to do, helps other people and if it wasn’t for the support I’ve had I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with autism so I like to give something back to everyone to show how much it means to me.”

Paula added: “I like to volunteer to help everyone, to also be able to work on improving some skills. It’s all about helping to get the job done as everyone deserves some help and to have a good Christmas.”

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, the council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “It is amazing to see how these young women are overcoming their own challenges in life thanks in part to the support given through DurhamWorks and the Plan 4 Life programme.

“The volunteering they do at PACT House is a credit to them and it is wonderful that they are giving up some of their time at Christmas to ensure that people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy a festive meal can do so.”

For more information on how to get involved or become a DurhamWorks participant, visit our website and register your interest. Alternatively, you can send us an email durhamworks@durham.gov.uk or contact us via our Facebook page

You can also view our current vacancies and courses and find out how you can move your career to the next level. 

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Posted on Jan 06, 2021

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