Henfield Haven CIO honoured with Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services

Henfield Haven CIO, a group of volunteers responsible for the Henfield Haven in Henfield, West Sussex, has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The Henfield Haven CIO volunteers came together when West Sussex County Council considered closing what was then the Henfield Day Care Centre as a cost cutting measure. They worked with the Council to bring about a truly ground-breaking solution, which now provides much needed services for many vulnerable and isolated people in the community.

The tired and unloved building was saved, restored and transformed it to what it is today. The volunteers worked tirelessly during the transformation and continue to do so, enabling the Henfield Haven to grow and react to community need. Their efforts include: Rescuing the grounds and gardens from an overgrown jungle and creating a beautiful and tranquil oasis for visitors; making major changes to the internal layout including a new garden room extension; painting and decorating the building to create a light, bright and happy environment to work in and visit; creating a community drop-in café which helps to combat loneliness, as well as providing a village community resource to help break down the social barriers of dementia. The volunteers work in harmony with the Haven’s service provider, Sussex-based charity Impact Initiatives, giving care to high needs customers and help with other activities.

Chairman of Henfield Haven CIO Digby Stephenson said: “The announcement of our QAVS reflects a fully deserved reward for the army of volunteers who have helped to achieve a truly amazing transformation. From a real threat of closure in 2014 the Haven has become a vital core of the Henfield community, providing a broad range of services to help local people live life to the full, particularly those living with dementia.”

“Currently closed to customers, The Henfield Haven answered a call to arms during the Covid-19 pandemic and is earning its spurs as the operations and distribution base for the Henfield Helpline, which has again brought out the best in the Henfield community spirit and willingness to help in adversity. I know that this ‘can do’ attitude and enthusiasm will be ready to resume and deliver the Haven’s vital work as soon as this becomes possible.”

Lady Emma Barnard, a Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex who visited the Henfield Haven recently, said: “Henfield Haven is an inspiring example of local people coming together with dedication, determination and joy, to create an organisation which truly matters within their community. I couldn’t be more delighted that they have been given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is so well deserved. Long may they continue!”

The Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs. Susan Pyper, commented: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the four outstanding groups in the county that have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. During the assessments we were impressed by their commitment to making a positive difference to the lives of others in imaginative and creative ways. The Award is a tremendous accolade for their activities, and their success demonstrates just how important the work of volunteers is, particularly at this very challenging time, not just in West Sussex, but throughout the country.”

The Henfield Haven CIO is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year and one of four in West Sussex. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Representatives of Henfield Haven CIO will receive the award from The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex later this year. Furthermore, two volunteers are invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

Emma Osman