Skylarks is an independent charity that was founded in 2006 and provides support and activities twice a week for children with additional needs and their families.
The award is seen as an MBE for volunteer groups and was created to recognise the excellence in voluntary activities in the community.
Jo Saucek from Skylarks said: “Everything is down to the volunteers. Every year when we get our feedback, the main reaction we get is how welcome the volunteers make people feel loved, and that it’s unconditional. It’s an award for the volunteers who make it an incredibly special and vital place to come.”
The charity was started by Anne-Marie Asgari after realising there was a need for a space in the community for parents with children with disabilities to reduce their isolation after feeling excluded from the local services that were on offer.
After 6 years of being voluntarily run, they successfully applied for funding from Children In Need and now have two members of paid staff which help with the ever growing demand.
“The important thing for us is that we were built by volunteers who gave their time, who understood themselves what it’s like to live with a disability and additional needs and we continue that model.” Mrs Saucek said.
“We have a very skeleton paid staff, just two of us, but when parents and carers come in for their first or hundredth time there will always be an incredible group of volunteers who will welcome them unconditionally.
“They support them, give them advice, and when people come to us they feel like part of a family which is something they may not have been feeling.
“To run for 6 years purely on a voluntary basis shows the commitment, the integrity of those volunteers, it shows there’s a whole community that needs support, and to be recognised now 12 years on, for the impact we continue to make on families, who are at the lowest point in their life sometimes, who really rely on us week to week, we couldn’t do it without volunteers.”
Zak Burn, 18, is now a volunteer at Skylarks after initially attending classes at the charity.
Mr Burn said: “I feel the award is well deserved because it makes a great deal of difference in the community.
“I started off as one of the kids who came for help, but slowly became a volunteer without realising it.
“I’ve seen how much help it’s given first hand on the receiving end, and now I’m so grateful to be able to give back to the charity that gave me so much support.”
With no local funding the charity relies on fundraising, grants and donations to survive.
According to Mrs Saucek in the future they want to own their own venue so the charity could operate daily, but at the moment they want to solidify and consolidate what they are currently doing.
Although consolidating the work they have already done is necessary, Mrs Saucek wants to expand the charity’s services.
She said: “I want to offer our services to our older children, work placements, CV training, interview training, for children to grow up with us and now wanting to be independent as absolutely is their rights, that is our next priority.”
Skylarks operates every Tuesday and Friday during term times at the Cross Way Centre in Twickenham.