There are some 3,000 charities and voluntary organisations across Surrey. But no-one knows quite how many, and the total number may be much higher. They cover an astonishing range of work: from areas of the very greatest social need to purely leisure activities; from the setting up of food banks to providing sport opportunities for young people; from help and care for those suffering from domestic abuse, mental health problems or deprivation of all kinds and needs which the local authority or central government cannot adequately provide, to maintaining facilities for the arts and culture of all kinds, or for the care and nurturing of our environment and landscape.
All these organisations, no matter what their particular area of work, share two important qualities: they represent the wish to meet voluntarily a need important to people in the county, many or few; and they show a degree of care and dedication to the good of others which is not only remarkable but in fact a fundamental hallmark of a truly civilised society. And at a deeper level voluntary organisations are all, across their very different activities, important aspects of our spiritual wealth and of a much valued compassion for the needs of others.
That is why the work done by voluntary organisations deserves to be properly recognised, cherished and celebrated. There is no higher national mark of the value we should attach to their work than The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (The QAVS). This Award was established by Her Majesty in 2002 as a national badge of excellence for the very best voluntary organisations; it is their equivalent of an MBE; and it is awarded not just for a year but for the lifetime of an organisation. The Award demands a high standard: it recognises the contribution of voluntary organisations which make a significant difference to their beneficiaries; which have an outstanding reputation locally; which are well-run; and which make an exceptional contribution compared to national groups engaged in similar work.
This is a high standard. But it is not an impossible one. Over the last 10 years 58 voluntary organisations in Surrey have been awarded The QAVS. That leaves, however, a huge number of organisations across the county which without any doubt merit the level of recognition which the Award represents. The dedication and commitment they demonstrate throughout Surrey deserve to be known and celebrated widely, because we all owe them much more than we might realise. Anyone can nominate a voluntary organisation for this Award. If you know of one near you which you think deserves this exceptional recognition, do think about putting them forward. The Surrey Lieutenancy website – in the section 'The Queen's Awards' – gives you the details of how to go about this. Those who give so much to the life of the county deserve to be properly honoured.