Community heroes

People who give up their time to help others were celebrated at the Merton Partnership Volunteering Awards this spring. Now in their second year, the awards recognise outstanding contributions to the borough in four categories.

Gogocha Lema-Lopes picks up his award from former Mayor of Merton, Councillor David Williams, earlier in the year

Gogocha Lema-Lopes picks up his award from former Mayor of Merton, Councillor David Williams, earlier in the year

Winners included 18-year-old Gogocha Lema-Lopes (pictured) who was named young volunteer of the year for his work at the Smart Centre in Morden. Gogocha attended the Smart Centre for three years after being excluded from school for behavioural issues. “I never really settled at school, I did a lot better in the centre” he said.

After leaving school he studied youth work. “Through that I was working with students who regularly attend the centre, helping them make positive changes in their lives.” It was then that headteacher Sandy Waugh invited him to come back as a volunteer.

“Now I’m a peer mentor and I assist the teachers in class” said Gogocha. “I think I can make a difference because I’m gaining respect, not just because the students know who I am, but as I’m showing they can do something with their lives. I show them respect but they know I want respect back.”

Asked to sum up the difference the work has made to him, he stresses that, “volunteering is key, it’s the most important thing. It has given me experience, to know how to deal with certain situations and about professionalism in the workplace.

“A lot of people my age just think about a job to get paid but it’s not always about the money, sometimes you’ve just got to learn and do what you need to do first, to show that you can do it.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, whether it’s to meet new people, develop your skills or give something back to your community, there are plenty of opportunities in Merton. You could help run your local library, coach youth sports, work in the office for a local charity or visit isolated older people. Volunteer Centre Merton has a range of vacancies and can help find the right match for you.

Find out more

or call 020 8640 7355

National Volunteers’ Week 2013

Giving your time in Merton

For Volunteers’ Week at the beginning of June, three fantastic new initiatives were launched by Merton Voluntary Service Council (MVSC). These initiatives are in partnership with Alzheimer’s Connecting Communities, Merton Community Transport’s Volunteer Car Scheme and Merton and Lambeth Citizen’s Advice Bureaux Information Hub and Contact Centre.

For each working day throughout June, Merton celebrated volunteering with the ‘Shout About Your Volunteering’ campaign which showcases 20 volunteers’ stories. Also, 20 volunteering opportunities are being promoted to give more people a chance to contribute to their community

Find out more about these opportunities at

or contact Hayley James on or 020 8685 2272.