Blue Mountains volunteer winners

Cheryl Adams from YAWN with a young mum and bub.
Cheryl Adams from YAWN with a young mum and bub.

A young man who helps with young people with chronic illness and an organisation which helps young mothers were named Blue Mountains volunteers of the year at a virtual ceremony late last month.

Oscar Van Niekerk was named young volunteer of the year for his work with the Chronic Illness Peer Support Program

Oscar Van Niekerk: Blue Mountains young volunteer of the year.

Oscar Van Niekerk: Blue Mountains young volunteer of the year.

For the past five years, Oscar has been a peer leader at the program, which provides support for young people experiencing a chronic illness or condition.

The 21-year-old Glenbrook resident co-ordinates camp activities and other events, monthly sessions and induction meetings. He established a special virtual program to maintain support services during COVID-19.

He also volunteers with the Sydney Children's Hospital Network Youth Advisory Council.

The Mountains' volunteer team of the year was YAWN from Connect Child and Family Services

The 16 YAWN program volunteers provide in-home support for young mothers and their families in the Mountains and Penrith regions. The team has helped new parents overcome the additional barriers brought about by recent bushfires and COVID-19.

Gemma Rygate, CEO of the Centre for Volunteering, which presents the annual awards, said: "Volunteers from across every region of NSW have continued to give their time, energy and compassion in the face of enormous adversity over the past 12 months.

"I couldn't be more proud of the region's volunteers and their incredible resilience and spirit. We are just so glad that technology allowed us to still come together to say thank you."

Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, who joined the Blue Mountains virtual event, said: "Oscar is a very deserving recipient, with the Chronic Illness Peer Support Program doing important work in children's hospitals to support young people between 12 and 25 years living with a chronic condition.

"The peer-to-peer support that Oscar provides to people around his own age would make such a difference, particularly during the pandemic where many people of all ages are felling socially isolated.

"I admire his innovation in establishing a virtual program to maintain support during COVID to help deal with some of those problems.

"It was also great to see the YAWN volunteers from Connect Child and Family Services commended for their work with local parents. These volunteers go into homes to offer tired parents help and companionship, which can be a real need when you are dealing with a new baby or infant."

The awards are supported by principal partners, the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW, which represents the state's 1,400 not-for-profit clubs.

The regional winners will vie for the honour of being named NSW volunteers of the year at a virtual ceremony later this year.