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Preston student is volunteer of the year for supporting city homeless charity

Posted on - 1st May, 2024 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Preston News, Proud Preston, UCLan
Sophie Swain collecting her award Pic: Emmaus Preston

A UCLan student has won Student Volunteer of the Year for her support of a Preston homelessness charity.

Sophie Swain collected the trophy at the University of Central Lancashire’s Volunteering and Community Leadership Awards 2024 on Wednesday 24 April at a ceremony attended by her parents and Deputy Chief Executive of Emmaus Preston, Karen Wallis.

The 20-year-old has dedicated much of her time at homelessness charity Emmaus as a social media volunteer.

Read more: Preston’s university wins two trophies at the Educate North Awards

She first started in January 2023 and has since helped the charity gain increasing attention in the fashion and furniture on sale in the charity’s three shops in the city – growing the charity’s TikTok following by 563% in the last 12 weeks alone.

Sophie said: “It was such a great night. It was amazing for my parents to be able to meet [Deputy Chief Executive of Emmaus Preston] Karen. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone at Emmaus Preston. What makes the charity so special is that you’re working with the people you are helping and seeing on a day-to-day basis the impact you’re having.

“In the future, I would like to continue working with people who don’t have a voice and help challenge misconceptions about homeless people, particularly given all that’s been said in the media about these people in the Criminal Justice Bill.”

Emmaus Preston provides a home, support and work opportunities for people with experience of homelessness.

People supported by the charity often share their stories on social media in addition to volunteers, with Sophie also sharing her volunteer journey on the Emmaus website.

As part of her voluntary experience, Sophie successfully submitted the homelessness charity for its own nomination in last year’s UCLan awards, when Emmaus Preston came runner up in Community Team of the Year behind Baby Beat.

Read more: “Unacceptable” and “must do better” as Preston records highest rough sleeper count since records began

Deputy Chief Executive of Emmaus Preston, Karen Wallis, said: “We’re incredibly proud to count Sophie as one of our volunteers and we are very grateful for her regular commitment and support. We love watching her TikToks and Instagram reels!

“Over the last 12 months, Sophie has developed great working relationships with people supported here, our companions, and has worked very closely with members of our team on journalism and freelance projects.

“We’re delighted Sophie has won this award and we look forward to celebrating many more milestones together. Congratulations Sophie!”

Sophie with her trophy and certificate alongside Deputy Chief Executive of Emmaus Preston Karen Wallis at the UCLan ceremony.

As well as volunteering at Emmaus, Sophie also works as a community journalism intern at Blog Preston where she covers what’s happening in the city as well as a series of features about homelessness.

Ed Walker, founder and co-editor of Blog Preston, said: “It’s no surprise to us to see Sophie recognised for her commitment and talent.

“She’s quickly become an important part of our team and has all the attributes of a great local news reporter.

“Able to empathise, quickly spot a story and dig into what’s happening.”

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