KAE RESPONSE learner Keith Slater has been named Volunteer of the Year 2016 at the Heart of the Community Awards in Dover.

Keith, 51, won the accolade out of a group of eight nominees, for the way he has managed to change his life around in the past 18 months.

Nominated by staff who supported him at Shepway Volunteer Centre in Folkestone, Keith completed two KAE Response courses at the centre: Skills for Volunteers and Introduction to Customer Service which gave him the confidence to continue making positive changes in his life.

It had been a difficult time for Keith when he engaged with various agencies including Shepway Volunteer Centre.

Keith had suffered a breakdown in 2013. He said he was drinking too much and was at his lowest. He was in debt and before long he was at crisis point and became homeless.

Mark Connorton, who delivers KAE Response courses at Shepway Volunteer Centre said:  “When we first started supporting Keith, he couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, didn’t want to speak to anyone and it took a while for him to come out of his shell.

“We offered him the Response courses as a way of starting to rebuild his life and his future and he completed two of them.

“He looked brighter and was more engaged – enough to make the step into volunteering. He hasn’t looked back – now we can’t stop him talking – and he was a good choice for us to put forward someone we had been supporting for the Volunteer of the Year award.”

Keith said: “The courses gave me more confidence. They were interesting and it just clicked with me. Mark made them really fun. After doing the Skills for Volunteers course and the Customer Service course, I went on to become a volunteer at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.”

“I check tickets, keep an eye on the stock and welcome customers. I love it! It just shows you are never too old to learn.

“I have more friends; I gave up drinking so I can see things more clearly and I couldn’t be happier. Life is worth living now.

“I couldn’t believe I won the award – it was like putting the cherry on the cake.”

Winners of the awards were invited to a ceremony at Dover’s Cruise Terminal One, where Shepway Volunteer Centre also won a Heart of the Community runner-up award for their work with lonely, housebound residents.

The awards were presented by Dover Express editor Phil Hayes.

Congratulations to Keith and the KAE Response staff for their hard work and dedication. If you think you or someone you know might benefit from a KAE Response course, find out more by clicking the button below.

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