Forestry Commission Scotland’s volunteer scoops up community impact award

One of Forestry Commission Scotland’s volunteers has won a top accolade at the Ethnic Minority Impact Awards 2017 for his commendable work in the local community.

Omar Tufayl, from Glasgow, scooped up the Volunteer Community Champion accolade at last Friday’s ceremony (17th November), hosted by the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO) Scotland.

The Volunteer Community Champion (VCC) award recognises the volunteer which has gone above and beyond the requirements of this year’s VCC programme.

Having joined the programme with health issues, Omar discovered that interacting with nature has been a healing experience for him and has been an active participant in all the VCC training sessions, gaining the skills needed for planning events and leading groups in the outdoors.

Building on this experience, Omar is now taking steps to start a social enterprise focused on helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds access nature in Scotland, with an emphasis on mental health.

Omar said: “It is an honour to win the Volunteer Community Champion award, especially when there are 13 of us on the programme this year, all of whom have done exceptionally well at organising woodland events and engaging with the local community.

“It’s important that we all continue to use the skills we have learned from the VCC programme and promote the message that being in nature can really make a positive difference to our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

"The woodlands are a great place for us to get more active and encourage a healthier lifestyle, as well as meet new people through activity groups. In my time as a VCC, I’ve uncovered a community of likeminded individuals all intent on exploring the outdoors.”

Delivered by Forestry Commission Scotland in partnership with CEMVO Scotland, the one-year programme trains volunteer champions to engage community groups in Central Scotland and help break down barriers to access with their local green spaces.

Specialist training is provided throughout the programme including, outdoor first aid, environmental awareness, bushcraft skills and John Muir leader training.

Over the last two years, 16 candidates have completed the VCC programme, all of whom are from protected characteristic backgrounds, covering race, religion and belief, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender. This resulted in over 1300 individual visits to woodlands. 

Romena Huq, engagement officer at Forestry Commission Scotland, said: “Omar has worked hard to build upon the skills and confidence he has gained through the VCC program, taking groups of people out from his community and introducing them to the same healing benefits of nature that he has experienced.

“Throughout all this, Omar has shown great improvement in his own health, as well as displaying strong leadership skills and a deep commitment to helping others. Omar’s work is admirable and a great example of how active participation in the VCC programme has not only benefitted the volunteer, but also created a knock-on effect on others in his community and beyond.”

Forestry Commission Scotland also sponsored the Environmental Volunteering award on the night, which was awarded to Huda Alarishi, from Glasgow, for her commendable volunteering work over the past for 14 years.

Romena continued: “Huda has shown dedication and commitment to bringing diverse communities together to discover their local environment and green spaces. She has inspired and empowered vulnerable members of Scotland’s newly settled refugee community to come out and explore by facilitating outdoor sessions around Scotland, and is the founder of the Scottish Arab Women Association which was set up to provide a network of support in encouraging women to explore green spaces.”

To find out more about Forestry Commission Scotland and the Volunteer Community Champion programme, please contact Romena Huq at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 0300 067 6280.

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.