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Celebrating our winning volunteers

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We’d like to congratulate all the winners of this year’s Durham University Volunteering and Outreach Awards, our annual awards celebrating the positive impact the work of our volunteers has on individuals, the community, and our partners.

The 2023 Awards were held on Tuesday 6 June at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham and this year we were pleased to welcome County Durham’s Lord Lieutenant Mrs Sue Snowdon as well as our community partners.

We had over 300 award nominations this year and many of our staff and students were recognised for the invaluable contribution they made to over 20 different projects.

Lord Lieutenant Mrs Sue Snowdon with Natalie Costello and Kathryn Elwick
Lord Lieutenant Mrs Sue Snowdon with Natalie Costello and Kathryn Elwick

Dialogue spoke to Natalie Costello, Senior Manager: Administration and Finance, and Kathryn Elwick, Personal Assistant, who work in University Library and Collections. Both won the Volunteer Leader of the Year award. This award recognises a volunteer who has successfully led, developed, and progressed a volunteering project or opportunity, to support the community.

University Library and Collections initiatives

Natalie and Kathryn told us that they run several initiatives throughout the year in their own team but also within University Library and Collections (ULC). Within the Administration and Finance team they organise a volunteer programme across the year, mainly visiting the foodbank. As part of this they arrange collections in the department so when they visit, they don't visit empty handed, always trying to take items the foodbank is short of.

For ULC, they organise different initiatives during the year, probably the most well-known being the Christmas Wish Tree, which has been running for five years now. This initiative helps up to three local charities every year. Staff and students are encouraged to leave gift items listed on gift tags on the Christmas tree located in the Bill Bryson Library. Online giving has also been introduced as part of this fantastic initiative and over £4,000 has been raised since its launch during the pandemic.

Natalie and Kathryn also liaise with the volunteering team to provide festive crafts for ULC colleagues at the end of November. A day is earmarked for sparkle, Christmas songs and of course the Christmas chocolates, all while making snowman soup, reindeer lollies and reindeer dust for local charities.

We asked Natalie and Kathryn how they felt about winning this award. They said:

Natalie: I was thrilled to receive the email that we had been nominated and felt honoured to attend the event. It was the first Volunteering Awards I had attended and I was blown away. The awards themselves were uplifting to hear about and the organisation of it - from receiving the first email from Megan earlier this year through to the event itself - was expertly run.  Hearing our names on the evening as winners was amazing. I felt proud and was delighted to pick up the award from the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham.  I'm even more inspired to do more!"

Kathryn: “I was surprised and delighted that someone had taken the time to nominate Natalie and me in the Volunteer Leader of the Year category. We still don’t know who, but we were very grateful. Winning was unexpected, and my award sits proudly on my desk. It was an excellent occasion, celebrating the many worthy nominees and winners. 

“Volunteering is something our team does happily, regardless of reward (well, maybe a cup of tea and a biscuit). Helping others and having fun along the way motivates us to work hard at the foodbank several times a year and play hard making reindeer dust and preparing the gift tags for the Christmas Wish Tree. I recommend all staff and students to sign up, there are so many challenges you’ll be sure to find one that suits you perfectly.”

Well done Natalie and Kathryn!

View the full list of all our winners.


There is a diverse range of volunteering opportunities on offer for our University community. Student volunteers can get involved in over 20 student-led projects, sessions with linked charities and partner organisations, or one-off opportunities. Members of staff are encouraged to take part in the DU Staff Volunteering scheme, which allows them to volunteer for up to five days each year during work time. Staff can join team challenges with colleagues, individual challenges, one-off sessions, or credit their own volunteering activity, which all counts towards the DU volunteering scheme.


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