Why the awards are important to me and the WEA

Awards programme

The first thing I should say is that I am seriously addicted to awards ceremonies. It was an early decision when I joined the WEA to make celebration part of our ethos and cultural. I believe this is particularly important when the winners have all of them succeeded despite the odds stacked against them.

It’s something about the human spirit that gets to me every time. The way ordinary people can do extraordinary things and not be beaten. I love the way our award winners are - the least selfish and grasping of people who attribute their success to everyone else but themselves but who are also justly proud of their achievements and determined to keep going.

Their stories also tell us things we need to know about the society we live in. The difficulties adults have in leading decent lives when they have come from a variety of disadvantaged backgrounds. We get to see the world from their perspective. This adds to our understanding of how to help them and makes us better at our jobs.

Our awards programme is also a much wider recognition of the value and power of adult learning. By encouraging people to tell their stories, we are helping to make the social and economic case for investing in people throughout their lives. They have such potential and we need their skills and enterprise to revive our economy and to fend off the chill winds of global competition. We also get to understand the health and wellbeing impacts and the way individuals can overcome disabilities and communication barriers. Progressive and thriving cultures value and venerate education. And so do we in the WEA.

Our volunteers are winners too because as well as making a positive contribution, they often feel better connected with their own communities and can make new friends. Celebrating them is brilliant because they get no material reward and it’s their energy and drive which keeps us sane and balanced through difficult times. There is no downside. The feel good factor brings strangers together, and forges new alliances.

Now we have a developed and mature national and regional awards programme we must continue it and grow further. We have so many uncelebrated heroes and heroines in our midst. They deserve recognition and we can all celebrate with them. Every one of them is an ambassador for the WEA and it is they who will secure the future of this great organisation.

Ruth Spellman
Chief Executive and General Secretary

Interested in nominating for our 2018 awards?
Contact our membership team for more details.