An Oyne resident who has dedicated years to voluntary work locally and overseas said she was “absolutely gobsmacked” to receive a BEM.
Penny Shepherd has been included on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her voluntary service to the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Aberdeenshire and The Gambia.
The 60-year-old said she was very excited to receive the news and plans to celebrate over dinner with her husband and daughter tomorrow.
Talking about her volunteering experience, she said: “I’ve had a ball.”
Helping children grow
Mrs Shepherd began her work with the Duke of Edinburgh awards 18 years ago through the Rangers and Guides groups in Insch. She then took on the part-time post of Duke of Edinburgh Co-Ordinator at Meldrum Academy.
Following the success of the scheme through the school, she set up an award group in Inverurie to allow more people to get involved.
She said: “We set it up through my church, St Mary’s, who also let us use the hall for free, and got more volunteers involved. It was great to spread the word and give more people the opportunity to take part in the awards.
“It’s great fun for kids, but it also helps them to grow as people and realise what they can achieve.”
Many school students and the wider local community have benefited immensely from the many hundreds of volunteering hours provided by her example.
‘A humbling experience’
Mrs Shepherd is also a trustee for the charity Gamscot and led a six-year project to build a skills centre in Kerewan, Gambia with “lots of brilliant people”.
She said: “The sixth years from Meldrum gaining their gold awards and the Gambian students all mucked in together to build the centre and dedicated those 14 days to help other people.
“It was a really humbling experience for all of the pupils. We all stayed in two classrooms while we were there and slept on mattresses on the floor.
“It showed the kids another part of the world and opened their eyes to how much resources they have for learning at home.”