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Lanark's home to Young Volunteer of the Year 2019

Cailean Stillie

Cailean Stillie photographed with his Young Volunteer of the Year 2019 Award

A young Lanark man is delighted to have been named Young Volunteer of the Year 2019 at a third sector award ceremony last month.

Cailean Stillie, 23, picked up the Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan) accolade for his work with the Machan Trust’s Youth Group and Larkhall and District Volunteer Group (LDVG).

Sandra McCrory, charity manager LDVG, said: “Cailean has been volunteering with Larkhall and District Volunteer Group since August 2017 and has been a regular volunteer with our lunch clubs and at our coffee mornings.  We love seeing Cailean when he’s in working on his Stillmac and Spark Connections volunteering duties too. Despite the many personal hurdles, he has faced, he is always so happy and cheerful - and his enthusiasm is contagious.”

In August, Cailean and his mum, Tricia Bushby, set up Spark Connections, a social enterprise aimed at preventing isolation in the community for young adults with autism and additional support needs.

Under the umbrella of Spark Connections and Stillmac Productions, Cailean, a keen film maker who himself has autism, gives freely of his time to teach others the technical skills involved in producing movies and animation.

After attending college to study performing arts, television and film production and art and animation, Cailean has developed his skills further through creating his own films and acting as an extra on movie sets.

Tricia said: “Cailean developed epilepsy earlier this year and has had a couple of seizures, but he keeps on volunteering and feels terrible if he misses it – he is so dedicated.

“We couldn’t believe it when the letter came in to say he was a finalist and, on the night, when he won, I just cried, we all cried.”

Speaking about winning the award Cailean said: “I was a wee bit surprised, but 100 per cent happy.”

A VASLan spokesperson said: “Cailean is an extremely enthusiastic volunteer who gives himself and more to the organisations he works with.  He loves to work and help with everyone he can, he is a true asset to his local community and that is why he is the Young Volunteer of the Year."

Spark Connections also reached the finalists in the category of Enterprising Organisation of the Year at the VASLan awards.

The young team of five at Spark Connections meet every Friday at LDVG’s centre in Larkhall and are currently working on a sci-fi production.

They create characters, write scripts, build props, make costumes and film – at the same time developing their social skills.

Tricia said: “The young people attending Spark Connections all have different abilities and that makes the team.

“We want to upskill them so that if something comes up in film, they have more skills and they can actually access employment.”

Recently the production team have been commissioned to make two promotional videos for LDVG and Machan Trust.

Spark Connections also organises various activities ranging from discos, cookery classes and a dating service where like-minded people can make friends or even find love.

For more information about Spark Connections you can email sparksconnections@aol.com or contact Tricia on 07791 171546.

Article contributed by Alison Gilchrist