Highest voluntary honour from the Queen awarded to Ripon group

Members of the Scuba Diving for All family.
Members of the Scuba Diving for All family.

A treasured Ripon charity that provides a social lifeline for people with disabilities has been awarded a Queen’s award for voluntary service - the highest honour that can be bestowed on a voluntary group in the UK.

Scuba Diving for All was set up in the city 17 years ago to provide tuition in scuba diving for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity, proudly showing that disability is no barrier.

Bedale’s much-loved Riding for the Disabled group has also been presented with the prestigious award - an accolade that represents the culmination of many years of hard work and total dedication by everyone involved.

Both organisations have changed lives and helped hundreds and thousands of people over the years. Yvonne Covell, who founded Scuba Diving for All with her husband Archie, said: “The beneficiaries are often excluded from many activities by virtue of their disabilities or circumstances.

“Exclusion from these activities is harmful and also contributes to other negative effects on the lives of these people - for example, lack of confidence and lack of circumstances in which to socialise with others.

“Our charity imaginatively addresses some of these problems by allowing people who would not otherwise have the chance to participate in an adventurous sport to do so. Scuba diving develops social skills formally and informally through the small group tuition that is required.

“People taking part in the sport are dependent on each other, achieve greater confidence, independence and control over their lives. Physically disabled people are able to achieve a greater level of freedom in water than is normally possible on land.”

In accepting the organisation’s royal honour, Yvonne and Archie thanked all of their amazing volunteers and supporters who have made the phenomenal well-deserved achievement happen.

They said: “SDA is the only scuba diving organisation in the UK to provide such a unique opportunity to those with and without a special needs on a twice weekly basis, and to be honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is a tremendous acknowledgement of the service we provide within the community.

"To all our volunteers who give their time and expertise for free, a massive thanks and appreciation - without you SDA would not be able to give so many the unique opportunity to take part in a sport that enables them to break through the restrictions their disabilities impose on them. To all our students - thank you for having the faith to believe in yourself, the courage to try something different, and the belief in your instructors and in water buddies.

“To all the members of the public that support us and our fundraising events, thank you for helping to raise the funds to enable us to provide such a unique service. Together we are making a difference.”

Bedale RDA’s Chair, Julia Hamby, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the group has been given this award to recognise the hard work and commitment of the volunteers, without whom the group would not exist. I cannot thank them enough for continuing to turn up every week and contribute to these valuable riding therapy sessions and for being such a happy bunch of people as well.” The group provides therapy, fun and social activities through riding horses.