A tireless Banbury community worker has been awarded an honorary Masters Degree by the Open University (OU).
Andrew Willis is founding chairman of the Banburyshire Advice Centre (BAC) which helps individuals with benefit advice, general advice, education course advice and career counselling.
In a citation Tyrrell Golding, OU Senior Lecturer in Education, said: “Andy Willis is a volunteer, campaigner and activist whose tireless fundraising for local charities has greatly enriched his local community and made a difference to thousands of lives.
“His work was recognised at a national level when at the Palace of Westminster he received the prestigious honour of a British Citizen Award.”
Mr Willis trained as a teacher but turned to volunteering, starting at Banbury Benefit Advice Centre, supporting disabled, ill and vulnerable.
He then moved to Age UK, Oxfordshire where he spent nearly a decade supporting older people with many challenges from finance and welfare to heating.
Because of significant social challenges, including unemployment, deprivation and inequality in Banbury, Mr Willis launched BAC.
He and his team of volunteers offer a personalised, caring and sensitive service, tailored to individual needs – from help with filling in forms to long term assistance in changing careers.
“Andy is a longstanding supporter of other causes on welfare, mental health and disability, campaigning for a range of good causes including MIND, Leonard Cheshire, the Alzheimer’s Society, Independent Age, MS Society and Age UK,” said Mr Golding.
“He was the founding member, and branch co-ordinator, of the local group of Contact the Elderly helping to combat loneliness and exclusion among the elderly.
“After discovering there was no local branch of the Worker’s Educational Association, he set one up and chaired it for five years, helping to promote education.”
He has won awards for his innovative use of websites and became a Local Halifax Giving Extra Award winner for promoting positive and sustainable change. Andy has writtenFunding Made Easy, a guide to accessing sustainable support, that he has made available free of charge.