Sophie Hughes was so shy when she began volunteering at her local Barnardo’s Cymru shop that she barely had the courage to speak to a customer.

But in the last three years the 19-year-old’s confidence has blossomed and her contribution to the Ammanford store has won her the title of Barnardo’s Young Volunteer of the Year for Wales.

She was nominated for the award, presented by the Marsh Trust, by shop manager Sue Langford who has been delighted to see Sophie become such an important part of the team at Ammanford, one of the charity’s most successful shops.

Sue said: “When Sophie arrived she was so quiet and would not engage with anybody. But with patience, encouragement and a lot of effort from herself she has been able to overcome so many hurdles, it’s been such a pleasure to watch Sophie grow into the fabulous young lady she is today.

“Sophie is now a vital part of the volunteering team with the confidence to train new starters, chat to customers when operating the till and take a lead role in stocktaking. She has found a passion for figures and administration and has learnt a lot of life skills. It’s truly amazing and I’m very proud of her.”

Sophie was even brave enough to be interviewed by an ITV crew when they filmed the shop for a news item on how it has raised more than £1m for vulnerably children and families since it opened.

“I came here on a placement lacking in confidence and not knowing what I wanted to do,” said Sophie. “I remember the first time I used the till it was awful, I just scanned the item and couldn’t even bring myself to speak to the customer but now I am so much more confident. We have some lovely customers and I really enjoy meeting them.

“The staff and volunteers are amazing too, we are like a close-knit family.”

The friends she has made at the shop are treating her to a spa treatment in celebration of her success.

Volunteering is a great way to increase your skills, boost your CV and make new friends. If you would like to volunteer you can call into your local Barnardo’s Cymru shop or find out more at