CEDAR Education founder Dr Judith Wester and four volunteers attended the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on the evening of 27th July 2020.

Marion Dakin, Nicky Kent, Dr Judith Wester, Hannah Davies and Anna Wilde

Dr Wester and Hannah Davies were presented with the crystal award and a certificate signed by Her Majesty the Queen by the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner JP.

Dr Wester has worked in the field of death education for many years and started CEDAR Education to normalise the conversation around death, dying, loss and grief. She said ‘We are thrilled to receive the Queen’s Award in recognition of the work we do with both adults and teenagers. It is a fitting tribute to the hours everyone puts in to CEDAR’.

Dr Judith Wester
Hannah Davies, Anna Turner, the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire and Dr Judith Wester

The Commendation for the Award read:

27 July 2020 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

COMMENDATION:

CEDAR, Community Education in Death Awareness & Resources is, among our County’s volunteer groups, one of the most unusual.  

It all started with a doctoral thesis, judged to be ambitious, genuinely ground-breaking, and taking risks.  CEDAR was formed from this early academic beginning and has taken on a role teaching people, mostly of later school years, how to understand, accept and respond appropriately to death.

The group is viewed, now, as an essential resource in Shropshire schools.  It is widely admired in academia and by our area Police and Crime Commissioner.  Local users include our Clinical Commissioning Group (which refers troubled children for special assistance), Shropshire Youth Association and BBC Radio Shropshire.

So, what is it that identifies the work of CEDAR as special?  It is a small group of volunteers who visit community facilities such as schools and colleges to assist students to understand death in a proactive context – i.e., not normally in response to the arising of personal grief. Rather than in response, the group works to prepare people BEFORE the need arises.  It is this proactivity that distinguishes CEDAR from a number of well-established charities whose goals are to respond AFTER the onset of grief either directly with a subject or for third parties trying to help grieving people.  It has been said that 70% of our population avoid talking about death.  Indeed, many in teaching have considered it too ‘risky’ a topic in schools; although it appears – not least due to the work of CEDAR—that the tide is turning.

Innovative teaching methods include role play and work with birds of prey to demonstrate the “circle of life”.  CEDAR volunteers take students through a 3-day course.  Break- and lunch-periods are spent together with a view to creating a form of ‘family interaction’—an experience that enhances their learning process.  The group volunteers also offer death education sessions for adults in the setting of a “Death Café”,

Feedback from students of all generations is shown to have been exceptional, a good few returning to work as volunteers.  And many testimonials underpin the claim that CEDAR’s education programme is more than interesting.  Somehow, the volunteers make it an enjoyable experience. 

We were delighted by the selection of CEDAR to receive a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. (Mark Cuthbert-Brown, Queen’s Lieutenant)

Marion Dakin and Anna Wilde, volunteers with CEDAR Education
Anna Wilde, Nicky Kent and Dr Judith Wester, the Directors of CEDAR Education