A team of about 80 local people who spent some 15 months helping in the search for missing Belgian backpacker Théo Hayez has been included in this year’s Volunteer Awards organised in New South Wales in Australia.
The Centre for Volunteering was set up as the Volunteer Bureau in New South Wales in 1974 as a clearing centre for the many volunteer efforts in the area.
The annual awards they give out are arranged in seven categories: Young Volunteer (24 years and under), Adult Volunteer (25 to 64 years), Senior Volunteer (65 years and over), Volunteer Team, Corporate Individual Volunteer, Corporate Volunteer Team and Volunteer Management.
The Volunteer Team award this year went to the Looking for Théo Hayez Search Team.
Théo, aged 18 at the time, was on a gap year working in Australia in 2019, and was last seen leaving a bar near Byron Bay on the night of 31 May, just before he was due to fly back home to Belgium.
Since then a hat belonging to him has been found, and despite the search effort, no other traces have been found. His father has made several trips to Australia.
“The 80 team members of the Looking for Théo Hayez Search Team have led the community response to help find the missing 18-year-old Belgian backpacker, who went missing in Byron Bay on the first of June 2019,” the awards panel said.
“The team has maintained its work over the past 15 months, while also helping Théo’s family cope during this most difficult and traumatic period.”
“The volunteers have managed to work together to create a unique and highly efficient task force that has accomplished something that otherwise would not have been possible for the family. Not only because of the geographic distance between Belgium and Australia, but also because of the incredible dedication, tenacity, strength and energy when the family was emotionally weakened by the gravity of the situation,” said the NSW Volunteer Awards jury.
Théo’s father Laurent posted a message to his Facebook page.
“A huge THANK for this A…mazing Volunteers Community of Byron Bay for their unwavering support from the very first days 👍🤟👍🤟. Those people deserve this award and the Nobel Price of Humanism aswell !!!!!! BLESSINGS”