OVER this summer volunteers at the Olympics and Paralympics were praised for their great work.

Without these people the games wouldn’t have been as special as they were, but we shouldn’t wait until the next time we host a major tournament to recognise the contribution that volunteering makes to our country.

Thousands of people in my constituency, from all walks of life, give up a bit of free time to run or take part in clubs, community centres and charities that make our neighbourhoods real communities.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been lucky enough to have two great experiences with local groups.

First, after a concert by the Caldicot Male Voice Choir last month I was honoured to be asked to be the patron of Cor Meibion Caldicot Cycling Club*, the choir’s own cycling group.

Members of the club were proud to tell me about their plans for a big bike ride next spring to raise money for the Victims of Chernobyl Children’s Trust, a Caldicot-based charity.

And a fortnight ago I went to the inspirational Newport Volunteer Achievement Awards, organised by Gwent Association for Voluntary Organisations (GAVO), where I presented their Environment Award.

I congratulate everyone who got an award that night, but also the many others who volunteer across Gwent. I’m very grateful for that effort and commitment.

Many groups are run entirely by donations and goodwill, though sometimes governments can help.

That’s why the Welsh Government started the Communities First scheme, helping people in areas like Ringland and Alway, and why we gave £300,000 to the Somerton community regeneration group RASCAL for their Hope Centre.

One of the enjoyable parts of being an Assembly Member is meeting volunteers and seeing the good work their community work does.

It’s inspiring to see what local groups can do.

You really realise how much poorer, in every way, our lives would be without it.

(*The Caldicot Cycling Club organises practice and fun rides on alternate Sunday mornings. All you need is a bicycle, a safety helmet and a desire to have fun and keep fit. Further details and contact information can be found at caldicotmalevoicechoir.co.uk. And if you want to find out about volunteering opportunities in Gwent, you can contact GAVO at gavowales.org.uk/volunteering or by calling 01633 241550.