With the Paralympics around the corner, the Youth Sport Trust is leading a fresh community drive to encourage more disabled young people into volunteering as part of its Inclusive Futures (IF) partnership with Spirit of 2012. Here, Spirit Chief Executive Debbie Lye talks about the project.
This week we are celebrating our partnership with the Youth Sport Trust to encourage even more people to get involved in our Inclusive Futures initiative, empowering disabled and non-disabled people to participate on equal terms. We want to highlight the incredible impact it is having across the country and how it is making a real difference to communities. I am extremely proud of it.
This was a large part of the reason Spirit offered IF an extra year of support; because we invest in changing lives for the better, and IF volunteers are making big changes – in their own lives and in the lives of others. We want the extra funding to help the project to take root and grow far into the future, and that is happening. IF has now trained and given a chance to lead and shine to 1709 young volunteers with many different backgrounds and abilities.
"Spirit offered IF an extra year of support; because we invest in changing lives for the better, and IF volunteers are making big changes – in their own lives and in the lives of others."
Another fabulous fact is that almost 800 of the original IF volunteers are still involved in this mature project – taking further training and carrying out established or new volunteering roles. That’s remarkable for young people at a time in their lives when they are facing the challenges of exams and transition from school to college or jobs. IF volunteers have helped, supported and brought happiness into the lives of almost eleven and a half thousand other people at events, in schools, in care homes and other settings. They are also flourishing as individuals. It is especially rewarding to see the way talented and committed IF volunteers are progressing to become volunteer mentors and peer leaders. An example is Dylan Conti from Glasgow who came into Inclusive Futures very unsure of his direction in life and has emerged as a confident and inspirational role model.
As well as regular regional training opportunities throughout the year, the IF National Camp in Loughborough, held in March this year, celebrated the hard work and talent of the most committed and enthusiastic young people involved in the programme. The camp gave the volunteers a chance to meet top athletes, take part in various workshops and sports sessions to help continue the work of increasing participation, challenging perceptions and creating inclusive provisional for all.
Over 120 young people from nine UK cities had a ball at the camp. Over half of them were new recruits who arrived unsure of what to expect, and of what was expected of them. What excites me is that they will have the same chance as Dylan to shine and to prove to themselves, and others, what they can achieve, not just during the remainder of the programme, but for years to come.
Spirit of 2012 funds Inclusive Futures, a leadership and volunteering initiative which is delivered by the Youth Sport Trust and is based in nine host cities across the UK. Young volunteers in each city are guided by a Volunteer Coordinator and each city organises training camps and activities throughout the year, as well as identifying local volunteering opportunities. The project aims to change behaviour and attitudes among young people on issues related to ability, access and equality in sport.