Fateha Ahmed – Volunteer of the Year finalist.

“I feel so much more energised”
“Exercise makes me feel uplifted”
“I feel part of a group and have made lots of new friends”

Just some of the feedback from Muslim women in Cardiff who are now swimming – thanks to Fateha Ahmed.

As a volunteer Advocacy Worker within the BME community, Fateha recognised that there was a lack of swimming activities available for local Muslim women.

Her desire to change this saw a local Swimming Project, set up by BME Sport Cymru, begin over 12 months ago.

Since then, over 250 women and girls have attended the Friday evening swim.

Mum of three, Fateha Ahmed, was empowered to create these sessions so that Muslim women could exercise in privacy.

The scheme has been a huge success, with the women seeing improved mental and physical health. Some of these women were previously inactive and thanks to Fateha, swimming has got them out and active.

Project Co-ordinator Simon Lu is full of praise for Fateha’s work and explains: “She recognised a need for physical activity within a very hard to reach demographic. She sourced a venue and funding, recruited participants and empowered them to become volunteers and she made her project fully self-sustainable. Her dedication and hard work is appreciated.”

Coming from the Bengali community, Fateha combines her volunteering with lots of family commitments and a full-time job.

Fateha now mentors the project volunteers and helps them along their coaching pathways, offering them support and a friendly face.

Hannah Nolan – Inspiring Young Person finalist

Sport can have the power to change people’s life.

For Hannah Nolan, volunteering for the Healthy Image Project with Conwy Youth Service gave her a lifeline during a desperate time.

“I was not in the right state of mind and I needed anything to get out the house” remembers Hannah, 16. “I was at an all-time low, dragging myself everywhere, not eating or sleeping much.”

In 2015, she helped out at an Us Girls session in Kinmel Bay, at a time when her personal life was in turmoil.

She explains: “I’ve suffered from severe depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since the age of 11. The thoughts in my head were getting so bad, but volunteering changed my life majorly.”

Hannah says she went from being a shy girl who didn’t like to go out to someone who now confidently runs sport sessions and helps at large-scale events.

“My self-confidence has sky rocketed” she admits. “I was the sort of person who didn’t like social interaction. I suffered with social anxiety and couldn’t talk to people – now I can run a group of 30 teens!”

As well as the Healthy Image Project, Hannah currently volunteers at a local Youth Club in her community – an area of deprivation, as well as helping at Fit Conwy, US Girls and extracurricular school sport clubs such as Trampolining.

In June this year, as part of Volunteering Week, the teenager was Highly Commended by WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) and CVSC (Conwy Voluntary Services Council) for her volunteering in the community and received her Millennium Volunteer Award.

She’s now volunteered over 150 hours in her local community, but says that the benefits work both ways: “Seeing everyone happy with the work I do, makes me happy too” she says. “I don’t need to fake a smile every day anymore, because seeing the smiles on their faces fills me with joy” she adds.

Hannah does all this while juggling her school work and exams.

Volunteering offers her a way to manage her mental illness and a distraction for Hannah, who also helps care for her Nan, who is recovering from Lung Cancer. She says volunteering has helped her drastically:

“It is what I do on a daily basis. Volunteering is my life.”

Mark James – Community Coach of the Year finalist.

Described as the ‘heartbeat’ of Somerton ABC boxing club, Mark James goes the extra mile when it comes to coaching in his community.

“It’s important that kids have something to do in the neighbourhood” he explains.

The past 12 months in particular, has seen the club’s membership increase dramatically.

This is thanks to Mark giving up 15 hours a week to provide opportunity for tots, young people and the elderly to access boxing – for fitness or competing.

He holds four weekly sessions, including Sunday afternoon, and even more time during fights or attending sporting festivals.

He does all this alongside a full-time job as a Mechanical Sprayer and supporting his large family.

“I do it to see them growing as boxers, enjoying it and even winning comps” he explains.

Based in the Communities First area of Somerton, on a tough estate, the multi-use facility is transformed in to a boxing venue for each training session. Mark arrives early to hang up boxing bags and erects the portable boxing ring ready for the high numbers in attendance.

Leigh Williams, Sport Development Officer at Newport Live explains why Mark is such an asset to the club: “He provides opportunities for the hardest to reach individuals through boxing and acts as a father figure for them.” He calls him a ‘true community legend,’ adding: “Mark has influenced many individuals from potentially going down the wrong path by using boxing as the tool to educate and focus them and provide an outlet for many individuals.”

For Mark, it is more than just sport, it’s a passion.

And his advice for anyone thinking of coaching?

“Definitely go and do it – you get a lot out of it!”

Eban Geal – Inspiring Young Person finalist 2017.

Eban Geal is no stranger to hard work.

He is the only person from Anglesey and North West Wales to complete all aspects of the Young Ambassador pathway from Bronze through to Gold.

He also spent over 300 hours volunteering in the past year and was recognised by the Millennium Volunteers programme.

The Anglesey youngster has done all of this while studying for his exams.

“I had a busy Summer holiday trying to fit more volunteering in, because I knew I would be busy with revision” he tells us.

Eban started his Young Ambassador journey in Year 6, inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games.

Moving up the ladder, he has ambitions to go further still.

“I want to keep clocking up the volunteering hours” he explains. “I like to give other people opportunities to take part in sport.”

Driven by a passion for sport – and his local community –  Eban is an active volunteer in and out of the school setting and he helped establish junior football teams in the village of Brynsiencyn. He also enjoys fundraising or helping out at charity events, from volunteering at Cancer Research Relay for Life to walking up Snowdon for the Air Ambulance.

When he’s not busy coaching or helping at events, Eban is helping shape the future of leisure on the Isle of Anglesey. He is part of the Anglesey Council Leisure and Sport Forum and is full of ideas for the future of his beloved island and sport.

Volunteering has helped Eban develop as a person.

“It has really improved my confidence” he says. “I’ve got improved communication skills, especially speaking out in front of people.”

His parents are very proud of his achievements.

The future looks bright for the teenager, who is excited to travel to Gibraltar in 2019 to help with the Ynys Mon Athletics team competing in the International Island Games.

“Volunteering has opened up doors for me and brings me enjoyment,” adds Eban.

Rebecca Jones-Morris – Volunteer of the Year finalist

Athlete, Coach, Team Manager, Secretary and now Chairperson … Rebecca Morris Jones is a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to her volunteering at Menai Track and Field.

“It’s a friendly place to be, so I see it as a social life and hobby, as much as a volunteering role” explains Rebecca.

She’s been involved with the athletics club for the past 10 years when both she and her son joined.

Later, when her daughter wanted to come along as well, there was a waiting list due to a shortage of coaches. Rebecca stepped up to help.

“I’ve been coaching the youngsters twice a week since then” says Rebecca, who actively encourages more people to help out at their local sports club. “There’s a close friendship of everyone involved and a feeling that people value what I do” she adds.

Rebecca dedicates approximately 500 hours per year to the club, and has even turned down more hours at her paid employment.

She has established close links with Bangor University and increased the number of junior members at the Gwynedd club.

“They’ve competed well and we won the Welsh Plate this year and have been promoted within the Junior Youth Development League (YDL)” she explains.

In fact, with Rebecca spurring them on, there have been over 100 medals won by the juniors regionally and nationally in 2017 alone – and lots of champs crowned. GB athletes such as siblings Cari and Iolo Hughes and Osian Dwyfor Jones started their athletic journeys at Rebecca’s group.

“My motivation is giving an opportunity to people of all ages and abilities to be outdoors and to develop” says Rebecca. “It is great to see kids being active rather than at home in front of the TV.”

She says she is often able to do what she does thanks to her partner “who is busy making the tea at home and running the kids around!” and says she is part of a dedicated team at the club who all work together to make it happen.

And with the dark nights and Wintery weather upon us, Rebecca is not deterred.

“I enjoy coming down here – even in the wind and rain.”

Sara Cuffin – Community Coach of the Year finalist

With over 480 recreational gymnasts training at Ynys Mon Gymnastics Club, and a waiting list of 60 children, volunteer coach Sara Jane Cuffin certainly has her work cut out.

“It is full on” laughs Sara. “But when you make a commitment to these young people, you need to be there for them” she adds.

As part of the dedicated coaching team at the Holyhead facility – the only gym club on Anglesey – Sara is a key part of its success.

She has been involved with the club for the past 12 years.

As well as working over 40 hours a week at a doctor’s surgery, she trains a variety of gymnastic sessions 6 nights a week.

“It can be hard to get a balance, but I love it ” she admits. “My life is at the gym or travelling to competitions and courses, but it’s a passion, a hobby and a social life for me.”

Since moving into a dedicated facility two years ago, Sara has taken a lead on increasing recreational classes at the club.

“I try and bring a fun and friendly approach to coaching” she explains. “Helping the children develop makes me very proud. From the beginners learning to do a cartwheel for the first time and how excited they are, to the competitive gymnasts mastering a somersault.”

Sara has been the driving force behind inclusivity at the club, holding disability sessions once a week and linking with a local Special Educational Needs school. This helped them win Welsh Disability Sport Wales Club of the Year in 2015.

Catherine Rowley, Head Coach at Ynys Mon Gymnastics Club explained that Sara goes above and beyond for the club. She says: “Nothing is ever too much for her. She is always the first coach in to set up classes and first in on a Saturday morning to pop the heating on.”

Her nomination comes after a tough few years in her personal life, with the illness and death of a loved one.

“Sara is a true trooper and battles her way through everything life throws at her with a smile on her face and a skip in her step” adds Catherine.

Rebecca Caddell – Volunteer of the Year finalist

Back in 2012, Rebecca Caddell was asked to help out at Brynamman Rugby Club and set about re-establishing the Junior section.

Not content with just the one team – she started up four!

“It all snowballed and I ended up doing a bit more and more – and here I am” she laughs.

Five years on, and the junior section of the club is thriving – thanks, in main, to Rebecca’s commitment.

Despite having the neurological condition Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and a part-time job, she gives up a huge amount of her spare time for the club.

“I do all the background stuff really, hotdogs in the café on a Sunday to contacting other clubs” she explains. “It’s a lot of work, but everyone rallies together and does a great job” adds Rebecca.

Her roles include Fixtures Secretary, Catering at home games and Fundraiser – all challenging, but crucial parts to the success of any sports club.

She says that seeing the children’s faces on a Sunday makes it all worthwhile.

“We are like one big family – it’s unbelievable how people come together on and off the pitch” she adds.

Rebecca is very aware of the community she volunteers in.

She was nominated for the way in which listens to, cares and gets to know the families – recognising their physical capabilities, financial restrictions and social status.

She always wants to help, and even established a ‘kit bank’ to discreetly re-use training clothing outgrown by the older kids, so that the younger ones with challenging financial situations can make use of them.

Rebecca’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed in the close-knit community.

“We’re a little village at the edge of the black mountains and there’s not a lot around” she says. Adding: “I do it for the kids.”

Inspiring Young Person of the Year Finalist – Jodie Coupland

Jodie Coupland is proof that a hard start in life does not have to define you.

Brought up in the care system and excluded from many secondary schools, she ended up in a behavioural school at 16.

Her headteacher had grave concerns about the path she was heading down. The Dame Kelly Holmes’ ‘Get on Track’ programme was a ‘last chance’ for Jodie but it turned out to be just the beginning …

“I was the cheeky one to start – always trying to push the boundaries, because that’s all I knew” remembers Jodie, now 19. “Today, I want to see how far I can push myself!”

Jodie, who graduated from the programme, now volunteers as a Multi-Sport Mentor for them.

She explains: “I give up my time to help people like me who don’t always get a chance.”

She helps encourage new participants and is somebody they can relate to.

Jodie was invited to a conference in London, where she shared a stage with Dame Kelly herself. As a guest speaker, she did her hometown of Bridgend proud, telling over 300 people her story.

Jodie tells us: “I don’t know what I’d be doing or where I’d be without these supportive people in my life.”

She says their belief in her, helped her turn her life around.

“It was the first time in my life where somebody didn’t kick me out or tell me I’d never achieve anything” she says. “Instead they would say ‘Jo – you can be what you want to be, and we’ll be here to help.”

Jodie now works part-time at a local leisure provider, but still managed over 350 hours of volunteering last year.

She reflects on her journey: “At first, I thought it was just one of those courses that you get chucked on because you’re one of the naughty ones, but they got me in to sport and actually gave me responsibility to lead sessions.”

Now, all her efforts are in giving back.

“What I’ve been given, I want to give back twice as much back,” she says. “When I see the new recruits with a sparkle in their eye, it reminds me how much I wanted to change.”

She now jumps out of bed and is ready hours before she needs to leave the house.

“I’ve faced a lot of personal challenges, but they have made me a stronger person,” she explains.

Volunteering in sport has given her life meaning, or as she puts it herself:

“I can be somebody. I want the best for everyone – and myself.”

Wales Sport Awards 2017 Inspirational Finalists Revealed.

Sport Wales and BBC Wales have today (30 October) announced the final fifteen nominees who will compete for the community awards at this year’s prestigious Wales Sport Awards.

The finalists were short-listed from a record number of nominations across five different categories.

The five awards celebrate the hard work and impact that Wales’ volunteers, coaches, and organisations have had on community sport in Wales.  The finalists’ inspiring stories will be recognised and shared with the nation at the awards evening on Monday 4 December, to be held at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.

The finalists for 2017 are:

Volunteer of the Year

Fateha Ahmed – Swimming, Cardiff
Rebecca Caddell – Rugby, Brynaman
Rebecca Jones-Morris – Athletics, y Felinheli

Community Coach of the Year

Chris Rogers – Equestrian, Rhondda Cynon Taf
Mark James – Boxing, Newport
Sara Jane Cuffin – Gymnastics, Holyhead

Inspiring Young Person of the Year

Hannah Nolan – Multi-sport, Llandudno
Eban Geal – Multi-sport, Angelsey
Jodie Coupland – Multi-sport, Bridgend

Organisation of the Year

Disability Sport Wales
Ospreys in the Community
The Outdoor Partnership

Sporting Experience of the Year

Us Girls Wales
Young Ambassadors Programme
Disability Sport Wales – Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board: The Health Disability Sport Partnership.

Lawrence Conway, Chair of Sport Wales commented:

“Every year our expert panel of judges face the difficult task of selecting their finalists, and the calibre of this year’s candidates made it just as challenging.

“We have an inspiring mix of projects and people from a range of backgrounds dedicated to delivering sport and recreational activity in the community.

“The finalists showcase the diversity of sport and what the people of Wales are getting excited and motivated to participate in.  We look forward to celebrating their work in December.”

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director of BBC Wales said:

“With a record number of nominations, the quality of this year’s finalists showcase the sheer commitment and hard work that underpins sporting activity across communities in Wales.”

 

#WSA2017

 

ENDS

 

More information on the finalists. Further details available on request.

Volunteer of the Year

Fateha Ahmed – Swimming/Cardiff

Fateha launched a project where Muslim women in Cardiff could swim and exercise in private.  The swimming sessions have had a huge impact on these women who were not previously physically active.  It has allowed them to become healthier and introduced a social life, as well as address common mental health concerns including stress, anxiety and depression.

Rebecca Caddell – Rugby/Brynaman

Fixture secretary, caterer, fundraiser and founder of Brynaman RFC’s junior section, Rebecca has been the driving force behind the section’s activities and growth since its inception in 2012.  Rebecca manages her MS whilst also managing relationships across the whole club – listening to and caring for every single member.  Rebecca’s innovative ideas have also been recognised, including her ‘kit bag’ where children’s outgrown training kit is washed and offered to the younger members.

Rebecca Jones-Morris – Athletics/Y Felinheli

Dedicating an average of 500 voluntary hours a year, Rebecca’s dedication to developing Menai Track and Field into a thriving and sustainable athletics club is evident through her success in raising significant funds and securing grants.  Furthermore, she has used her wealth of experience to inspire a new generation of athletes, coaches, volunteers, team managers and officials.

Community Coach of the Year

Chris Rogers – Equestrian/Rhondda Cynon Taf

Chris is changing lives in the RCT area at her club and her weekly equestrian vaulting classes. Children with and without a disability are not only being taught how to vault, but about safety, looking after equipment and how to work with the horses on site.  Both the Talygarn Vaulters and the school pupils that attend have noticed considerable differences in the students’ physical fitness, balance, co-ordination and confidence since Chris’ involvement.

Mark James – Boxing/Newport

Over the past 12 months Mark has cemented his community boxing club (Somerton ABC) into the heart of the local community.  Mark goes the extra mile – establishing all-important partnerships and sponsors, developing a sustainable workforce, engaging with the area’s diverse community with considerable efforts with young people.  Mark is known to take care of the little details, and arrives 45 minutes early to each session to hang all 12 boxing bags and erect the portable boxing ring.

Sara Jane Cuffin – Gymnastics/Holyhead

Sara’s tireless work at Ynys Môn Gymnastics Club means that children and young people from the area can enjoy classes six days a week, all lead by Sara herself.  Sara goes above and beyond to cater for the community’s needs, and has proudly developed brand-new classes for children with disabilities to experience the fun and safe environment of her classes.

 

Inspiring Young Person of the Year

Hannah Nolan – Multi-sport/Llandudno

Hannah’s life has been turned around through sport and she volunteers at countless Conwy Youth Service physical activity sessions and events.  Described as a role model and an inspiration, Hannah is considered a critical member of the community’s projects and a fantastic asset to engage with young people of her age.

Eban Geal – Multi-Sport/Angelsey

As the first Young Ambassador from Anglesey and North West Wales to come through the pathway from a Bronze Young Ambassador in primary school to a Bronze Plus, Silver and now a Gold Young Ambassador at secondary school, Eban takes great pride in his work running numerous multi-sport and physical activity sessions in the area.  Having completed over 300 hours of volunteering work, he uses his experiences and learned skills to inspire and mentor his peers.

Jodie Coupland – Multi-sport/Bridgend

Jodie faced a tough and unsettled start to life but a ‘last chance’ opportunity to take part in Dame Kelly Holmes’ Get on Track programme helped her get her life back on track.  She has since volunteered her time to promote and deliver the same programmes in communities across south Wales and has become a role model and an inspiration to those who meet and work with her.

 

Organisation of the Year

Disability Sport Wales

Disability Sport Wales supports a community programme which is significant in its scale and impact. With nearly 23,000 club members and over a million participation opportunities per year, it is widely regarded as being one of the world leading programmes for the delivery of disability sport.

As well as raising in-excess of £1m additional income through commercialisation and sponsorship since 2012, the organisation has also put Wales on the map with great success elite events including the 2017 World Para-Athletic Championships.

Ospreys in the Community

This young charity in Swansea has created a wide range of innovative programmes that aim to provide, motivate, inspire and empower the community to play an active part in sport.  Whilst running sessions for people with a disability, for both girls and boys, working with schools and supporting Welsh medium sessions for tots, the charity has engaged with an impressive 10,000 people between June and August this year alone to ensure the sport is accessible to all.

The Outdoor Partnership

This year participation initiatives have inspired over 14,000 individual participation activities in outdoor sports at club, county, regional and national levels through participation, education, volunteering and employment programmes.  The north-west Wales charity is changing lives with innovative approaches including taster sessions, festivals and an increasingly popular volunteers programme.  The commitment of the project’s volunteers is astounding. If the same contribution had to be purchased it would cost a minimum of £1.7m per annum – equivalent to 2432 full-time jobs.

 

Sporting Experience of the Year

Us Girls

Run by sports charity StreetGames, the programme aimed to significantly increase regular participation in sport and exercise among inactive girls aged 13-19 living in poverty or semi-poverty in Wales.  A flagship social media campaign – UsGirlsBesties – captured the participants’ exciting and positive experiences of physical activities, including Us Girls Rocks festivals which brought girls together from all over the country.  The programme achieved staggering results of attracting new ‘hard-to-reach’ female participants, new volunteers, coaches and leaders, and targets were surpassed among BME communities and disability demographic.

Young Ambassadors Programme

A programme aiming to empower and inspire young people to become leaders through sport, it has had a significantly successful year with numerous ambassadors reaching their gold and even platinum status, as well as award-winning voluntary work dedicated by ambassadors across the country, and several now utilising their skills in employment within the sport sector.  Since its inception in 2010, around 12,000 Young Ambassadors have been trained across Wales, volunteering thousands of hours to school and community sport, making a difference to young people’s lives and making a significant impact on sport in Wales.

Disability Sport Wales – Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board: The Health Disability Sport Partnership.

A joint partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and Disability Sport Wales (DSW) and the first of its kind in the UK, the Health Disability Sport Partnership aimed to develop a strong and sustainable relationship between the Health and sport networks across North Wales, in order to achieve a common aim of ‘improving the health and wellbeing of disabled people across North Wales through increased participation in physical activity, including sport’.

Supported by countless third sector partners, 560 disabled people were signposted to physical activity opportunities and that three went on to represent Wales in their chosen sport.  Reports show that participants felt greater confidence, increased socialisation, and gave them a sense of belonging.

The partnership is helping reduced the burden of physical inactivity on the health board in a sustainable fashion.

 

BBC WALES AND SPORT WALES START SEARCH FOR BEST OF WELSH SPORT IN 2017

The search is on for inspiring individuals and organisations involved in sport as nominations open for the Wales Sport Awards 2017.

BBC Wales and Sport Wales are today (11 September 2017) looking for the community coaches and volunteers in Wales who are rousing more people to take part in sport and exercise.

As well as celebrating the individual stars of grassroots sport, the judges are looking for organisations and sporting experiences that are gripping the nation and inspiring more people to make being active part of their lives.

The categories for nomination are:

  • Volunteer of the Year
  • Community Coach of the Year
  • Inspiring Young Person
  • Sporting Experience of the Year
  • Organisation of the Year
  • BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero

The Wales Sport Awards, hosted jointly by BBC Wales and Sport Wales, is the country’s biggest annual celebration of the very best of elite and grassroots sport.

Lawrence Conway, Chair of Sport Wales said, “Someone taking part in sport and regular physical activity and exercise has usually been inspired by a brilliant coach or volunteer, and their first experience can keep them participating for a lifetime.

 “There are people and moments that are exciting, innovative and motivational. They are happening across the country and we want to find the very best so we can celebrate them and spread the message throughout Wales.”

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director, BBC Wales said, “What better way to celebrate the very best of Welsh sport – be it on a community level, or in the elite world. The Wales Sport Awards are an opportunity to recognise the talent and hard work of so many inspirational individuals and organisations right across the country, and right across the sporting spectrum, and to proudly celebrate their achievements.”

Nominations for the community awards are now open at www.walessportawards.co.uk where you can also find more information about the categories.

Nominations close at midday on Friday 29 September (BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero nominations close on 22 October).

The Wales Sport Awards will take place on Monday 4 December at Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.

The ceremony includes the presentation of the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year and Coach of the Year awards.

#WSA2017