Chris Rogers – Community Coach of the Year finalist.

Chris Rogers not only has a love for horses, but for coaching people to perform acrobatics on them!

“It’s basically gymnastics and dance on horseback” explains Chris, head coach at Talygarn Vaulters.

The Equestrian club has been running for six years, and working with disabled riders for the last three.

“Watching the children make huge personal improvements is why I do it” says Chris. “When they first arrive, many of them can’t get on the horses, but then you see their confidence grow.”

Thanks to Chris’ patience, dedication and hard work, able-bodied and disabled children are keeping active, and even competing in the sport.

In fact, she has helped train three international vaulters and a number of Welsh Champions within the group.

“No matter whether the achievements are big or small, it’s about progress – and for each child that is really important” says the South Walian coach.

Chris runs three groups, including a session with the local Special Education Needs (SEN) school.

She is pro-active in promoting club membership. She takes her role seriously and is always striving to improve her knowledge and training in disability issues and more generally.

And her efforts are not confined to coaching, she is often busy with club administration, kit washing and general maintenance of the grounds.

“I love the whole thing” she says. “I’ve always been involved with horses and especially love the creative side, from costumes and music to themes and routines.”

Chris dedicates her days, evenings and weekends to the club – and gets a huge amount of enjoyment from it.

She says that horse vaulting can make you fitter, stronger and improve core strength and balance.

“It is great to see the children starting to think of their own ideas of what they’d like to perform – my job is to encourage them” she adds.

She recommends coaching in sport to everyone.

“If you’ve got a love for something, do it. It is so worthwhile.”

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.”