Us Girls – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

GlowSports, Dodgeball and Running are the name of the game for girls across Wales, who are moving and loving it, thanks to Us Girls Wales.

With around 36,000 teenage girls living in poverty in Wales, Us Girls set about to reach them through sport.

Run by national sports charity StreetGames, it started in April 2015 thanks to Sport Wales Calls4Action funding.

“Us Girls aimed to make the programme sustainable by helping community sport and youth institutions make female sports participation a routine part of their core work” explains employee Paul Roberts.

In just two years, the programme has offered 26 lead projects totalling 45 hours per week across the country. Over 3,000Us Girls sessions have been delivered in the community – many of which are in Communities First areas of deprivation.

They follow the principles of the StreetGames Doorstep Sport model, making sure that activity is delivered by the right people, in the right style, at the right place and time.

Bringing sport TO the girls has seen a massive impact, with lots of success stories. Over 5,600 new ‘hard to reach’ females participated in the project, which included older girls mentoring younger girls, through the Big Sister scheme. There have also been 48 Us Girls events in its two-year history – including an Us Girls Rocks festival!

Those who take part are at the heart of the decision-making process for Us Girls, with lots of consultation.

“It was devised in consultation with the participants at every stage either through chats, at pamper sessions, coffee mornings or using technology” says Paul.

Thanks to partner work, the way in which organisations appeal to girls when it comes to sport is changing for the better.

One example of this is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales

“After embracing the Us Girls programme, our traditionally male-dominated demographic has shifted to a 2:1 female:male ratio among participants in North Wales” says Grant Poiner, their National Development Officer.

“We would not be where we are now, in terms of female participation, without the partnership with StreetGames and the learning and support of the Us Girls programme” he adds.

Young Ambassadors Programme – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

The Young Ambassador (YA) programme in Wales has gone from strength to strength.

“It offers fab opportunities for a young person and it is great for employability – you get so much experience, it is hard to fit it all on the CV!” says Beth Nesham, who has been involved in the YA programme over the past 7 years.

She has seen the programme grow from its infancy to where it is today, with around 3,000 active YA’s.

She continues: “Being a YA harnesses a sense of security, while also putting you outside of your comfort zone. You face challenges but still feel safe with the YA Family.”

A partnership led by Sport Wales and the Youth Sport Trust and delivered by key partners, the Young Ambassador programme aims to empower and inspire young people to become leaders through sport.

For some, the personal journey is huge.

“When I was starting as a YA, I was in a Unit for people with anxiety and it was pretty bad” says Fintan Edwards. “It came about for me when my confidence was starting to grow again and it gave me that extra boost. It gives me a purpose.”

“Now, I see myself as a normal person doing what I enjoy” he adds.

There are currently Young Ambassadors across primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and communities in all 22 Local Authorities across Wales championing school and community sport and physical recreation.

For many, they don’t want the journey to end!

Take Bronnie Griffiths, a student at Cardiff Met, who is now involved in the first Higher Education YA programme in the UK.

“I’ve developed personal and professional skills” explains Bronnie. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. It is thanks to the programme that I decided to go to university” she adds.

It has been another busy year for the Young Ambassadors. Many have been recognised for local, regional, national and UK wide awards. They’ve also seen the 7th National Gold YA Conference attended by 100 YA’s and 50 officers – and more importantly, planned and delivered by the YA’s themselves.

The YA programme has seen huge growth since it started in 2010. Since then, around 12,000 Young Ambassadors have been trained across Wales, volunteering thousands of hours to school and community sport and making a real difference to young people’s lives.

The Health Disability Sport Partnership – Sporting Experience of the Year finalist.

A Health Disability Sport Partnership (HDSP) has been a ‘game changer’ for disabled people in North Wales, according to those who have benefitted from it.

“Acceptance through sporting opportunities is so important” says volunteer Deb Bashford, who herself was paralysed at the age of 11. “For that hour, they are not the disabled person, they are just a member having fun in a sports club.”

The joint partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and Disability Sport Wales (DSW) is the first of its kind in the UK.

It began in 2013, thanks to a successful three-year Calls 4 Action grant from Sport Wales.

“It was set up to develop a relationship between the health and sport networks across North Wales, with a common aim of improving the health and wellbeing of disabled people through increased participation in physical activity” explains Catherine Chin, Health Disability Sport Officer.

Due to its success, the project will continue and there are ambitious plans to roll it our across the country.

Disabled people are less physically active than non-disabled people. Just 3.4% of this population in North Wales were taking part in physical activity at the start of the partnership in 2013, compared with 41% of non-disabled people.

They wanted to bridge this gap.

“A pathway was designed so that Health Care Professionals could signpost disabled people from health services to physical activity opportunities in their local community, via Disability Sport Wales” explains Catherine.

She adds: “It has made a real difference, both physically and mentally, in transforming the lives of disabled people and their families, through the power of sport.”

During the first 3 years of the project 560 disabled people took up an opportunity to get active, with four talented athletes going on to represent Wales in their sports.

Deb, who is part of Caernarfon Celts Wheelchair Basketball Club, is full of praise for it: “At the age of 11, my world was turned upside down and I would have done anything in the world to have this pathway back then” she recalls.

35 years on, she says that sporting activities have helped her speak out about her own experiences.

“I considered suicide aged 13” she admits. “But I now embrace my disability as a tool to help others going through a similar journey.”

She adds: “Sporting opportunities like this make a massive difference.”

The Outdoor Partnership – Organisation of the Year finalist.

Sport and the outdoors go hand in hand.

One organisation in North West Wales is taking full advantage of what our great outdoors has to offer.

“We use the outdoors and natural resources to improve people’s lives and inspire them into participation” explains Chief Executive Officer, Tracey Evans.

As well as the success of their core programmes, the Outdoor Partnership has gone above and beyond to drive forward inclusivity in the outdoor sector.

“We have a number of programmes working with specific target groups” explains Tracey.

Since it was set up over ten years ago, the charity has been responsible for establishing around 80 activity clubs and groups, boasting a membership of 7000+.

Tracey adds: “Ten years ago, there was no volunteer culture in the outdoor sector but today we have a large volunteer workforce – a huge achievement.”

This year, over 400 volunteers took part in a mentoring scheme and for the first time in the organisation’s history – more women than men took part.

Working with under-represented groups is an important part of what the Partnership does and they’ve inspired hundreds in the past year.

Bethan Davies, Inclusion Development Officer explains: “Over the past 18 months, we’ve been striving to become a more inclusive organisation and supporting this development across other clubs and partners in Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy.”

Nearly 700 people with impairments have taken part in sport taster sessions and the charity were the first organisation in Wales to be awarded the Disability Sport Wales insport 3rd Sector Ribbon standard, back in May.

Meanwhile, their This Girl’s Adventure programme has inspired over 260 women and girls to try activities, ranging from sub aqua to surfing. Many of these felt empowered to go on to take their coaching qualifications, opening up many opportunities in the outdoor activity sector.

Fiona Reid, CEO of Disability Sport Wales adds: “They’ve worked hard in establishing a strong foundation to create inclusive cultural changes and offer quality opportunities for everyone.”

Disability Sport Wales – Organisation of the Year finalist.

Disability Sport Wales (DSW) has a vision – to transform lives through the power of sport.

As a world leading disability sport organisation they are putting our small, but mighty, country on the map.

“It is an exciting time for disability sport in Wales” announces Anthony Hughes, National Performance Manager at DSW.

Developing opportunities for disabled people to participate in active recreation is at the heart of what Disability Sport Wales do. Their philosophy is to work towards an inclusive sport sector in Wales. And their progress is clear to see.

“Our community programmes are not only feeding through to our talent programme but they are keeping people active and healthy in a fun way” Anthony says. “They feel part of something and have a sense of belonging that is helping them to grow week by week and that’s the most important part for us” he adds.

DSW believe that sport can create positive life chances for disabled people, whether taking part in community sport, achieving in a competitive arena or contributing to sport through coaching, volunteering or leadership. It is this common goal and determination that sees their staff and volunteers work so hard.

Many of these chances start with the community programmes, that Anthony calls the “lifeline” of the organisation. 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.

The past few years have been particularly successful for DSW, with their work in schools, clubs, events and partnership opportunities.

At the 2016 Paralympic Games, Welsh athletes made up 10% of the Paralympics’ Team GB and brought home Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. This success continued in 2017, where seasoned athletes and young, new talent were all flying the flag for our proud nation. 2018 promises more excitement, as Anthony adds:

“The feeling is ‘watch this space and watch Wales. We put the great in Great Britain!”

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.