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.”