“When I started I was just a shy Year 7 lad. Volunteering has completely changed my life, I have gained confidence and qualifications, and met some great people along the way.”
This is the way Robert Cunnah neatly describes the difference volunteering has made to him. He volunteers more than 20 hours a week, acting as a referee at the local youth service football league through to coaching six to 16-year-olds in a variety of games, from quick cricket to the lesser known boccia, a form of bowls played at the Paralympics.
All of this is a far cry from Robert’s primary school years when a lung condition meant he had to sit on the sidelines: “It was so annoying that I couldn’t do much in PE lessons, I really felt that I missed out.”
Fortunately, his health improved at the age of 11 and he was able to really start enjoying sport for the first time. His enthusiasm was soon spotted and he was selected to join Sport Wales’ Young Ambassadors programme. Through the scheme he started coaching alongside mentors at the local authority and gained Sports Leader qualifications.
Robert’s confidence grew alongside his zeal for getting others more physically active: “So many children just go home after school and sit playing on their consoles. I want to get them involved in sport and having fun.
“Volunteering is really rewarding, it is great to watch other young people grow and develop.”
One example illustrates Robert’s absolute commitment: last year there was no 5×60 officer in his secondary school for a month so Robert single-handedly took over the lunchtime and after school sessions to ensure his peers didn’t miss out.
Denbighshire Leisure says that “Robert is more than just a volunteer, he has been a truly dedicated and reliable member of our sport development team.”
And this summer, his exceptional services to volunteering were recognised when he was awarded the Sports Leaders UK President’s Cup, meeting former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and former NBA Basketball player John Amaechi at the ceremony.
Robert’s future ambitions are firmly rooted in sport. He has 600 hours of volunteering under his belt and is currently studying for his BTEC Level 3 Sport Diploma. His end goal is professional football coaching or management.
This is a young man who will no doubt succeed. “The way I live my life is if I go for something, I intend to get it. I will work extra hard to get what I want.”