Spirit of 2012 funds Inclusive Futures - a leadership and volunteering initiative which aims to change behaviour and attitudes among young people on issues related to ability, access and equality in sport.
Jack Welch is a member of Spirit's Youth Advisory Panel, and is also a Youth Patron of Ambitious about Autism and an adviser to the Council for Disabled Children. We sent him along to the regional Inclusive Futures Camp in Bath, to see the impact for himself and write a blog for us...
"Ahead of the National Camp, which brings together participants all across the UK for a special weekend of activities in Loughborough, I was invited along to Bath Inclusive Futures regional camp in the run up to the national gathering. Hosted at the University of Bath, the day featured a number of special guests circulating the room, with former Paralympic swimmer Kate Grey, now in the role as a National Ambassador, besides being a former student at the university. The activities on offer included Boccia, a Dragon’s Den style pledge activity and a workshop to look at how schools have a responsibility to interest more children in sport.
As one of Spirit’s original projects as part of its portfolio, Inclusive Futures (IF), is currently hosted in nine cities all across the UK. Throughout my visit in Bath, I interviewed a range of those individuals who have a different capacity in making days like the regional camp happen. Programme Manager of the Youth Sport Trust, which leads on Inclusive Futures, Chris Ellis was one of those - who revealed that, as of September 2015, over 1,400 volunteers have been part of Inclusive Futures since its inception in 2014. As part of its success, he told me that “The programme has helped a lot of young disabled people change their own perceptions about how they feel about themselves and how they can contribute to society.” Besides being an important success factor for Spirit, I am personally thrilled as someone with a condition myself, as inclusivity from a young age is often the best way to challenge some of those preconceptions which often are harder to break later on.
Kate Grey was also not the only familiar face from professional Paralympic sport. A local resident in Bath, Ben Rushgrove is both a world record holder and medallist in recent Paralympic athletics. In his capacity as a facilitator for Boccia, which in itself is not a typical mainstream sport, he was very passionate on how Inclusive Futures has been able to make a significant impact. He said that the blend of abilities creates a “mesh where disability doesn't’t matter so much anymore and I think that’s a really positive message. The kids are very receptive to those kinds of messages.”
I got a good sense on the day about how, even after the project comes to a close, there will be a sustainability factor in the lessons learnt from IF. One example was Sports Development Assistant Manager Jessica Clements indicating a new qualification being developed for schools. Bath is a rural part of the UK, and this IF camp has allowed a number of disabled projects to come together for the first time and helped groups to combine their resources in the local area. As one of the best sport facilities in the UK also, the Sports Training Village in the university has ensured participants have access to a wide variety of opportunities and expertise to learn from.
There is nothing better thought than to hear one of the beneficiaries who has helped to steer IF from the beginning as a volunteer to a mentor. Now leading on sessions without staff involvement, fellow Bath student Kieran Strong has been an example of Youth Sport Trust’s strong assets in helping to use his skills as a volunteer and to share that with other participants. Asking why others should get involved, he told me: “If you already love sport, it’s a great opportunity to get further involved in any aspects of coaching and leading in sport. You can get everyone else engaged and love that sport as much as you do.”
A sign of success I reckon, it’s great that funding from Spirit has helped to make all this happen."
Follow Jack on Twitter: @MrJW18