Guest blog by Emily Burns, North East Regional Manager at Sported
Every week at the ARC in the centre of Stockton on Tees young women of varying backgrounds and nationalities come together to celebrate their diversity, learn about different cultures and get fit in the process.
Whilst five miles across town in Coulby Newham, a diverse group of young men, including asylum seekers, travellers, offenders and ex-offenders, come together to improve their health and well-being, and in some cases get their lives back on the right tracks.
So what strange powers bring these diverse groups of young people together for their collective development, and what on earth do they have in common?!
Well, the answer – sport, or more specifically Sport for Development.
The examples above come from All In Youth Project and Jubilee Church Teesside, respectively. Two groups I’ve been working with and seen flourish, since I’ve been the North East Manager at the charity Sported.
One uses dance to support the personal and social development of young people aged 11-25, from – but not exclusive to – Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) backgrounds. The other, uses football to help young men reduce substance misuse, gain employment and integrate with the local community. At their hearts, both recognise the power of sport/physical activity to capture and sustain the attention of young people, and the ability of local groups to reach and engage often marginalised communities.
My passion for supporting groups like these started at a young age. Growing up in a village in County Durham I would often help out at sports clubs and community events. It was just what you did - you got involved and helped others out. This understanding and acknowledgement of the importance small, predominantly volunteer-led community groups has stayed with me into my adult life.
One of my favourite quotes is ‘Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.’ This is how I feel about community groups and volunteering. Individually offering your time you are making a difference, but when many people come together, working towards a common goal they might start as a drop of water, progress to a puddle, create a smooth running stream, then river, before finally reaching the ocean. But when they do, they have made a lifelong change both for themselves and the communities they support.
But what would happen if the leaders and volunteers of these groups couldn’t afford the rent or hire costs? What if the paperwork required for securing funding or gaining insurance was too much for one person, who already had to balance a full-time job with family commitments? There’s the danger these groups would fold and vital assets for local communities would be lost.
This is where Sported comes in.
We are a free membership organisation, providing free operational support, resources and business mentoring to community groups which use Sport for Development, from ‘traditional’ sports clubs to youth and religious groups. Both All In Youth Project and Jubilee Church Teesside are two brilliant examples of Sported members here in the North East, but our network extends to over 300 groups in the region and over 3,200 members across the UK.
Caption: Sported Ambassador, Jonathan Edwards, chats to the charity’s founder, Sir Keith Mills, about the importance of supporting the growth and sustainability of local community groups.
One of the primary ways we support our members is through our free volunteer mentoring service.
We match our members with our very own volunteers, who draw on their professional expertise and knowledge to help them grow their organisation or launch new programmes of activity. In this way, we are helping to transfer and upskill the sector, thereby laying the foundations for the future.
So if you run a community group that either currently uses sport to transform the lives of young people (aged 11-25), or if you’re interested in expanding your offering to include sport and/or physical activity, why not join Sported today! Membership and all our services are FREE!
Likewise, if you have a professional experience and would like to share your skills to support the growth of community groups like All in Youth or Jubilee Church Teesside, find out more about becoming a Sported volunteer!