This week the sport sector pays tribute to the volunteers in sport in Wales – without them many opportunities to participate in physical activity would not be possible.
One club making a difference through a team of dedicated volunteers is Newport County’s nonprofit charity AFC – County in the Community.
Two of her volunteers are Emily Edwards and Luke De Gilbert, who give up their time to lead the Newport County Junior Match Day Visits and We wear the same shirt sessions. Part of the Football Association of WalesTime to change Wales Program, We wear the same shirt supports people who are suffering with their mental health or a physical disability.
Having volunteered for the past 6 years and being lifelong supporters of Newport County, Emily and Luke believe the best thing about volunteering is the sense of community and the opportunities they’ve been given along the way.
Luke, a 27-year-old living with autism, said: “Volunteer [with County in the Community] changed me as a person, it helped me to meet new people that I really like and am with We wear the same shirt changed me a lot too.”
Both Luke and Emily, who assisted with game day deliveries in Newport County, know they have helped create an unforgettable experience for thousands of children in South East Wales – from question and answer sessions with players from Newport County and the announcement of team sheets, to a kickabout on the field in front of 10,000 fans.
Initially, Emily was unsure of her abilities as a coach and was often reluctant to take the lead. After receiving funding, County in the Community was able to find a course that provided Emily with the skills she needed to excel.
With the help of National Lottery funding from Sport Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic, County in the Community have been able to continue their important work and upskill their volunteers. In the case of Emily and Luke, the Be Active Wales Fund bursary meant they could attend FAW Football Leaders and receive protection awards.
She said: “I learned a lot – how to recognize when children are in danger, this improved my experience by 100%. When I started training I was a bit quiet and whistled very softly, but now I’m a different person on the pitch. I think I’m really confident.
I would say that the experience of the participants has also improved, the courses have helped me in my work with children.
Our motto is “Offer Opportunities, Improve Lives”. The district in the community should be commended for what they have done – the support from the communities and their volunteers, the way this has been done is outstanding. I am enjoying my time and hopefully this is just the beginning.”
National Volunteer Week runs from June 1st to June 6th, which is a great opportunity for sports clubs across the country to celebrate the work their volunteer workers put in on a weekly basis.
On Sunday, June 5th, you can join the celebrations on social media by sharing a post with the hashtag #CheersForVolunteers.
If you are a volunteer looking for extra support, or are interested in receiving financial support for your club’s next big project, you can access a wealth of information and resources on the Sport Wales website. Visit https://www.sport.wales/grants-and-funding/club-support/ to find out more.