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Volunteers' Week 2022: The young volunteer making a splash on Swim Wales Youth Panel

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You don’t always have to be racing through the water as a competitor to feel you’re making a big splash in swimming.

Charlotte Howells, 18, from Morriston in Swansea was once a keen competitor, but now spends her spare time helping out and volunteering in conjunction with Swim Wales. 

Charlotte is a member of the Swim Wales Youth Panel and aims to enable and encourage people to enjoy themselves and be active through the sport.

Volunteers’ Week – which this year runs from June 1 to June 7 – is aimed at showcasing the vital role volunteers play and their importance in so many spheres.

A recent a study showed that 16.3 million people in the UK volunteered through a group, club or organisation in 2020/2021.

Volunteering plays a huge part in all sports, with volunteers across Wales helping to keep many of them afloat, especially at the grass roots level.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on face-to-face events taking place, almost one in five (17%) of people reported volunteered at least once a month, equating to around 9.2 million people in 2021-22.

Charlotte is one of them - helping to make sport accessible in the local community and on a national level.

Having started swimming when she was young, she joined the Young Ambassadors Sport Wales Programme when she was just 13 at her school, Morriston Comprehensive.

“I had a go at a lot of different roles within different organisations,” she says.

“I’m a swimmer myself and then had the opportunity to help out with Swim Wales and I really enjoyed it.

"Because I kept going, I had the opportunity to join the youth panel when I was 15 or 16 which has given me so many opportunities." 

With the Swim Wales Youth Panel, the teenager helped to create events for young people. 

“We decided to run our own volunteer-led meet down the National Pool in 2019, so before the Covid-19 pandemic. It went really well; we had so many volunteers help out. The volunteers helped run the event from calling out names and timing the races.

“We are constantly in discussion with the people within Swim Wales, talking about our plans and how to get young people involved, because obviously it is a key part of the sport." 

“There were six of us to begin with, but recently we have had new recruits which has taken us up to eight to 10. It is good that there are more voices now to help us move forward.

Three Swim Wales Volunteers
It makes me feel really good, running the events and seeing that you are helping people to have a positive day is amazing.
Charlotte Howells

A-level student Charlotte is still passionate about swimming and insists nothing has changed for her. She still loves to get involved in the sport but is now trying to ensure other people enjoy it as much as she does. 

“I have been a marshall during meets and I am also a swim teacher. I teach in Morriston from the age of three onwards in groups of six.

“I don’t compete anymore, but I still volunteer because I still find it so much fun and it's what I enjoy doing.

“It gives me a lot of satisfaction seeing people swimming from a young age. It’s a really positive experience.

“It makes me feel really good, running the events and seeing that you are helping people to have a positive day is amazing.”

Despite being only 13 when she started volunteering, Charlotte felt well supported at all the organisations she volunteered with.

“Through schemes such as young ambassadors, there are a lot of young people getting involved. There are also lots of swimmers’ siblings and friends who want to help out also," she explains. 

“My best day was with the youth panel in 2019. It was a really positive experience to give back to the swimming community. 

“The event was for developing swimmers who hadn’t quite made the national times or were too young. They were able to come down and we created more of a relaxed environment for them. It was a really positive day at the National Pool in Swansea.”

For anyone thinking about volunteering, but unsure over whether to take the plunge, Charlotte has a clear message.

“You don’t need to be a swimmer to be involved. It can involve meeting and greeting people, handing out sweets and water to people, or just getting the results and pinning them up on the wall. 

“There’s a lot of support in Swim Wales for volunteers. I’d say, just give it a go.

“You are never sure about the outcome you are going to get when you are trying something new. You just need to take every opportunity with two hands, because you are always going to take a positive out of an experience.

“Through young ambassadors I have had the opportunity to take primary school children down to the sports village to do some running. I have volunteered within schools as well, and just helping on tournament days in primary schools.

“I will definitely carry on volunteering at university – I will try and find a swim club and I will definitely keep up with the youth panel. 

“The good thing Covid brought was being able to communicate through Zoom and a few people who have already left for University still keep in touch, which is nice."

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