This week, the sport sector is paying tribute to Wales’ sport volunteers – without whom, 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 AFC’s outreach charity - County in the Community.
Two of their volunteers are Emily Edwards and Luke De Gilbert, who give up their time to run the Newport County Junior Match Day Visits and We Wear the Same Shirt sessions. Part of the Football Association of Wales’ ‘Time to Change Wales’ programme, We Wear the Same Shirt supports those suffering with their mental health or a physical disability.
Having volunteered for the past 6 years, and being life-long Newport County supporters, Emily and Luke believe that the best thing about being a volunteer is the sense of community and opportunities they have received along the way.
Luke, a 27-year-old who lives with autism said, “volunteering [with County in the Community] has changed me as a person, it’s helped me meet new people which I really like and being at We Wear the Same Shirt has changed me a lot as well.”
Supporting with the delivery on Newport County Match days, both Luke and Emily know that they have played a part in giving thousands of children in South East Wales a memorable experience – from question-and-answer sessions with Newport County players and announcing team sheets, to having a kickabout on the field in front of 10,000 supporters.
Starting out, Emily wasn’t sure of her ability as a coach and often found herself shying away from taking the lead. After receiving funding, County in the Community was able to find a course that gave Emily 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 were able to continue to deliver their important work as well as upskilling their volunteers. In the case of Emily and Luke, the grant from the Be Active Wales Fund meant that they were able to participate in FAW Football Leaders and earn safeguarding awards.
She said “I learned lots – how to recognise when children are in danger, it’s 100% improved my experience. When I first started coaching, I was a bit quiet and would blow my whistle really quietly, but now, I’m a different person on the pitch. I think I’m really confident.
I would say that the experience of those who attend has improved as well, the courses have helped with the work that I do with children now.
Our motto is ‘providing opportunities, enhancing lives’. County in the Community should be praised for what they have done – supporting communities and their volunteers, the way it’s been done is superb. I’m enjoying my time and hopefully it’s just the start.”
National Volunteers Week takes place on from 1st – 6th of June, which is a great opportunity for sports clubs across the nation to celebrate the work that their voluntary work force does on a weekly basis.
On Sunday the 5th of June, you can join in the celebrations on social media by sharing a post with the hashtag #CheersForVolunteers.
If you’re a volunteer looking for extra support, or you’re interested in receiving financial support for your club’s next big project, you can access a wide range of information and resources on the Sport Wales website. Visit https://www.sport.wales/grants-and-funding/club-support/ to find out more.