Spirit of 2012 funded programme 'An Inclusive Future' has successfully achieved its target of recruiting 1,000 young disabled and non-disabled volunteers three months ahead of schedule.
The impressive 1,000-strong volunteer force is now leading a variety of sporting activities for participants across the UK, with even more young people expected to sign up to the programme in the coming months.
The Inclusive Futures initiative from Youth Sport Trust aims to get young people aged 14-19, with and without disabilities, volunteering alongside each other to support and deliver physical activities in schools and communities. Based in eight regional cities, volunteers are guided by a volunteer coordinator based within a local sporting organisation to attend a placement that will teach them leadership skills and offer coaching qualifications. Regular regional training camps and volunteering opportunities at large-scale events have led to a surge in interest as over 70% of volunteers 'strongly agreed' they were more likely to participate in volunteering as a result of the programme.
The National Inclusive Futures Camp, held in Loughborough from March 27th-29th, also had a dramatic impact on attendees with at least 89% of volunteers reporting improvements in their creativity, resilience and empathy as a result of attending it.
The programme has also been shown to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the volunteers as 84% reported increased happiness as a result of being involved in the programme.
Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, said:
"Congratulations Youth Sport Trust! This wonderful news is compelling evidence that young people do want to volunteer if high quality and rewarding opportunities are open to them.
"What's more, they are queuing up to break down the barriers imposed by society's often limited perceptions of what people with disabilities can and can't do. Inclusive Futures is an initiative we at Spirit are massively proud to support."
Some of the volunteers are now using their skills as part of a new innovative collaboration with another Spirit of 2012 funded programme - Sporting Memories Network - which has been developed to use sporting memories to improve the well being of older people to help tackle dementia, depression and social isolation.
Inclusive Futures volunteers in Glasgow are providing activities for older people in the city, creating a programme of fun physical activities appropriate for older people with a range of physical and cognitive issues, and guiding them through sports such as Boccia and Bowlsparc.
Chris Wilkins, Director and Co-Founder of the Sporting Memories Foundation, said: "The fun and friendship offered by the Inclusive Futures volunteers not only encouraged the older participants to engage in physical activities once more, but also the activities they facilitated with such skill and care showed how sport can be used to bring generations closer together."