Young people from across the country are gathering at Loughborough University this weekend (18-20 March) for the National Inclusive Futures Camp in a bid to generate a positive shift in attitudes among disabled and non-disabled people on issues related to ability, access and equality in sport.
The camp is part of Lead Your Generation: Inclusive Futures - funded by Spirit of 2012 and delivered by Youth Sport Trust - a national leadership and volunteering initiative for young people aged 14-19, with and without disabilities, volunteering alongside each other to support and deliver physical activities in schools and communities.
Throughout the year the Inclusive Futures programme runs in nine host cities across the UK: Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Gateshead, Glasgow, Leicester, London, Manchester and Swansea. Volunteers work across their cities to influence and increase the capacity of local providers to deliver fully inclusive physical activities and sport opportunities that benefit and engage all young people in their communities.
Disabled and non-disabled volunteers in each city are guided by a volunteer coordinator, based within a local sporting host organisation. Each city holds regional training camps, events and activities throughout the year with 120 of the volunteers coming together for the National Camp.
Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said: “This camp is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the hard work and talent of some of the most committed and enthusiastic young people involved in the Inclusive Futures programme, and equip and inspire them to achieve even more. These young people are making a real difference in their local communities by giving their time to help motivate and engage their peers in sport and encourage more inclusive provision for disabled people.”
She added: “Engagement in high quality inclusive sport can improve young people’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing and equip them with the skills to achieve their potential in life. Through this partnership with Spirit of 2012 we are ensuring that all young people have the very best opportunities.”
The camp participants will be joined by athlete mentors who will guide sport sessions and workshops to support the young volunteers in helping to continue to promote increasing participation, challenging perceptions and creating inclusive provision in their home cities.
Spirit of 2012 Chief Executive Debbie Lye said: “As part of our commitment to supporting volunteering, Spirit of 2012 is enormously proud to fund Inclusive Futures. The national camp is a real highlight, because it brings this amazing bunch of young people together from all over the UK to share their leadership journeys and ambitions. Not only has their volunteering already benefited almost 11,000 people across the country, it is also enabling the young leaders themselves to develop personally and professionally.”
Claire Taggart (20) from Belfast a professional boccia player who was diagnosed a few years ago with Function Dystonia is a keen Inclusive Futures volunteer who says the programme has helped her feel more positively about her disability as well as improve other people's understanding of disability.
She said: “Through my work with the programme, I have learned that kids don't judge you based on your disability. They only learn to judge by what others around them perceive as different, so teaching kids that they are different and that it is okay has really opened my eyes. Inclusive Futures is a special place where no one is judged or given a second glance.”
The six athletes attending the camp are Paralympic medallists swimmer Kate Grey and Judo champion Ian Rose; Paralympic football player Alistair Patrick Heselton; Modern Pentathlete Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell; Olympic athlete Jeanette Kwakye; and Welsh Rugby player Philippa Tuttiett.