With the Paralympics around the corner, the Youth Sport Trust is leading a fresh community drive to encourage more disabled young people into volunteering as part of its Inclusive Futures partnership with Spirit of 2012.
It aims to shift the stigma associated with the capabilities of young people with additional needs and is urging schools in Glasgow, Leicester and Manchester to help communities to ensure more opportunities are provided for volunteering.
On Monday, 15-year-old Taylor McTaggart, an Inclusive Futures volunteer who attends St Mungos Academy in Glasgow teamed up with world champion seated thrower Jo Butterfield in a bid to increase awareness of volunteering initiatives for young people with disabilities.
Taylor, who was diagnosed with meningitis at the age of five leading to double leg and arm amputations, wants young people with additional support needs to get involved, as she knows it can be hard to find the confidence to try new things.
Despite initial nerves around getting involved in sport, Taylor was introduced to boccia and sitting volleyball at St Mungos, started going to competitions and became involved in volunteering.
Taylor said: “Being a volunteer has completely changed me; it has built my confidence as a leader and given me a voice.”
She added: “I want young people with disabilities to realise they have choices. Sport can help you do that and has definitely helped me. Anyone who lives with a disability knows that it can be trying at times, but difficulties you face along the way will only make you stronger.”
Jo, who has just been selected for Rio, was left paralysed five years ago caused by a tumour in her spine met Taylor. She knows her experiences can have a huge impact on young people and now works as an athlete mentor for the Youth Sport Trust.
She said: “The Inclusive Futures initiative is a great scheme that provides young people with volunteering opportunities both in and out of school and promotes positive attitudes towards young disabled people. With the Paralympics just weeks away, there is no doubt that the event will once again raise awareness and understanding of disability sport and the perceptions of disabled people, but this event shouldn’t be the only time that we recognise the efforts of people with additional support needs.”
Also this week, Paralympic footballer Alistair Patrick-Heselton will be joining Inclusive Futures volunteer Verity Lewis at Ellesmere College in Leicester to highlight the programme; and Paralympic archery competitor Mel Clarke will be in Manchester with volunteer Xavier Georgiou at Melland High School.
Taylor, Verity and Xavier are part of a network of more than 1,400 Inclusive Futures volunteers aged 14-19, with and without disabilities, volunteering alongside each other to support and deliver physical activities in schools and communities. Schools that want to be part of the initiative can sign up at: https://www.youthsporttrust.org/IF
The initiative sees young people from nine major UK cities take part in placements within schools or community clubs and events, guided by a volunteer coordinator who is based within a local host organisation.