The power of sport in Connecting Communities

by Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust

This Wednesday (15 July) marks a special day for the Youth Sport Trust. We will be celebrating the remarkable efforts of some very special young people with the Connecting Communities Awards, to be held in the House of Lords.

Connecting Communities is a programme created to inspire, engage and empower young people and their communities to take part in regular, structured and fun activities. The initiative is funded by People’s Health Trust - using money raised by society lotteries through The Health Lottery - and is delivered by the Youth Sport Trust.

The programme works in 12 deprived areas to create a network of local people who lead and inspire volunteering activity for the benefit of others in their community. Over the last year more than 400 young people have been involved in activities across the UK, delivering over 240,000 hours focused on building community cohesion.

In these challenging areas we find young people who have been looking for the opportunity to connect with their community. Without the chance to challenge themselves most started their journeys with Connecting Communities lacking self-confidence. Often they were unable to communicate with adults, their peers or even with their own potential.

With the chance to realise their ambition these young people have not only grown in self-esteem and self-possession, they have engaged other young people in their communities, building confidence in their peers and restoring it to the parents and adults they meet.

Through these Awards we’ve celebrated the work of young people like Melissa Desousa whose welcoming smile has brought anxious young people together and whose translations skills are helping to bring her whole community together. We’ve learnt about empowered young people like Ayan Hassan, Lily May and Courtney Shaw whose projects have driven them to attain coaching qualifications and seek further education to better serve their communities. From his project’s outset Reed Wyper was identified as a leader and through it he is challenging himself by expanding the scope and scale of his volunteering, proving that by asking more of himself he can give more to the communities around him. 

We will also take this opportunity to celebrate the vision of our partners, the People’s Health Trust, which inspired this powerful initiative. Such ambition is so important in order to avoid a physically and socially disengaged future generation, over dependent on technology, which will result in low physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Thanks to the Connecting Communities programme 12 new role models have been inspired to challenge themselves and their peers to continue to develop activities that will bring the greatest benefit for local people. In years to come the impact made by these special people will still be shaping their communities thanks to the power of sport to change young people’s lives. It is my honour and privilege to celebrate the incredible people that make Connecting Communities happen.