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Be a Sport (Volunteer)!

26 May 2015

Do you spend your evenings and weekends making teas for the cricket club, refereeing junior football matches or being the treasurer of the lawn bowls club?

Vanessa with the Lunchtime Strollers

If so, have you considered joining the Sports Volunteer Scheme?

Vanessa Cowan was one of these people. In 2010, she got involved in leading campus walks, when SPORT promoted an in-house course to train staff to become Walk Leaders for the Walking for Health campaign. Run by The Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, the campaign provides short, free, local health walks in communities across England and helps more people, including those affected by cancer, to discover the joys and health benefits of walking. “As I was already an active outdoor enthusiast, it seemed a really good idea” explains Vanessa.

Since then, Vanessa has led weekly lunchtime walks for staff, students and the general public as part of the Lunchtime Strollers Group. She and Betty-Ann Bristow-Castle (the scheme co-ordinator) are part of a band of over 10,000 friendly, specially trained volunteers who lead 3,000 weekly walks across England, providing encouragement and support, and making sure that no-one gets left behind.

Vanessa acknowledges that it’s the people taking part who keep her volunteering. “I know how much Betty-Ann and I are appreciated for devising and leading interesting and varied routes. Many participants have commented that they would end up sitting at their desks all day if it wasn’t for the group and having other people to share a walk with.”

Over the years, members of the group have become increasingly interested in walking and have expressed a desire to do more. Funded by the Sport Volunteer Scheme, Vanessa is now undertaking training to establish an additional walking group to venture out at weekends on the sort of terrain where she enjoys spending her leisure time – both locally and further afield. The training will also ensure that she meets health and safety obligations.

Vanessa is really looking forward to building an additional walking group outside working hours to give people more chances to get together, explore the wider region and grow healthier while making new friends. Vanessa said “A number of the Lunchtime Strollers are history, gardening and astronomy buffs, so I learn something new each week – usually while having a good laugh and a chat!”

Walking has definite benefits for the University from a health perspective. It isn’t always thought of as exercise but it is a great way to get active and prevent illness. If you already have a health condition, walking can get you back on the road to recovery and make you feel great again. Being part of a walking group can help you stay motivated.

Vanessa says “I would highly recommend the Sport Volunteer Scheme to colleagues at the University. The staff in SPORT have been so helpful with their advice and welcome courses. The scheme recommends four hours of volunteering a month but you can do as much or as little as you can manage. If you enjoy a sport and would like to share it with others or you’re involved with a club or organisation on any level, then the scheme is made for you.”

Further information

About University Weekend Walkers:

About the Sport Volunteer Scheme: