Sport England’s ‘Opportunity Fund’ aims to encourage people to volunteer to help tackle challenges their communities face. Projects are being funded in areas that may experience economic disadvantage, ranging from inner-city areas with high levels of crime and social exclusion, to remote rural areas with few services. Through getting involved, the volunteers will also benefit by developing their own skills and confidence, and experience improved wellbeing. These new projects we’re announcing aim to explore how the outdoors and the environment may motivate people to get involved in volunteering and how through volunteering we can help create new opportunities for people to get active.
With physical activity rates for both adults and children in Kent lower than the recommended level Kent Wildlife Trust and Sport England have come together to deliver Down to Earth. This ground-breaking partnership will last three years; giving local people opportunities to access the natural medicine which nature can provide. Volunteers will be trained to give families plenty of opportunities to get outside, explore, learn and be active in nature - from bug walks to den building - there will be something for everyone.
Kent Wildlife Trust’s Head of People Engagement, Stevie Rice said “We are delighted to have this opportunity - it will build on the successes of the Fifth Continent Partnership Scheme currently being delivered in the area and we will be able to offer families the opportunities they so frequently request from us. Nearly one in five Kent children are clinically obese when they leave primary school, but nature is free, and we want families to have activities that improve the way they feel and improve the environment at the same time. Increasingly children in Kent are missing a connection with the natural world – despite findings that contact with nature can improve childhood cognitive development, reduce stress and disruptive behaviour. Volunteers will be trained to work together with families to give them opportunities to learn and have fun outdoors. Physical activity doesn’t have to be regimented or dreaded – it can be relaxed, and organic. We hope that this project will offer this. After all, preventing the health conditions associated with obesity is better than trying to cure them.”
It is thanks to National Lottery Players that charities like Kent Wildlife Trust are able to create exciting and new opportunities that will support people in getting active and protecting their natural environments.
Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith, said: “When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there is a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities get active, as well as benefitting themselves. Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends.
“That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy, Towards an active nation. We’re delighted to be helping Down to Earth enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.
“It’s one of 37 projects in which Sport England has invested in to test different approaches to encourage new audiences to volunteer and benefit their community and others through social action, sport and physical activity. These projects will test various different approaches, with the ultimate aim being a larger number and more diverse volunteers. We are targeting people who are currently less likely to volunteer in sport, such as women, disabled people, people from BAME groups and people on a low income.”