Committed, engaging and enthusiastic, Sam is a popular face among the OnSide cycling group members. He has been volunteering for over a year after originally attending an OnSide multi sports session.
“I enjoy cycling so when I was asked to help out, I jumped at the chance,” says Sam. “It’s great to support the group with their own learning and progression. Volunteering has given me more confidence, keeps me active, gets me out of the house and has added to my CV.”
OnSide Inclusive Sports is a YMCA project which works with people aged 14-30 years with a disability across East Surrey, improving confidence through sport. This year, 1269 young people have benefited from the programme.
Sam, 21, joins the OnSide cycling groups on day rides, provides assistance with school sessions and has accompanied the members on residential outings to Holmbury St Mary and North Wales. Having a rare condition which affects some of his cognitive functions, he identifies well with the young people he supports.
“It’s been a challenge to learn how to interact with other young people who have individual needs but I think it’s helped me hugely with my own social skills,” says Sam. “The residential trips have been fantastic – a nice break away and time to chill out with the rest of the group.”
91 volunteer applications have been received in the first six months of 2015 and there have been an average of 60+ active volunteers per month across the organisation.
YMCA East Surrey has now become an ASDAN registered centre, providing further certified training and courses for young people to build employability skills. Courses cover volunteering, disability sports, food and catering, first aid and many others.
This year, Sam took and achieved British Cycling’s Ride Leadership Award.
Mark Browne, OnSide Inclusive Youth Worker, has no doubt how important volunteers like Sam are to the OnSide programme.
“To put it simply, they enable the fun,” he explains. “Sam keeps it real and the group wouldn’t be the same without him.”
Sam now works part-time for another disability cycling organisation.
“I hope the skills I’ve developed through volunteering will continue to help me find employment working with young people in the future,” he says. “The YMCA has supported me so much in the past and I’m pleased to be able to offer something back.”