The great outdoors is being used to help people get physically active thanks to an investment of more than £430,000 from our Opportunity Fund.
Three projects are each receiving more than £140,000 of National Lottery funds to help them provide volunteer programmes.
Set up in December 2016, the Opportunity Fund was part of our volunteering strategy and is aimed at people aged 20 and above who are from economically disadvantaged communities.
A total of £3 million was allocated to this and our Potentials Fund, with the first recipients announced a year ago.
These three new projects will each use nature and wildlife to encourage people to be more physically active.
In total, 19 projects have received awards through our Opportunity Fund
The Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Go Wild, Get Fit’ programme will see volunteers given the opportunity to take part in a range of conservation activities, while Kent Wildlife Trust’s ‘Down to Earth’ initiative is focused on women aged 20-45 and aims to create a pool of volunteer leaders.
The final programme, ‘Flourish in Nature’ from EDP Drug and Alcohol Services in the south west, will engage and support people in recovery from substance abuse to become volunteer activity leaders and our executive director of sport, Phil Smith, is well aware of the positive impact volunteering can have on an individual.
“When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there’s a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities to get active, as well as benefitting themselves,” he said.
“Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends.
“That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of our strategy, Towards an Active Nation.
“We’re delighted to be helping these projects enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.”
EDP Drug and Alcohol Services
Location: South west
EDP Drug and Alcohol Services are a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity with the vision of ‘improving the quality of life for people affected by substance misuse’.
They support individuals who face complex issues, including substance misuse, mental ill health and other harmful, addictive and offending behaviour, to improve their health, wellbeing and employability.
They work primarily in the south west, providing services across Devon and Dorset, in the community and within prisons.
Their work aims to open doors for people affected by substance misuse, so they can improve their lives and those of their families and communities.
Their ‘Flourish in Nature’ project will engage and support people in recovery from substance misuse to become volunteer outdoor activity leaders and enable others to access peer-led physical activity opportunities in their local natural environment in Devon.
It aims to support individuals to overcome barriers and provide positive impact on mental wellbeing through encouraging and enabling people to be active in the natural environment – which has been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, particularly for groups such that are the target audience for this scheme.
Opportunities will be personalised to people’s experiences, age, health and personal interests and there will be specific approaches for the cohort of volunteers aged 50+ too.
Partners that’ll support the delivery of the project include Devon Wildlife Trust, Active Devon, the John Muir Trust and Plymouth University.
Through volunteering services, users will build resilience, confidence, leadership skills and will be provided with a sense of purpose and achievement.
Kent Wildlife Trust
Region: South east
Kent Wildlife Trust is a Registered UK Charity and is one of the largest of the 46 Wildlife Trusts, which together make up the Wildlife Trusts Partnership.
They’re supported and governed by 30,000 members and have the aim of protecting Kent’s wildlife for the future.
They own or manage some 69 nature reserves covering more than 8,100 acres and campaign and lobby politicians, decision makers and landowners to ensure site protection and good habitat management.
They also run a full programme of education work with schools, colleges and adult groups. The Trust also has five Visitor Centres.
The ‘Down to Earth’ project is focused on reaching women aged 20-45 years in Romney Marsh, a rural and deprived area of Kent.
The project will aim to learn how to engage these women in volunteering and through nature-focused, family-based activities help to get other women more active.
The project will create a pool of volunteer ‘activity leaders’ who will receive training and support throughout the project to empower the women to lead their families and friends in nature-focused activity.
Through the project women will increase the time they are physically active, improve their mental wellbeing, confidence and skills whilst improving their social networks and connections to nature.
Volunteering will deliver family-orientated activities and the messaging will focus on nature, family and social networks.
The aim is to help create a sustainable habit of volunteering and being active in nature through developing a self-sustaining ‘Nature Network’ across the area which will support others to engage in social, environmental action and activity outdoors.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Region: North west
Cheshire Wildlife Trust is registered charity and company limited by guarantee and is one of 46 Wildlife Trusts working across the UK. With the support of volunteers and members they manage around 40 nature reserves.
They also work in partnership with other organisations and landowners to protect and connect wildlife sites across the county and inspire local communities and young people to care for wildlife where they live.
They act as a voice for wildlife and the environment, meeting with those who shape and influence our countryside from the local community to Westminster.
‘Go Wild, Get Fit’ will aim to improve the activity levels of more than 200 people currently furthest away from the job market, through an innovative conservation volunteering project.
The project, based in the North West, will target two areas; Chester and Ellesmere Port and Northwich and Winsford.
Participants will be introduced to the programme through a taster day and following this will be assigned a mentor who will work with them to develop a personalised outdoor active plan to create a bespoke volunteer journey to guide their ongoing engagement with the project and be a way for reviewing their progress.
Volunteers will have the opportunity to take part in a range of conservation activities including; practical conservation on nature reserves, wildlife surveying and monitoring as well as getting active through nature walks.
The programme will also offer training in other wildlife skills, broader life skills, celebrations and review and evaluation of test and learn activities.
Our Opportunity Fund was launched alongside the Potentials Fund – which focuses on youth social action – and aims to encourage people to volunteer and help tackle challenges their communities face.
Funded projects, of which there are now 37 across both funds, are located in areas ranging from inner cities to remote rural areas with few services.
Through getting involved, the volunteers benefit by developing their own skills and confidence as well as experiencing improved wellbeing.
“These 37 projects in which we have invested test different approaches to encourage new audiences to volunteer and benefit their community and others through social action, sport and physical activity,” added Phil.
“These projects are testing various different approaches, with the ultimate aim being a larger number of more diverse volunteers.
“We’re targeting people who’re currently less likely to volunteer in sport such as women, disabled people, people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and people on a low income.”