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Ripple effect volunteers share first experiences at a national event

The Ripple Effect project, funded by Spirit of 2012, aims to break down barriers for disabled individuals who want to become volunteers and encourage them to get involved with aquatic sports, more specifically in Technical Official roles.

The 18-month project has recruited and trained its first group of volunteers and two of those were able to volunteer at a national event for the first time at the recent British Masters Championships.

Here, Swim England Ripple Effect Project Officer Nicola Hughes shares the experiences of her and the volunteers during the event in Sheffield.

As part of the Ripple Effect project, we had two volunteers that were able to come along to the 2023 British Masters Championships at Ponds Forge, Sheffield.

Both Allyson Irvine and Nathan Brown made the trip to South Yorkshire after being found for the project through Limbpower.

On the final day of competition, it was a big day for the project as our volunteers got the chance to gain their first experiences of volunteering at a National event.

This was a huge step for our Ripple Effect volunteers. After the work of recruiting and training, it was so rewarding to get the chance to be there and see Allyson and Nathan enjoy themselves at poolside.

Allyson is a double below knee amputee and Nathan is a single below knee amputee, and there’s me – an above knee amputee. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to show our legs off and show how different they can be but how we can still thrive as a volunteer in the sport that we love.

Leading up to this Allyson has completed her Timekeeping theory and Judge Level 1 theory and is working towards the practical side of Timekeeping.

She’s received her log book for her judge level 1 and is beginning to work towards that too. Nathan has almost completed his timekeeping theory and will be starting his judge level 1 theory in the coming weeks.

 

Everyone was so helpful

The three of us arrived at Ponds Forge with Nathan being the only one with any experience of an event of this size due to being a para-swimmer himself.

The volunteers were firstly introduced to the Swim England Events Team and various members of the technical staff and other volunteers.

Allyson was nervous at first but her fears were put to ease by all the helpful staff and volunteers surrounding her.

“I was a bit apprehensive about going at first but I was looking forward to a new experience.” She said.

“All the staff were so helpful and really put me at ease. Seeing Nicola there helped too as I knew I wasn’t on my own.”

We were very fortunate to be given the opportunity to shadow a judge and gain valuable experience from seeing what goes on first hand.

Both Allyson and Nathan were able to practice with stopwatches and see if their reflexes were on point with the official times that were coming in. I think it gave them a lot more confidence for when they get the chance to put their new timekeeping skills into practice on their own.

“I can’t wait to try again”

The event made a big impact on the volunteers with Nathan saying that he’s looking forward to being back on poolside.

“I absolutely loved the experience. My favourite part was actually getting to try timekeeping myself.

“Volunteering is an experience you will not forget and it’s really enjoyable too. You have fun and I learnt more than I thought I would.

“I would love to carry on volunteering because that was a big step for me and I can’t wait to try again.”

Allyson added: “I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, but to see the older generation swim like they did. I was in awe of them.

“I want to keep on doing this role until I can’t do it, so I hope that’s a few years yet! The satisfaction you get by helping and giving your time to others is very rewarding.

The final event came round very quickly and the noise and excitement that built up gave both volunteers the experience of what it can be like.

An event that has younger swimmers, coaches, teams and families will be a completely different experience but this was a great opportunity and an incredible first day on poolside for our volunteers.

Thank you to all the staff and the volunteering team for making us feel so welcome and for all the advice and help they gave us. It was much appreciated by us all.

You can find out more about the Ripple Effect Project here.

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