Our Volunteers meet the Princess of Wales
HRH The Princess of Wales celebrated the impact of people we support across our charity, who have shared their talents and passions by volunteering with the Rugby League World Cup 2021.
The Princess met members of our charity’s pioneering Inclusive Volunteering Programme at a special reception at the England Men’s and Women’s double header fixture at the DW Stadium on Saturday 5th November.
Thanking them for their inspiring contribution to the tournament and all that they have done for their communities, the special recognition was described as “a dream come true” by our volunteers.
Our ground-breaking Inclusive Volunteering programme with the Rugby League World Cup 2021 has given more than 350 people who have support needs, such as learning disabilities, autism and mental health concerns, the platform to grow in independence, discover new passions and make friends through volunteering. With volunteers participating in unique projects that are designed around their personal dreams and aspirations, and receiving specialist mentoring and support via our Inclusive Volunteering team, it represents a unique model of changing lives through sport.
The Princess of Wales met three of our volunteers – Ian Toole from Widnes, Susan Hill from Runcorn, and John Paul Derbyshire from St Helens – along with Support Worker, Sara Jones. She was welcomed by our Director of Partnerships and Communities, John Hughes, and Kurtis Marsh, Inclusive Volunteering Specialist, who explained how our incredible partnership is promoting a more inclusive and enabling society.
Each of our volunteers gifted the Princess of Wales with a special item that they had created, representing some of programmes that they have participated in.
Poignantly, Susan Hill, who is affectionately known as ‘Princess Susan’ by her friends and support team for her love of the monarchy and regal themes, had the chance to meet a real-life Princess. Gifting the Princess of Wales special bonnets, which she has created for premature babies in our Rugby League World Cup Knitting Club, she had an opportunity to discuss her passion for knitting and pride in helping families in need.
Ian Toole, who plays for Widnes Vikings in the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League, gifted the Princess a special-edition England Rugby League shirt, which has been designed by people supported by our charity to celebrate inclusion. The shirt raises awareness of On The Same Team (www.TheSameTeam.co.uk), our primary school education programme to help tackle inclusion before it is formed.
The Princess of Wales also commended the creative talents of our volunteers, having been gifted hand-made soaps and special artworks that celebrate Community Integrated Care’s mission of enabling people to live the ‘Best Life Possible’, from John Paul Derbyshire.
John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities at Community Integrated Care, says: “This experience was a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment for our volunteers and colleagues. After more than two years of dedicated volunteering and the delivery of this programme, the opportunity to share our story with Princess of Wales was a real honour.
The Princess was deeply engaged in the conversations with our guests, sharing her support for the impact that Community Integrated Care is making in the sport and in the wider community with Inclusive Volunteering. We were delighted to hear her encouragement of our efforts to tackle bullying and discrimination through our campaigning and education work, and her interest in our many social impact projects – from building a Rugby League World Cup 2021 themed community garden to knitting hundreds of bonnets for babies who are born prematurely.
Above all, she was gracious and enthusiastic in recognising the talents of our volunteers – giving wonderful feedback on their soap making, knitting and artwork. The Princess of Wales finished her visit by thanking the group for all that they have done and highlighted the importance of the work of volunteers in the community. Everyone in the group was deeply proud of this recognition. Our thanks go to our partners at the Rugby League World Cup 2021 for their brilliant support in making this experience happen.”
Susan Hill, said: “When I was told that I would be meeting the Princess of Wales, I thought that I was dreaming! It was wonderful to meet Her Royal Highness and to tell her about my experiences volunteering with Community Integrated Care. It was special to be able to give her some of my knitting and tell her about my volunteering with the charity. She was very kind and welcoming.
This project has changed my life. It has given me something exciting to do and helped me to make lots of friends. I have done things that I will never forget and been able to help other people. I am thankful to everyone who makes these experiences possible.”