Two Swindon street games volunteers are celebrating, having both won national awards which recognise an outstanding dedication to volunteering and bear testimony to their lives being transformed through the power of sport.
Steven Morrell, aged 20, scooped the Unsung Hero accolade whilst his friend and colleague Steven Mapstone, aged 17, clinched the Volunteer’s Volunteer of the Year title, triumphing over scores of other entries from across the country at the StreetGames volunteer ceremony.
Steven Mapstone, who now lives with foster carers in Lawn, decided to turn his life around last summer when he ended up on the wrong side of the law. What started as volunteering for community service last July became tireless work of his own free- will because he wanted to help himself and others. He said: “I had got caught fighting, riding in a stolen car and other bad stuff. But I wanted to change and get out of it. When the StreetGames opportunity came along, I really enjoyed it and tried to make something of it.”
To give himself the best chance of making a fresh start, he moved to a different area and made new friends. He added: “I knew I had to get away so I didn’t keep getting into trouble. Living with a foster family gave me stability while I focused on the football coaching. I’ve built up my experience and now have qualifications, which led to getting paid work. I’m really chuffed about that but still volunteer because it opened doors for me and is good fun.”
Steven now coaches teenagers for Swindon Football in the Community Trust and introduces children of all abilities to sports, such as rounders, basketball and skateboarding, through the StreetGames initiative.
“I’m doing a course to help children with disabilities, which is really rewarding. We all get on and have a great time. I like seeing people achieve something new because that’s what I’ve done too,” he said. “I feel like I’ve turned a corner and really want to stay straight now. I’m really happy I’ve finally done something right in life. When I look back at what I used to do, it seems really stupid – like walking out of the shop with a box of washing powder. What was that about? Winning this award is amazing really and I just want to keep it going and say thanks for the chance to sort myself out.”
Steven Morrell, who moved to Swindon last summer, has an equally inspiring story after becoming involved with StreetGames through the Prince’s Trust Inner Flame project, which helps young people build self-confidence and reach their goals. He said: “I had failed my Army medical and dropped out of college, so needed to get stuck into something new.
“StreetGames has been brilliant – you meet new people, help them reach goals and gain lots of skills for yourself too.”
Steven has already volunteered 460 hours and also gained a wide range of coaching qualifications, resulting in paid employment. He said: “Some of the work I do now is for money and some is voluntary. It’s all equally rewarding. Sport really breaks down barriers and gives a sense of purpose. I’ve been working with a blind lady who climbs, swims, goes to the gym – she has shown me that there really are no limits in life if you set your mind to it.”
Originally living in the Foyer, which provides supported housing for young people, Steven now shares a flat in the town centre. He said: “It’s great to feel more independent and that things are moving in the right direction. I want to get more qualified and I’ve been asked to join the StreetGames young ambassador group, so I’ll see where it all takes me. StreetGames is a great thing – and would probably change people’s perception of what the council does. There are people who really care and want to help. I’m grateful for the opportunities and support. To win an award feels pretty special and it shows if you put the effort in, good things really happen.”
Cllr David Renard, Swindon Borough Council Leader, said: “Many congratulations to these teenagers who have transformed their own lives by helping others. Their experiences demonstrate how with the right attitude and support, combined with the power of sport, great achievements can be made. My son played football with Stephen Mapstone in the 2013/14 season and I was aware he was getting into trouble and feared for his future, so this turnaround is really remarkable and heart-warming. I would also like to say well done to everyone involved in the StreetGames initiative – your hard work, commitment and belief is truly commendable and a tremendous credit to Swindon.”
StreetGames is a national charity which encourages disadvantaged young people to engage in physical activity, supported by Sport England, Sport Wales and Coca-Cola Great Britain.
Since the scheme started two years ago in Swindon, more than 1,000 young people, aged 14-25, have participated in the free weekly sports sessions.
If you’re a young person looking for an opportunity to get active and more involved in the community through StreetGames, email email@example.com or call: (01793) 465405. Find out more online at www.swindon.gov.uk/streetgames or on Twitter