HRH The Princess of Wales celebrated the impact of people supported by the social care charity Community Integrated Care who have shared their talents and passions by volunteering with the Rugby League World Cup 2021.
The Princess met members of the charity’s pioneering Inclusive Volunteering Programme, which was delivered in partnership with the tournament, at a special reception at the England Men’s and Women’s doubleheader 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 the volunteers.
Community Integrated Care has partnered with the Rugby League World Cup 2021 to create a ground-breaking programme which 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 the volunteers participating in unique projects that are designed around their personal dreams and aspirations and receiving specialist mentoring and support via the charity’s Inclusive Volunteering team, it represents a unique model of changing lives through sport.
The Princess of Wales met three volunteers, Ian Toole from Widnes, Susan Hill from Runcorn, and John Paul Derbyshire from St Helens, along with Community Integrated Care Support Worker, Sara Jones. She was welcomed by Community Integrated Care’s Director of Partnerships and Communities, John Hughes, and Kurtis Marsh, an Inclusive Volunteering Specialist, who explained how the partnership is promoting a more inclusive and enabling society.
Each volunteer gifted the Princess of Wales with a special item, created by them, which represented some of the 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 the charity’s Rugby League World Cup Knitting Club, she had an opportunity to discuss her passion for knitting and pride in helping families in need.
The Princess quipped:
“I tried knitting once and I was terrible at it, so I’ll have to come for lessons!”
With Susan offering assurance that ‘It’s easy when you know how’, the Princess of Wales promised to arrange for the bonnets to be shared with a hospital.
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 the charity to celebrate inclusion. The shirt raises awareness of On The Same Team (www.TheSameTeam.co.uk), a primary school education programme that has been co-produced by volunteers within the charity to help tackle inclusion before it is formed. The programme, which is being accessed by almost 15,000 young people, drew praise from the Princess who highlighted the importance of engaging young people.
The Princess of Wales also commended the creative talents of 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, said:
“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 the 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 highlighting 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.”