500 volunteers with Sport England

8 March 2022 | All News

We began a new three-year, £2million partnership with Sport England at the end of 2020, aiming to help renovate and improve 225 grassroots sports clubs and other active community spaces and places in need. So far, against the odds of a pandemic, lockdown restrictions and the impact the past year has had on young people in particular, we’ve now had over 500 young people volunteer with us on our Sport England projects.

Following Sport England’s vision to ‘transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity’, together we’ve been renovating less formal ‘active spaces’ such as community centres or youth clubs that host physical activity, and these 500 young people have hit some great headlines together already:

  • 1,500 hours of volunteering
  • 30+ community spaces transformed
  • 60% of which are located in local communities among the 20% most deprived nationally
  • 450 City & Guilds accreditations gained


Vanessa Mae Watson, volunteer & 500th participant with Sport England

Vanessa is a resident with the Amber Foundation, a wonderful organisation we’ve worked with many times over the years, who support young people overcoming homelessness and unemployment, and has been volunteering on a recent project along with fellow residents from her Amber residence. 

They’ve been working with our Trade Mentors to create a new youth and community space at Wembdon Village Hall in Bridgwater, Somerset. They’ve been putting up new walls, creating wooden storage, laying flooring, as well as plastering and decorating together. Here’s a mini tour of the space so far from our Head Mentor, Alan Dalton.

Vanessa’s become our 500th participant on our projects in partnership with Sport England and kindly took some time to tell us about her experience.


Young female, wearing a grey t-shirt and grey protective gloves, leans into a timber stud wall frame, smiling at the camera

Vanessa, what does volunteering on this project mean to you?

VIY is very gratifying, and offers what I feel to be a great opportunity to learn new skills, that otherwise would not be offered to us. I myself have mental health issues that are preventing me from looking for work, on top of bidding for properties through the council that I am looking to move into, so my experience with VIY thus far has been one of the best opportunities that I have taken on.

What has your VIY experience helping to renovate this village hall taught you?

It’s not only showing you what it’s like on the job but shows you in a unique and fun way, and also provides you with qualifications after your time with them. The time with them may seem short, but actually you have just used your time productively.

The mentors are a wonderful group of people who also take into account where people are starting from and always include everyone in the group. They keep things light hearted and fun, always welcoming and love to have a laugh with you, while also following health and safety guidelines. They also understand if you have worries and encourage you to overcome them. 

Since volunteering with VIY, how have your thoughts about your future changed?

I have really enjoyed the opportunity you have given me, VIY has been one of the best opportunities I have been a part of and others that I live with and for that I thank you. 


In partnership with Toolstation

Our Sport England match-funded projects are delivered in collaboration with a variety of other stakeholders such as national sports governing bodies, local authorities, building and construction sector employers, as well as key VIY trade partners like Toolstation. 

Wembdon Village Hall is Toolstation’s fourth project in partnership with VIY. As the UK’s fastest-growing multi-channel retailer of tools and building materials, this one is right on the doorstep of their national HQ in Bridgwater. Our young volunteers across all four projects, including Vanessa, have so far collectively gained 92 City & Guilds accreditations thanks to funding across this first phase of the VIY-Toolstation partnership throughout 2021-22. Their futures are now looking a little bit brighter thanks to this opportunity to participate in helping their community.

Lesa Stanton, PR and Charity Manager at Toolstation, commented on the partnership:

“We are really proud to support Volunteer It Yourself and to help young people learn practical trade and building skills and earn a City & Guilds qualification.

Toolstation has supported more than 100 participants and is currently carrying out its fourth project with VIY. We are delighted to play a part in helping young people like Vanessa gain practical and potentially life-changing trade skills. The construction sector is facing a shortage of workers and we hope that this initiative will inspire more young people to consider entering the trades.”

Our work continues at Wembdon Village Hall through the spring, so keep an eye out on our social channels for the full transformation!