Dynamic Young Communities, originally funded by Comic Relief and now supported by the Rank Foundation (with occasional supplementary project funding from other sources), is based in the two Rhondda Valleys and is led by Mark Hutton, who worked previously for People & Work as a project leader on the School Focused Communities project. Mark worked for Bosch Automotive for 19 years before coming to People & Work. He is also a trained fitness and healthy living coach with several years experience working with groups and individuals. In his spare time Mark coaches youth rugby. Dynamic Young Communities is a project in which we are hoping to learn how best to use sport and physical activity as a means of encouraging individuals and families to engage with the development of their own communities. We want to find out how to create an environment which encourages community members to organise community activities and to sustain them, helping people from some of South Wales’ most disadvantaged areas to take ownership of local events, clubs and activities, discovering and developing talents and abilities which have so far remained hidden due to lack of opportunity. 50 young people have been trained to Level 2 in Sports Leadership (a qualification from Sports Leaders UK) and are now volunteering in their local communities, delivering sport, health and fitness activities to other young people. We are grateful for the partnership with the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Wales which enabled the delivery of this training in collaboration with Mark Hutton. One of the most exciting aspects of the project has been the sudden uptake of rugby in Rhondda, especially with 60 girls and young women playing for the first time. Alongside all the new action on the pitch, there has been an explosion of volunteering and community activities off the pitch. There are at least 30 new volunteers helping with events and managing activities and several local businesses are assisting with sponsorship. People & Work is currently exploring how to extend this model of sports and community development with several partners. This rugby revival in Rhondda has attracted attention from a number of key sporting bodies, including the Welsh Rugby Union and Sport Wales. Several young people have gone on to play representative rugby and to coach others as a result of this project! One of the original girls’ team from Wattstown (Kira Lee Philpott, Team Pink) is currently doing a Level 3 Apprenticeship with the WRU and features on one of their promotional videos. Dynamic Young Communities has collaborated with other community projects in the area, bringing some of its learning and expertise to a wider audience. A good example has been the collaboration with the Community Voice project in Ynysybwl and our own Appening Rhondda App development project to produce an armchair exercise video which is available on a DVD and via an App (SitFit) designed and built by young people from Rhondda.
Since September 2017 Mark has led on a project which was developed out of the learning from all the other sports and fitness projects in recent years: Challenge Champions, supported by Children in Need, works with young people from across Rhondda to develop fitness, healthy eating, sport tasters and, finally, a challenge of their choice to raise money for Children in Need. It’s proving to be really popular and has received very positive feedback from the young people involved. The first group devised a triathlon with a twist! They started with kayaking on the lake at Cydach Vale followed by cycling on the local track and then a three hour hike in the Rhondda hills.