Chanelle Gallagher, Scottish Sport Futures Ambassador of the Year 2019 and a student at the University of West of Scotland, tells Sport First how she has benefited from taking every volunteering opportunity that has come her way.
Chanelle embarked on her volunteering journey in high school, when she led a netball session at her school and organised activities at the local primary school. But after finishing high school and going to college, she wasn’t sure where to look for the right opportunities to get involved.
During her first year at college, SSF representatives came around to speak to students about their programmes and ways to get involved.
“I was sitting in the front row, keeping up eye contact and I kept replying to all their questions, it felt like just a conversation between me and them. I was really interested in their programmes, it felt great to find out more.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Chanelle’s volunteering journey
Chanelle made a good impression – a few days later she received a call from SSF inviting her to attend a weekend Active East residential to learn more about the programmes. Over the weekend she learned about programme development, child protection and coaching – she was hooked!
“After the residential I started volunteering – some of it didn’t work well for me, but it allowed me to find the ones I love and still am a part of.”
She now volunteers with programmes such as Shell Twilight Girls, NOMADS, Beacon Warriors and mental health programmes at University of West Scotland.
She recently completed a 12-week programme as a mentor in Chance:2:Be as a university placement.
One of the programmes Chanelle is most fond of is NOMADS – a partnership between the UK and seven other European countries. It allows young people to experience development and education in other countries by leading sport and work camps for young people. In the past two years Chanelle had a chance to work in Estonia, France and Barcelona.
“Participating in NOMADS was an eye-widening experience, it allowed me to better understand barriers that some people are experiencing – something that I probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend if I was just volunteering locally.”
Through participating in so many programmes and working with a wide range of people, Chanelle developed great communication skills, significantly improved on her time management and organisational abilities as week as growing leadership skills.
“The best thing I got out of all my volunteering is that I became a very open person – I’ll just jump on every opportunity!”
Importance of mental health
Chanelle is an advocate for mental health and wellbeing through her work with SSF, Beacon Warriors and at UWS. She leads on a programme designed by Beacon Warriors to provide knowledge and better understanding on the importance of mental health as well as actively work with girls to become more accepting and open in order to improve their mental wellbeing. It is not a sports-specific programme but Chanelle incorporates a lot of games and movement exercises to encourage girls to express themselves. There’s a lot of dancing, some gymnastic and even theatre involved.
Chanelle also leads on a mental health initiative at UWS, where she uses a ‘mood jar’ to help young girls express the changes in their mood throughout the day, to demonstrate how sport can affect their mental wellbeing.
Recently Chanelle took part in a new project as part of a new initiative led by SSF and the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), to become a mental wellbeing ambassador. The project will promote positive mental health for young people and address the stigma and discrimination felt by those with mental health problems.
Finding the balance
Despite having a lot on her plate, Chanelle remains positive and upbeat at all times. Although some days can get overwhelming, the support she receives from SSF allows her to always stay afloat.
“It’s a community of its own. There’s always someone who will lend a helping hand, cover your session or just listen.
"Also, sometimes you just have to do something for yourself – take a trip, read a book, relax!”
Chanelle believes that to stay motivated and be a great role model you have to take opportunities and not be afraid to try new things.
“I think what makes me a good role model is the fact that I’ll try literally anything. And for the girls I work with it’s important to see that there are things I can’t do either, so we can try them together and see what works.”