Premiership Rugby have revealed a shortlist of six inspiring individuals who have been nominated for the Community Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by CVC, including our very own expert volunteer, Amber Morgan.

Amber has been working tirelessly with our HITZ students during the past year. The winner will be announced at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Awards ceremony, attended by MPs, taking place at the House of Commons on 12 July.

The Parliamentary Awards is a celebration of the incredible work and impact achieved by Premiership Rugby and its clubs, demonstrating how their work is making an invaluable contribution to addressing some of the biggest societal challenges.Premiership Rugby seeks to help tackle inequalities that exist, believing wholeheartedly that all young people, no matter their background or ability, should have equal access to sporting opportunities which help them fulfil their potential.

CVC are proud sponsors of this award designed to recognise a person who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community through their work at their local Premiership Rugby club. Each person on the shortlist has utilised not only their spare time but their life experience, passion and dedication to helping support the lives of others.

Amber's Story... 

Amber Morgan (Bath Rugby)is an expert Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner who volunteers a day of her time, each week, to provide Bath Rugby HITZ students with mental health support. The fallout of the pandemic on young people is now becoming clear, with Amber seeing many HITZ students struggling with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem as a result. Amber felt strongly that everyone struggling should be able to access a therapist, however waiting lists for free support are long, and most families cannot access a private therapist, due to financial constraints. Amber meets with HITZ participants every Monday and having been with the Bath Rugby Foundation for the last 10 months, she has started to see that there is a marked improvement in the well-being of participants who see her. Amber is making a huge positive impact by educating students on the importance of talking and dealing with mental health issues, equipping them with life skills and the proactive tools needed to reduce feelings of crisis. Invaluable to them now but also as they move forward in life.

The other nominees...

Andy Bassett(Exeter Chiefs)has been working on the HITZ programme for over three years making a fundamental difference in the lives of many of the participants. Not only via work experience and employment opportunities with his construction company but through the small gestures that can make the biggest difference. From making sandwiches at home to bring in ensuring no student goes hungry, sourcing new football kits to initiating donations of rugby or football boots that led to an influx of equipment for the students. Andy assists in lessons by volunteering to help with whatever is needed and his unwavering commitment to give back to the younger generation is admirable. More than 50 young people have experienced the non-judgemental and empathetic support given by Andy. He embodies the values and qualities that HITZ wants to instil in students. Andy has passion, kindness and dedication to helping students exceed the expectations life had set out for them.

Jay Denby(Gloucester Rugby)has a passion for making others happy, evident in the long list of ways in which she has helped the HITZ programme. She joined initially to gain her maths qualification then became a Games Maker assisting on matchdays to ensure fans get the best possible experience. Despite her own mental health challenges and severe anxiety, Jay has provided so much strength to others. She has completed well over 200 hours of work experience for HITZ - from activities with the Veterans Group and Walking Rugby sessions to Community Events helping the elderly, and being 1-to-1 support for the DIF project that educates people on technology to prevent isolation and improve wellbeing. The list is endless and not surprisingly her skills to improve the confidence of others have spurred her on to pursue a career as a Teaching Assistant. Jay has come out of her comfort zone to become a role model who proves anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Joshua Evans(Newcastle Falcons)has made a significant difference at the Falcons igniting a group of young people to volunteer and get involved on match days with ‘The Cast’, a crew of people who help the fans experience of matches go smoothly. His desire to help others came about after he personally struggled with crippling anxiety. He joined the HITZ programme at 16 years old to study and pursue his dream career in firefighting. Josh volunteered at the local Fire Service, Lifeboat service and on matchdays at the Falcons. All of this whilst studying full-time on the HITZ programme and working part-time at a supermarket. His love of the sea spurred him on to become a qualified lifeboat driver and his volunteer work at the RNLI is literally lifesaving. As a cadet at the local fire station, he takes part in training exercises, learning what it takes to become a firefighter. Josh has talked with genuine passion about his role volunteering at the Falcons on match days and has encouraged and supported numerous students to experience the benefits of helping others. He professes that he will never give up helping other people.

Sarah Loky (Harlequins)is an integral member of the Harlequins Wheelchair Rugby Club volunteering more than 60 hours of her time in the last year to ensure every member receives a chair best suited to their needs. She attends training sessions and travels to every game to always be on hand to maintain the chairs and adjust the specialised equipment so players can safely play to the best of their ability. Sarah takes the time to understand the players’ motivations and individual needs. In disability sports where a player’s performance can be drastically affected by their comfort and enjoyment, Sarah has learnt the mechanics and nuances of correct seat positioning and strapping for each player. Sarah does all of this on top of being a primary school teacher, a demanding,exhausting and pressurised job on its own. Without the selfless support of able-bodied volunteers like Sarah, there is no doubt that the Wheelchair Rugby Club at Harlequins would not exist.

Merrall Stanworth (Sale Sharks)has come from a place of isolation and sadness after recently losing her husband who was an avid Sales Shark fan. His sudden death meant Merrall hit rock bottom and she contacted the Sharks Community Trust in the first lockdown after seeing a post offering anyone lonely a friendly voice to chat to. Following regular interaction, during this period over weekly calls the team invited Merrall in and slowly built her back up via a Walking Rugby group. Merrall was then given a role in the Armed Forces project after confiding that she lacked fulfilment. An initial two hours a week of volunteering quickly turned into 16 hours a week and Merrall has now helped more than 75 veterans across the North West. She has inspired so many to find a love for rugby, like her husband did for her, largely due to the family ethos of the sport. Unsurprisingly, Merrall is now in discussions to develop a bigger role within the Trust in developing the project for others.

Jane Howard, CSR Manager, CVC, says, “The calibre of volunteers Premiership Rugby has across all programmes is incredible. They provide their support, knowledge and expertise for free, often week after week, to help participants. What they bring is invaluable and I only wish we could give an award to everyone on the shortlist. Thank you to all of you for the excellent work you do!”Community programmes such as HITZ, Project Rugby, Champions and the Land Rover Cup are just some of the initiatives that Premiership Rugby run nationwide to help young people fulfil their potential.

Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community & CSR Director says, “Thanks to the support of partners like CVC we are proud to say we help over 250,000 people annually via our community programmes. Our partners and the community teams, supported by our invaluable volunteers help us to increase the opportunity for anyone and everyone to play rugby and experience the difference bringing the sport into their lives can make.”

Other awards being presented at the ceremony, attended by MPs and stars from Premiership teams, include Outstanding Achiever of the Year, Rugby Ambassador of the Year and Community Coach of the Year.

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