Why did you become an International Inspiration Ambassador?
I’m really passionate about working with and supporting young people and this made International Inspiration perfect for me. I also know as an athlete how much you can get as an individual from sport and I really support International Inspiration’s ambition to use sport to change the lives of children all over the world. Sport has certainly changed my life!
Why do you think International Inspiration is so important?
Young people sometimes have a tough time and can lose motivation. International Inspiration allows them to experience new things, develop important life skills such as organisation and empowers them, using sport as the catalyst.
I also feel that legacy is a really important part of the Games and hope that every future Olympic and Paralympic Games takes up the mantle of International Inspiration. London 2012 isn’t just about the competition, it’s about the ethos and the Olympic Values and International Inspiration is the embodiment of that.
You spent five days in Trinidad and Tobago visiting a variety of International Inspiration projects – what did you take away from the experience?
One of the main things I took from the trip was never give up on young people. Even under tough conditions they are capable of amazing things. I met children who had a lot to cope with and young people who had turned their lives around – we sometimes underestimate the resourcefulness and resilience of young people and what they can really achieve with a programme like International Inspiration to empower them.
How is the programme changing the lives of children and young people in Trinidad and Tobago?
During my trip to Trinidad and Tobago I saw sport being used to engage children and young people in a life away from drug, crime and gang culture and create more sporting opportunities in schools. I visited sporting events organised and run by Young Leaders who were trained by International Inspiration, saw Child-Friendly Spaces set up in Tobago to provide children with a safe place to play and met teachers who were trained and inspired to bring quality sports education to children in schools across the country.
What was the highlight of your visit?
Starting the Mayaro Interschool Relay Race – the event was organised and run by Young Leaders on their own initiative to bring together children from five International Inspiration schools to take part in a sporting event. It was a huge event with senior government ministers supporting and hundreds of children participating. The children taking part were also amazing – I am sure we saw a few future record breakers taking part!
Were you inspired by any of the young people you met?
During the visit I was lucky enough to see how International Inspiration is using sport as a way to engage children and young people, and inspire them to choose a life with a brighter future. One day we visited the home of an inspiring Young Leader, Sheriece, who, despite coming from a particularly deprived area of Trinidad, has been able to develop leadership and mentoring skills thanks to International Inspiration. Her whole family welcomed us in for a home cooked lunch and told us how proud they were of Sheriece’s achievements through the programme – in particular the opportunity she had to come to the UK for the 2010 UK School Games – her first ever trip out of the country!
You visited pupils from Haringey schools upon your return. Do you think it’s important that the programme is also having an impact in the UK?
Yes, I do. Children in the UK face similar difficulties and challenges as children elsewhere in the world and can equally benefit from sport.
I visited Hornsey School for Girls which has a Schools Links partnership through the British Council with a school I visited in Tobago. This link has allowed teachers to share learning, improve the quality of their physical education and has also allowed cultural links. The children equally have learnt about the life of their peers in Tobago and shared ideas and began developing friendships. This link is focusing on sports leadership and developing pupils into Young Leaders, which will help them develop leadership, organisational skills and build their confidence – essential skills for children in any country.
How important do you think International Inspiration is to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?
I think International Inspiration is a fundamental part of London 2012. The legacy programme was a central part of our bid and Seb Coe’s intention to ‘inspire millions of children around the world to participate in sport and improve their lives as a result’ is part of what makes London 2012 so special. International Inspiration is bringing that promise and legacy to life and taking the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to 12 million children in 20 countries.