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A Job Worth Doing

It was normal life. It was what we knew. And it was, you know, ticking along. We were making progress. And eh, yeah, then lockdown hit.

I lead the Active Reach programme across Oxfordshire. ‘Fighting inactivity, tackling inequality’ is our tagline. It's funded by the Tackling Inequalities Fund from Sport England. The way it works is slightly complicated actually, thinking about it. They release the funding, and that comes to us to distribute to local partners. And what they asked us to do is to really reach culturally diverse communities, low economic areas, people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, those that have been really affected more than the general public by Covid.

I enjoy the office environment, and that bouncing off colleagues, and then suddenly you're at home, on your own, in essence. I found the motivation quite hard. And then the devices, you know, we only had our work laptops. So I’m trying to marry up children's lessons, work, my meetings with project meetings. And there were times when it was Zoom meetings or Teams meetings from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. I think from the start, I knew it was going to be messy.

We found the people we're trying to work with faced a lot of barriers accessing anything, accessing basic daily needs, let alone being more active. And it was quite interesting because, more so than ever before, the general public realised firstly how important being active was, but also how much they enjoyed it, and how maybe some people had lost that and didn't really make the time for it.

I particularly wanted to reach those organisations that don't actually do any physical activity at the moment, but have a really good reach, whether it's a faith organisation or a social organisation. If we keep going out to physical activity organisations, we’re gonna reach the same people, and we're not going to reach those who actually aren't active and don't engage for a variety of reasons. So, for me, the difference was that this was a variety of organisations – local organisations and non-traditional sporting organisations.

We wouldn't have been able to do it in such a short timescale, you know, in a pandemic, virtually, without the support of the District Council, and from the willingness of those organisations to step up and actually work in a really difficult time for everyone. Their enthusiasm to support their communities just, just blew us away really. We're very lucky, because ultimately, we access the funding, coordinate and submit all the funding bids, but really, working with partners to target those who need it most in the right areas – that’s such a privilege. It was wonderful to be able to do that in that timescale.

Everything completely changed with the pandemic, it was just very eye opening and freeing to be able to explore a different way of doing things. Being able to make new relationships, in this case, but they're all virtual, which was very strange. I have a hearing impairment and I struggle a little bit on screens, but I got used to it, and I've had to adapt to it. You have group meetings and lots of other projects on the go. It's been quite a strain and a stress. But this has been kind of the light of my lockdown, I suppose. In fact, I’m seeing volunteers, organisations, working in the most difficult situations you could imagine, really putting in their time and effort and enthusiasm. I'm seeing smiling faces coming back. And that, that has made me able to deal with lockdown, with the kids at home, home schooling. That's kept me going and kept my enthusiasm and motivation because I'm seeing it – I'm seeing a difference being made to people’s lives and I think that’s such a wonderful thing and real source of pride for me. And to be in such difficult circumstances, and see light and positive things happening, but as a result of your work is, is, just, yeah, I suppose it’s building confidence, building motivation, where perhaps it was not there because of circumstances.

I was very scared of failure and getting things wrong. I don't want to get things wrong. I don’t think many people do. But actually, to learn and to get things right, sometimes you have to fail. I personally have learned that from this project. A lot of the time you have to report how successful everything was and how it went swimmingly, ‘wasn't it great’. And actually, ironically, there has been so many positive outcomes from this project but along with that in the background, and with partners, we're experiencing failures and challenges on a daily basis. You start to fear it less when, actually, you can see positives coming out of addressing that and realise that by recording and sharing those difficult situations we can help our learning and understanding for the future, so that definitely has been a learning experience for me. I think that's what I'll take into future projects, I'll be a bit braver and a bit more challenging, and not be scared to fail.

We're on this planet for who knows how long, and I think if you can experience some happiness throughout that, and if physical activity and what I do and the support we give can help and support people with that, then I think it’s a job worth doing.


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