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“I used my setback as a platform for my comeback”

written by Luke Rees 08/08/2016

How sport and volunteering changed my life

My name is Luke Rees and I am a nineteen year old student currently studying at the University of South Wales. I am an Ambassador for Sport Wales and Youth Sport Trust as well as being an Ambassador for the #IWill Campaign. I am mostly known for representing young peoples’ voices at high organisations. I currently sit on the Sport Wales Board, Public Health Wales Board and Welsh Rugby Union Youth Board.

I first became involved with volunteering at the age of fourteen when I attended Brynmawr Foundation School. My pathway into volunteering was quite different to most people.

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After months passed by with me suffering with depression I started to realise that it was having a negative affect on the people who meant the most to me and who were supporting me through this extremely tough time. I knew somehow I had to change. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But I was determined to become the young boy who I used to be and turn my life back around.When I was in year nine in school my life took a turn for the worse as I was diagnosed with depression, which left me with very little confidence, and belief in myself. My whole outlook on life completely changed within such a short space of time. I went from being a very happy young person who used to love playing sport every day to someone who on some days would even be scared to leave the house. 

The first step I chose to take trying to turn my life around was to do something that would take my mind of everything going on in the outside world. So I chose to start volunteering.

The hardest step I had to take when I started volunteering was having to ask for help on how to become a leader. My local sports development officer advised me to sign up to a Sports Leaders UK course. This was a big step for me to make, as I wasn’t very committed and wasn’t aware of what I was signing up for. I knew that if I wanted to become a volunteer then I had to attend this course and be prepared to make a commitment to my role as a volunteer.

I realised that nothing in life worth having comes easy and there is no elevator to success and I had to take to the stairs. I knew I had to be prepared to work hard, but the hardest step I had to make was the first. My setback in life soon became my platform for my comeback. Change starts with you and I was determined to become a better person for it.

"I realised that by helping others I was actually helping myself."


Although volunteering was helping me it also gave me the opportunity to help others. A year on since I started volunteering I realised that by helping others I was actually helping myself. It’s important to realise that the road to success isn’t just a straight line. It actually has lots of twists, bumps and hills to challenge everything you do. That doesn’t mean you just give up though. It means you just keep moving forward and use your set backs as your comebacks.

After two years of volunteer coaching in schools and at local sports events I had the amazing and life changing opportunity to become a part of Sport Wales and Youth Sport Trust, Young Ambassador Program. As a young ambassador its not just about being a volunteer, it’s about being a role model and inspiring a generation of young people to participate in sport.

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As young people we are made to make a lot of hard decisions at an early age. With everything else going on in our lives, with pressures being added to you from school or family, it’s not always an easy decision to decide to volunteer within your free time. But I can honestly admit by becoming a volunteer it has changed my whole outlook on life.

In my life I know I have made mistakes but I regret nothing even if my past was full of hurt, I still look back and smile because it made me who I am today. The past wouldn’t have given me the motivation to help others. No one can go back and make a brand new start, but anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

After being a volunteer for over four years and having volunteered over a thousand hours in my local community developing and providing sporting opportunities for young people. I decided to become an advocate for young people and volunteers to share my story with others with the aim to inspire young people to unlock there full potential.

I am now lucky enough to attend schools, conferences and events all of the UK inspiring people to volunteer and to challenge others to unlock their full potential.

Many young people I see are unhappy with their health. The main issue most people have in common is that they’re too scared to change or try something new. People shouldn’t be afraid to change. You may lose something good but you may gain something better. Everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks of changing him or her selves.

Everyone around us has something that they are not happy about. Yet many few decide to do something about it. Never doubt what you can do. Because you can do anything you put your mind to.

I would strongly encourage anyone to give up some of their free time and start volunteering. In life you only get out what you put it and one of the greatest gifts you can give is your time, so use it wisely and try volunteering. It’s up to you how far you go. But if you don’t try you’ll never know.

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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