Blog: Shaida Akbar, Get Berkshire Active

Rates of volunteering in England are increasing. 44% of adults volunteered through a group, club or organisation at least once a year in 2012-13 according to the Community Life survey. This compares to 39% in 2010-11. This is music to our ears, as the continued success of Community Games relies on people volunteering their time, skills and enthusiasm to organising great events for neighbours, friends, colleagues and families to enjoy and participate in.

Our Shining Lights initiative is designed to recognise the unsung heroes who make community events happen. But what drives people to volunteer? In this blog, we catch up with Shaida Akbar, Get Berkshire Active's 2014 Shining Light, to find out her story. 

So you’re Get Berkshire Active's 2014 Shining Light – congratulations. How does it feel?

Shaida: It’s an amazing feeling being part of this. Community Games is a way for me to bring the Olympic legacy to Upton Lea and to keep it alive through a fusion of diverse cultural and sporting activities.

The Community Games event was organised by the Upton Lea Unity Group so I’m dedicating my award to each and everyone who made it successful.

You put so much energy into Community Games. What inspires you?

Shaida: I strive to help the whole community to unite and to play sports in a fun-filled environment. Seeing all the smiling faces, cheers and hugs from participants was absolutely amazing. I also believe in encouraging healthy lifestyles, developing sports at a grass roots level and sharing with everyone a sense that we can all be champions.

You clearly have a lot of motivation – tell us more about where your enthusiasm for sport and exercise comes from?

I’ve loved sport from an early age and want to share this passion with everyone. I’ve suffered with many health battles and exercise has always helped to heal them. I believe that sport should be for everyone regardless of ability or finances.

It’s great that you’re now putting this passion for activity into your community. How did you first get involved in Community Games?

Shaida: I became aware of the programme at an event management course organised by Get Berkshire Active in early 2013. I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to utilise the skills learnt on the course and bring the Community Games buzz to Slough. I ran our first Community Games event last summer and was responsible for the overall management of the event to ensure its success.

Organising a Community Games and encouraging participation isn't easy. How did you find the process?

Shaida: I’ve loved every bit of the journey. It’s showed me anything and everything is possible with a lot of hard work. The challenges we encountered were huge, but to see around 450 people come to our Community Games was amazing and all challenges were overcome with smiles and determination.

Any highlights?

Shaida: The closing ceremony was amazing, particularly seeing the faces of all the children light up when they were awarded with medals. We’re always up for a challenge to inspire our community to get more active and are looking forward to our next Community Games. 

Your smiles and determination clearly led to a fantastic event. Any other tips on how to run a successful Community Games?

I would say, make sure you take the time to enjoy the day with the local community. And also, encourage anyone thinking about doing it to just do it, as it will in turn inspire others to do the same.

Feeling inspired? If you’re encouraged by Shaida’s story, why not organise a Community Games in your area? Simply register your Community Games and get access to great resources, tips and support. And if you sign up by 30th June you’ll have the chance to win £500 for your community.

Blog: Shaida Akbar, Get Berkshire Active