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Marathon volunteers try out new skills in advance of 2012 Games


Participants of a groundbreaking volunteering programme linked to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games helped steward crowds and runners at the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon on Sunday.

Fifteen Personal Best students from six London boroughs - Waltham Forest, Hackney, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Southwark - directed crowds, handing out refreshments to runners and offered information to visitors at the Hyde Park event.

Personal Best is run by the London Development Agency (LDA) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to help some of the city’s most disadvantaged, including long term unemployed people, to improve their job prospects. It uses the excitement of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to promote training for an accredited volunteering qualification while also offering participants support into further volunteering, training or work.
Closer to the time, graduates will be offered an interview to become a volunteer at the 2012 Games while 10% of Games time volunteers will come from the national programme.

Geoff Newton, Director of Olympic Opportunity at the London Development Agency, said: "Personal Best is about giving people the skills and confidence to make that first step into the job market, training courses or into a volunteer placement. It is great to see that after only a few months on the programme participants are confident enough to use new skills at such a high profile event.

“We aim to reduce worklessness across London by 70,000 through the 2012 Games and Personal Best will play a big role in achieving this.”

Sara Lom, Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Foundation said:“’We are delighted to have had the support of the Personal Best participants. Opportunities like the Royal Parks Half Marathon are an excellent example of volunteering and the benefits of the Personal Best programme: individuals from the community, using their skills and enthusiasm as volunteers to support events which bring people together.”

Personal Best is currently running in 11 boroughs and will soon be rolled out across all London boroughs. So far, 15% of the 370 graduates from the programme have moved into jobs, 42% have taken up further training and 33% have opted for volunteering opportunities. A further 577 from the same 11 boroughs are currently participating in the course. In total, the programme is expected to reach up to 20,000 Londoners when it is rolled out across London.

Mary Conneely, Learning and Skills Director of Regeneration, said: “Personal Best is motivating people to get back into education and training to gain the skills they need not just for the 2012 games, but also to achieve a qualification and employment. To be part of the Royal Parks Half Marathon will inspire the Personal Best participants as well as offering them practical experience and confidence in being part of a large event.”

On November 3, participants from the 11 boroughs will attend a ceremony of achievement at Wembley Stadium where they will be presented with certificates by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Olympic stars.
Quotes from Personal Best Volunteers at the Half Marathon

Myai Ung, Lambeth

“The best thing about Personal Best is that it opens up opportunities for everyone. The Royal Parks half marathon shows that and has been a great chance for me to practice my new found skills.”

Rosemary Nevers, Hackney

"The best thing about volunteering for Personal Best at the Royal Parks half marathon is having the chance to help people and also it is a great team-building opportunity.

“Being on the course has taught me to believe in myself and my abilities - no matter what anyone says, I’m the best and I can do this!”

Rebekah Fesshaye, Waltham Forest

“Today has been really exciting and I have enjoyed the experience which has given me the chance to put my skills in practice. Personal Best has helped me build confidence through teamwork. That shows today at the Royal Parks half marathon.”

“I loved today because it helped me use the news skills I have gained including teamwork and volunteering, which Personal Best has given me.”

Geoffrey Ogunleye, Tower Hamlets

“Anyone who says that volunteering is rubbish should come out and see what we are doing today at the royal parks half marathon. It’s amazing.”

“Personal Best is a brilliant scheme. It brings people out. It helps you learn more about others and makes a real difference.”

For media enquiries, please contact Sarita Bhatia at the LDA Media Team on 020 7593 8087; for public enquiries, please call 020 7593 9000; for out of hours media enquiries, please call 07977 439 371.

Notes to Editors:

* The London Development Agency aims to improve the quality of life for all Londoners - working to create jobs, develop skills and promote economic growth.
* Personal Best is being funded by the LDA and the LSC. It is being supported by the London 2012 Organising Committee, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, JobCentre Plus, Greater London Volunteering and the 11 local authorities.
* The LDA and LSC have developed the programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games based on the programme’s success at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
* The 11 boroughs taking part in the first phases of Personal Best are Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, Brent, Westminster, Southwark, Lambeth, Haringey and Croydon.
* The Personal Best training includes health and safety, first - aid awareness, customer relations, computer skills and an appreciation of the Olympic spirit. Courses will be delivered by local colleges and training providers in the heart of communities. Participants also have the option of gaining a level one qualification in Event Volunteering.
* The LDA is working with each local authority and volunteer sector partners to target participants from groups that face the biggest barriers to employment. Borough advisers are also employed to offer guidance on how to find work, gain further training and take part in local sport and community events to hone their skills.
* Personal Best graduates will be guaranteed an interview to become a volunteer at Games time. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games has a target of taking 10% of Games-time volunteers from the national Personal Best programme. Recruitment for the Games time volunteer programme will begin in 2010.
* The LDA is committed to delivering an Olympic legacy now. This includes helping Londoners access training, job, sporting and business opportunities through projects such as London Summer of Sport, Personal Best and CompeteFor. The LDA is also planning what will go on the Olympic site after the Games.


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