Find out what life is really like at Durham University

EventsSportStudent experienceVolunteering

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – Student Sport volunteering

Sport is a core part of Durham University life for many of our students: Palatinate purple stash, dress-up socials and events, award formals at college and inter-collegiate matches at Maiden Castle are all everyday occurrences at Durham.  That is why we students especially appreciate the importance of sport and the massive impact it can have on people. It is a way to make new friends, achieve personal goals, and learn new skills.

Sport for everyone

The University’s Community Department, in partnerships with DCC and Sport England, runs the Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds (HBHM) project to give people with mental health problems, learning disabilities, and Autistic Spectrum Disorders the opportunity to develop these skills through a wide range of sporting activities that they may not have access to otherwise.

Over the past three years, HBHM has run an annual sports day that takes place in summer term for school leavers between the ages of 16-21, offering activities such as shooting, archery, athletics, rugby, wheelchair basketball, boccia, and curling.

HBHM teams up with sixth form centres, special needs schools, residential care, mental health hospitals and mental health day care centres to ensure as many young adults as possible participate in sports that are vital for their social, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. If this all sounds like a lot of fun, then you’re in luck – HBHM needs us Durham students to volunteer for the sports day on 23 June to support the activities or to act as project leaders or to coordinate the sessions and chaperone the pupils.

Value of volunteering

If the lure of giving your time to support vulnerable members of your community and enriching your CV isn’t enough you will also get a free lunch and T shirt. And, for those graduating this year, that CV, and the prospect of job applications, can seem like a looming threat and a heavy burden that you’re trying to bury beneath all those empty pint glasses. However, although you’ve heard it all before, volunteering for an established event like this can lighten that burden by making you stand out from other university graduates.  For second and first years should you wish to become a volunteer on a regular basis there is also the opportunity for formal training and gaining sport specific qualifications sponsored by the University.

Make a difference

Your degree is obviously important, but showing that you can give up your time and use your skills to help and teach others, especially those with complex mental health and physical problems, can make the anonymous candidate behind the academically dazzling CV seem more appealingly human, rounded, and approachable for an employer.

As students, we sometimes get blinded by the importance of academia. From school to university, we get told good grades and a degree will give us all the skills we need in life.  The HBHM project will help show you otherwise: sports and physical activity, above everything, is something accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical or mental wellbeing.
If you can’t make 23 June 23, or you are interested in other opportunities to volunteer, HBHM also runs other activities throughout the year in partnerships with other groups.

Choose from a variety of sports projects

Dementia Care participates in ‘Games for the Brain’, such as table tennis and dance; a drug and alcohol rehabilitation group, Free the Way, attends table tennis and badminton sessions; Blindlife, a group of blind and partially sighted people, who learn to row; whilst Durham University Counselling Services join ‘Calm to the Core’ sessions where Pilates and Yoga is used to help anxiety management.

With such a range of sports and activities on offer, and various teaching and leadership roles to take on, there’s no excuse to not give volunteering a go. Start it this term, with the HBHM sports day, or watch out for the new timetable that begins in September.

Sports is fun, sociable, active, and rewarding; it gives you skills you can only find in a court not a classroom and, above all, unite members of both the student and local community.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the sports day on 23 June or any other activities, or simply have questions about what’s on offer, email Project Manager Deborah Cairns at

Florianne Humphrey

Sign up to our Mailing List