Barking Riverside Virtual Run Challenge working with Sporting Equals

This October, Barking Riverside Limited (BRL) are challenging the people of Thames Ward to collectively run or walk the length of the River Thames – 346KM. Amazingly, in the first week of the challenge, the community smashed our target and have already run well over 400KM, so we have upped the target – can the total be doubled? Even tripled!?

At the end of the challenge, as a thank you for all of the hard work from local people, schools and our staff members, BRL will be donating money to Sporting Equals. We wanted to share more about the charity and the kind of initiatives our donation will be funding, so we sat down with Amy Heppingstall, National Programmes Manager at Sporting Equals, to find out more about their important work.

Hi Amy, great to speak to you! Can tell us a bit more about the charity and your main aims?

Absolutely! Sporting Equals exists to promote ethnic diversity across sport and physical activity. We are the only organisation in the UK to do so, so we’re quite unique in that sense.

Our chief aim is to champion diversity in sport and deliver equality at every level – from grassroots sporting organisations all the way through to elite sport - making it an inclusive sector for all.

Specifically, we have three principle aims. These are:

1) To raise awareness and understanding of the needs of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities within the sports and health sector, in order to change attitudes and increase participation in sport and physical activity.

2) To empower individuals and communities to play a part in this change and achieve their full potential through playing sport and being active.

3) To advise and support policymakers and delivery bodies to be inclusive of all under-represented groups, drawing on our experience with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

Sounds brilliant. Can you share a bit more information about your role at Sporting Equals, and the kind of projects you oversee?

In my role, I manage the three national programmes at Sporting Equals - these are LTA SERVES, LMCT Equally Active and Breaking Boundaries. Through these projects, we engage with different faith groups and ethnicities to tackle low black, Asian and minority ethnic participation in sport and physical activity – working with Mosques for the Muslim faith, Hindu Mandir temples, Sikh Gurdwaras and a variety of Christian Churches, to reach people in a number of ethnic communities across the UK.

In particular, Breaking Boundaries is a project that we are currently delivering in Barking & Dagenham, in partnership with Youth Sport Trust and funded by Spirit of 2012 aiming to bring young people, their families and communities together through regular engagement in cricket – either through playing, spectating or volunteering. We have a focus on community cohesion and discovering what we have in common rather than what divides us by using sport, cricket in this case as a tool to bring communities together. We have already seen such great benefits to the community through Breaking Boundaries, particularly through our ‘Community Champions’ – local young people who are recruited and trained on the programme to create and put on a community event and volunteer for the benefit of the wards in which they live, study, work or worship.

Our Community Champions have done so much great work for the local Barking and Dagenham area! During the pandemic they often supported community organisations to deliver supplies, support and key relief to vulnerable groups in society. They even supported and took part in digital events to keep the community connected!

That all sounds great. Any final words?

My purpose is to enable as many people as possible to be physically active, and so I think the Barking Riverside Virtual Run is a massive opportunity for the community. People forget that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand and something like the running challenge could be the first step to getting people out and involved in physical activity, which could have a really positive impact on the community’s mental health.

We’re delighted that Barking Riverside have chosen to support Sporting Equals, and we want to say a big thank you to the local community who are already out and running to raise money. We can’t wait to see the final total!

Thanks Amy!

The BRL Virtual Run is taking place until 24th October. To register, visit the Sporting Events UK portal, Individual prizes will be awarded to runners at the end of October for a number of categories - from furthest distance run to best selfie. Everyone taking part will get an exclusive Barking Riverside Virtual Run medal and running number.

Amy Heppingstall, National Programmes Manager at Sporting Equals