Hillingdon Slipstreamers is a registered cycling charity with an active membership of cyclists aged 5-16 years old. It is a club run entirely by volunteers and it works to promote safe cycling by teaching young people and the public about road safety, improving riding skills and working to maintain the health of under 16-year olds.
Hillingdon Slipstreamers have over 70 unpaid adult volunteers ranging from 18 to 80 years; a growing pool of over 25 Young Volunteers aged 14-18; as well as several helpers, as young as 7 who contribute to the success of the club in varying ways. They believe that the accessibility in volunteering is relative to the individual, seasonal, and very much skills dependant. On that basis, we provide various opportunities so our volunteers can choose what to get involved with – some are more committed and longer term (e.g. coaching and committee roles), others ad hoc to fit around schedules (sign on, event support, workshop delivery, administration), some specialist and one off (e.g. delivering a first aid course, presenting a workshop) - nobody is pigeon-holed into one role and all contribution are equally valued.
Their volunteering programme is based on the premise that everything they do needs to provide a balance of opportunity, not just for the young cycling members, but also the volunteers. The club was created in 1998 when Hillingdon Cycle Circuit was built after the Hayes Bypass was opened to traffic. A stretch of road that no longer went anywhere became a race route for cyclists, and Sir Bradley Wiggins started his racing career there as a youngster. It was founded by a small group of volunteers that actively worked to engage with the local community. It is a fully inclusive club that welcomes and encourages anyone with a passion for volunteering to get involved. As a result, it is a diverse melting pot of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and communities. Not all volunteers have children who cycle, and some have seen their children and grandchildren move through the club, but remain involved because of the community feel and love of making a difference. Young cyclists are encouraged to give back once they have moved through membership by being active in a youth leadership programme where they can help mentor younger members and develop their own practical skills. It is because the club invests in the development of their volunteers that they have a growing pool of young volunteers.
Many of their volunteers regularly share their knowledge with other volunteers, e.g. our web editor teaching software skills or coaches upskilling rider helpers to become future coaches. Member Representatives – 5 boys, 5 girls, aged 12+ – sit on the Club Committee and contribute to discussion and decision making, enabling them to participate, experience and influence club governance; thereby building on their life skills. Slipstreamers regularly encourage volunteers to shadow others, e.g. working with mechanics servicing bikes, supporting first aiders on duty to understand more about safety, or helping with administration in the background. Anecdotally, a volunteer who owns a bike shop provided a work experience opportunity for a 15-year-old female young volunteer. She developed the skills required to not only source relevant cycle components but to build her own custom bicycle. As a result, she is now the family mechanic!
Retaining volunteers is a key reason that Hillingdon Slipstreamers has been able to thrive since 1998. Volunteers are routinely thanked and nominated for awards inside and outside of the club for their important work and regularly receive small gifts. The club also has a unique way of saying thank you– late president, Brian Wright, introduced a legacy of rewarding called “Brian’s Chair” – which recognises both members and volunteers who have achieved success by having them stand on the chair, raise their arms and receive their applause. This positive environment and place where the local community can come together is more than just a cycling club – it’s a place where people develop as individuals by participating and being active in sport
Hillingdon Slipstreamers also take the time to nominate fellow volunteers for awards outside the club, an important part of our recognition system that serves to remind just how important the work they do is. British Cycling have recognised several of our volunteers over the years as Coach, Volunteer and/ or Young Coach of the Year; and recently, Slipstreamers was awarded “National Go-Ride Club of the Year”, with specific reference to the impact of our Young Volunteering programme. London Youth presented us with a “Young Leader Award” and the “Outdoor Education Award” at their recent London Youth Awards evening for noticeable impact towards achieving desired outcomes for young people. Another excellent example is the work that went into nominating their Chair Alison Grant, for a BEM, which was awarded to her as part of the 2016 Honour’s List.
Asti Kanaris Young Volunteer Coordinator commented “Hillingdon Slipstreamers is passionate about providing opportunities for children and young people to have fun outdoors, develop life skills, build resilience and be the best they can be through cycle sport. Volunteers make this possible and that’s why we entered the Volunteering Award. Winning this award is a powerful validation for every single volunteer who is passionate about cycling and making a difference to children and young people. Every penny of the prize money will be re-invested in our programmes to recruit, retain and reward our volunteers.”