“Volunteering changed my life”

Tayah Kalli, first year Social Work student.

A first year Social Work student says she has overcome a difficult upbringing by focussing her energy into volunteering, which has helped her become a qualified coach and meet royalty.

Tayah Kalli’s commitment to volunteering with sport for development charity Active Communities Network (ACN) enabled her to progress into a paid role and deliver sessions as a qualified boxing coach. Her success came about despite coming to terms with anxiety developed from a troubled childhood and she was rewarded for her good work by attending events such as sailing with Sir Ben Ainslie and meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the opening of the America’s Cup.

ACN promotes free sport development programmes, including football and archery, to targeted age groups as a pathway into education, training and employment.


Tayah and the team at Active Communities Network

Tayah said: “My experience through volunteering as well as paid work has been one of the best in my life. I was a 14 year old who wanted to rebel and do nothing with my life before I starting volunteering at ACN. Now I am 20 years old and attending the University of Portsmouth studying Social Work.”


Tayah first came into contact with ACN when she was in secondary school in 2014.

After attending an all-female boxing session, Tayah fell in love with the sport and found that she was able to focus all her negative emotions into something more productive. She built up her fitness, made new friends and channelled her emotions into something more positive to build her confidence.

Tayah started to volunteer with ACN, helping out at their sessions and events before becoming the lead of ACN’s Youth Action Board to help reduce and prevent issues in the community. The board was involved in three films which received awards as well as recognition from the Mayor of Havant in 2015. These films, which were directed, wrote and starred in by Tayah and her team detailed issues such as unhealthy relationships, ASBOs Anonymous and child sexual exploitation.

Sailing with Sir Ben Ainslie

As the charity became more well known Tayah and ACN were invited to tour the BAR headquarters with Sir Ben Ainslie which was covered by the media. She was invited back to BAR headquarters to meet and greet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the America’s Cup where she was able to have a lengthy conversation with the pair about their mental health campaign.

Tayah’s volunteering experiences with the charity meant that she was able to progress into a paid role with ACN as a sessional worker and coach young people to motivate and educate them the same as she was when she started going to sports sessions. After attending various training she was then qualified as a boxing coach and could work alongside the team who were there for her in her younger teenage years and who she now classed as family.

Tayah said: “I absolutely loved this role and felt like I was making a difference to the lives of others, the same way my life was impacted. After two years, with the skills and experience I had gained, I managed to get a job outside of ACN as an Adult Support Worker for people with learning difficulties.”

Julian Wadsworth, Head of Programmes at ACN, said: ”It has been a huge pleasure to work with Tayah for nearly 5 years and to follow her progression and journey, including overcoming personal challenges, to where she is now, studying at the University of Portsmouth and following her dream of working within the sector.”

In October, Tayah attended an event with the support of the University, to celebrate ACN’s work and was asked to give a speech about her experience working with the organisation and how they have helped her throughout her teenage years. Various professionals were invited, whom she was able to network with, such as counsellors from Hampshire County Council, family support workers, police officers and senior staff from ACN, who offered their services when Tayah is looking for a placement during her second and third year at the  University.

If Tayah was interested in one of these companies, the University’s faculty placement team would arrange a meeting to ensure the placement was suitable for the 70 and 100 day placements that Social Work students take part in, sort out the contracts and keep in contact with Tayah to support her during the placement.

After such a positive experience, Tayah would definitely recommend volunteering and placement roles to current students: “Just go for it, you never know where it will take you or how it will change your life.”

As well as studying at the University, Tayah is also an Ambassador for ACN, attending events and sports sessions as a volunteer, and hopes to do more work with ACN soon.

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