Susan Woodward and Jesmond FC have given hope, happiness and inclusion to some of their community’s most vulnerable children.
Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) is thanking its 8,000 dedicated, hard-working volunteers that make playing football in our region possible this week as part of National Volunteer Week 2020.
National Volunteer Week, from 18 to 24 May, is an annual celebration which acknowledges the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. This year the theme is “Changing Communities. Changing Lives.”
Woodward started her association with Newcastle Football club Jesmond FC about 10 years ago when her son began playing in the under-6s.
A decade later, Woodward is the club secretary, registrar, coordinator of small-sided games, coaching and gala days and coordinates the club’s major fundraiser. She also somehow finds time to sort out fixtures and referees.
But most importantly, Woodward and the Rams have become an inspirational new home.
“About two-thirds of our players are refugees. They come from a variety of backgrounds. We’ve got about eight or nine different nationalities at our club,” Woodward said.
“Most kids arrive here with nothing. Not even boots to play in. So for the last five or six years we’ve coordinated with a couple of charities and we ask all our players to donate any old boots or shinpads they aren’t using anymore.
“[The families of these kids] are over the moon. Most of these families don’t have transport either. So we organise through the coach or manager for the kids to carpool to games. We go above and beyond to make sure we cover every base. And the parents are extremely grateful. You see it on the faces of the kids at the end of games.
“It’s what I love the most [about volunteering]. That reward you get from the kids. You can’t put it into words. They’re so thankful to be able to get out and play the game. Some of them come from absolutely devastating backgrounds overseas. So to make them so happy is everything.”
Woodward has also coached her son’s team on and off over the years.
But she was also quick to point out that many hands make light work at Jesmond and paid tribute to the club’s committee.
“We’re only a small, little group. But we work so hard,” she said.
“We’ve got a great committee. Without their help we wouldn’t be able to make anything happen.
“Craig, Jodie, Amy, Amanda, Debbie. Without their help we couldn’t do what we do.
“I work 30 or 40 hours a week as well. So it’s a massive sacrifice. I’m very lucky my kids understand how much it means to me. They know why I do it and what we’re doing and that we’re looking at the big, overall picture, not the little one.”