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School Of Hard Knocks Appoints New Wales Director

Damian James, Welsh Director for leading charity, School Of Hard Knocks.

Leading charity, School Of Hard Knocks (SOHK), has a new Director heading up its work in Wales; Damian James has been appointed to strengthen the charity’s mission of using rugby and other high impact sports as a vehicle to deliver social change.

Mr James joins the charity having previously been an experienced leader within the Sport for Development Sector and is currently a Trustee of Street Football Wales. He has also managed outdoor and surf therapy programmes for Swansea City Council and aims to bring that experience to his new role.

He says: “Key to me joining School Of Hard Knocks is the fact it’s at the forefront of using physical activity to address mental health and wellbeing issues across all social groups. The reach and scale of its work is both impressive and life changing and I aim to increase public awareness of the charity and develop it furthermore into new areas of provision.

“Its work demonstrates that the values of sport, combined with a personal development curriculum and one-to-one mentoring, centred around the needs of the individual, enables beneficiaries to reach their potential.”

The charity delivers three programmes across South Wales, its Schools Programme, Adults Programme, and its Back in the Game online offering. The charity’s Schools Programme reaches children who are disengaged from school and enables them to realise their potential, improve their behaviour and adopt a growth mindset. A third of all exclusions from school are due to persistent disruptive behaviour and the children the charity supports also suffer with low confidence, poor self-control, difficulties with social cohesion and poor communication skills.

The Adult Programme focuses on tackling unemployment, as well as poor physical and mental health. Many participants have extra barriers to employment to contend with such as challenges with their mental health, histories of criminal and anti-social behaviour and addiction.

Mr James has a bold vision for how he wants the charity to progress. He adds: “I believe passionately in the work the charity is doing and I aim to build strong links with the Welsh Government in line with its Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. I want to ensure SOHK is seen as an important and credible voice in helping meet key aspects of the Act, including, a ‘Healthier Wales’, and ‘a Wales of Cohesive Communities’. As a charity, we can help government reach its well-being aspirations for the people of Wales and I want to put SOHK front and centre of those plans.

“I also want to expand our geographical impact. I look forward to working with my team and partners to further our reach into Wales, spreading both North and West into communities that need our support. Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys have the greatest population density but our work must reach further afield to truly help meet the challenges of adults and young people here and now.

“Finally, I aim to bring the corporate world along on the journey. It is in their interests to build stronger and impactful links with the communities and people they work with, and I want to showcase SOHK’s ability to positively impact the communities in which a business operates, as well as help strengthen the morale of its own staff. My team and I will strive to explain to corporates that a person-centred approach to social value and community impact is what’s required and SOHK can deliver on this, meaning stronger, healthier communities.”