July 28, 2020 / 5:57 PM / 17 days ago

UK running club eyes expansion as coronavirus boosts volunteering

LONDON, July 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The founder of a British running club that seeks to combine exercise with doing good has laid out plans to expand after the coronavirus pandemic sparked a major rise in volunteering.

Ivo Gormley set up GoodGym in London in 2009, believing regular gyms were a waste of energy that could be put to good use in the communities where runners exercise.

Since then the organisation, a registered charity, has set up in other English cities, and Gormley is now eyeing expansion in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with a view to eventually opening in the United States and Australia.

He said the increased interest in volunteering around the coronavirus had brought hundreds of new members to GoodGym.

“Since March 1, we have seen about 500 people signing up each month. We’re now at 58 different cities across the UK and are really keen to expand into Scotland and Northern Ireland,” Gormley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.

The club works by giving runners who sign up a number of small tasks around their community, from helping elderly residents with household chores to planting trees or assisting at food banks.

Bablu Miah, founder of an arts collective in east London’s Tower Hamlets district, has been using GoodGym volunteers since last summer, but said they had come into their own during the city’s coronavirus lockdown.

“GoodGym help me out whenever I do events working with young people. They get involved in projects teaching young people how to get fit or provide talks for them,” said Miah. “I have never seen our borough come together in the way we have.”

Last week GoodGym’s work during the pandemic was recognised with a 10,000 pound ($12,950) award from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Social Innovation, which Gormley said would be used to lay the groundwork for expansion.

Nykolette Keyes, who has been volunteering with GoodGym for the last four years, said she found helping in her community “addictive”.

“I absolutely love volunteering,” she said. “I feel like it’s a big community because you meet so many volunteers who all want to do something that just helps out somebody else.” ($1 = 0.7726 pounds) (Reporting by Darnell Christie, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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