Sonia Smith wins prestigious BEDSA award

Anonymous 21 March 2017

Coping Through Football Project Coordinator Sonia Smith was presented with the Mind Wellbeing Award at the British Ethnic Diversity Sport Awards (BEDSA) on Saturday 18th March. This was well earned recognition for Sonia who has led the project for five years and is hugely respected by both the participants and her colleagues at NELFT, London Playing Fields Foundation and Leyton Orient Trust. Sonia received her award at a star-studded dinner at the Grosvenor House hotel where sports stars Kadeena Cox, Chris Hughton and Jason Robinson OBE were also recognised with awards.

The BEDSAs were established by Sporting Equals to celebrate sporting excellence within BAME communities and this year they introduced a new category to recognise the contribution that an individual has made to improve people’s mental wellbeing through sport and physical activity. Sonia was a strong contender for this category; using her experience as a qualified NELFT Occupational Therapist she has made a real difference in supporting individuals with their recovery and helping them to better fulfil their potential. Through building their confidence and self-esteem at the football sessions, with Sonia’s help participants have been able to secure volunteering, education and employment opportunities. With 60% of participants coming from BAME communities Sonia is a superb role model and a real inspiration to this group.

LPFF CEO Alex Welsh said: “If anyone deserved to win this award it was Sonia Smith. Her compassion and generosity just shine through in everything she does and the way that she has helped others experiencing troubled times in their lives is remarkable. Given her humility and often self-deprecating approach she will probably be embarrassed by this award but the manner in which she has made a difference in so many people’s lives makes her such a worthy winner.

Sonia commented: “I feel humbled to be acknowledged along with such exceptional people who have all made an impact on increasing sports participation by BAME communities and inspiring the next generation. I enjoyed meeting the other nominees and guests on the evening and receiving the award from my childhood hero Sir Lenny Henry was simply overwhelming. I feel blessed to have been given such an opportunity and am grateful for the wonderful team that make up Coping Through Football.

Barbara Armstrong, NELFT Joint Lead Occupational Therapist and Social Inclusion Lead, said: “We are so delighted that all Sonia's dedication and hard work in delivery of the project has been recognised. The project is a positive example of how NELFT can successfully work in partnership with other organisations to deliver sustainable programmes which support service user recovery.”