Victoria’s story: how our Trustee and ex-IGNITE team member Victoria’s adversity led her to volunteering

How tragic death of her mum inspired teenager to become young volunteer

Victoria Russell now supports: YMCA Humber funded At One Project, Youth Working Links, Grimsby Telegraph Young Reporters, Literary Circles and The Dame Kelly Holmes Programme

WHEN Victoria Russell lost her mum to cancer at the age of just 17, there was little doubt of the profound impact this would have on the teenager.

Part-way through A-level studies at Franklin College, the loss of her mum, Diane, came after a two-year battle with cancer, which saw Victoria’s dad Robin leave his job as a teacher to care for his wife.

Diane, 52, had won her initial fight against bowel cancer but when Victoria was 16, the family received the devasting news that the disease had returned and was terminal.

For Victoria growing up on the West Marsh, where the family moved when she was 11, the events of her teenage years shaped her future.

“Yes, of course my mum’s death had a profound effect on me, I stopped socialising and talking to friends in the way I used to,” she recalled.

It was however a family sporting passion for basketball, supported by one particular organisation in North East Lincolnshire, that saw Victoria find her way and she has grown today as a 25-year-old with a determination to use her life experience to help other young people.

As a teacher at the then Hereford Technology School, where Victoria was also a pupil, her dad was the leader of a basketball team. On leaving to care for his wife and children at home, there was a knock on the door – three of the basketball players wanted a club to start up again, and they even said to Robin that Victoria could go along if he agreed to their request. The Grimsby Snaprats Community Basketball Club was formed.

“Mum always encouraged us to keep at it and I loved it, I went along and didn’t have to think about anything else but the sport,” said Victoria.

With funding needed, Victoria approached VANEL, (Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire) and a strong relationship began. The team there helped with funding to grow Snaprats and as a result Victoria became more involved with youth volunteering and its benefits, which is heavily promoted by the organisation.

Between university studies she continued to help with Snaprats, where she is now a valued committee member and trainer, while becoming involved with VANEL’s Ignite programme offering support to young volunteers in North East Lincolnshire.

“A lot of people are volunteering without even realising it. My work with Snaprats, for example, makes me a volunteer but I never used to consider that,” said Victoria.

Her involvement with Ignite, as a youth leadership worker, led to her involvement in other areas of VANEL’s work where she is now a trustee on its governing board. This gives her the opportunity to support other youth projects it runs, including the YMCA Humber funded At One Project, Youth Working Links, Young Reporters, Literary Circles and The Dame Kelly Holmes Programme.

“For me, my involvement with Ignite improved my confidence, my opportunities and showed me a whole new world. A lot of the work I have done with Ignite and VANEL has been about empowering young people, giving them a voice and the chance to be themselves. Volunteering allows that to happen,” added Victoria.

For more on volunteering and becoming involved in the projects for young volunteers please contact VANEL at 01472 231123 or go to

Story also appeared in the Grimsby Telegraph on 27th Dec 2019 here.