Date: March 2021   |   Author: Holly West


Image: Ollie Devoto and young carer

Meet Ollie Devoto, a professional rugby player with a mission to make a change.

You might recognise Ollie from the grounds of Sandy Park. South West born and bred, he has built a successful career on the rugby pitch going from strength to strength as the Centre for Devon’s own Exeter Chiefs. In the last 9 months alone, Ollie and his teammates have secured titles such as European and Premiership Champions, and he has just added Devon Young Carers Ambassador to that list.

First becoming aware of Devon Young Carers through his partner, who teaches at a local Devon school, Ollie wanted to dig deeper and learn more. He spent time researching the charity and then finally decided he had to take action by contacting the team. We spoke to Ollie about his plans as a Devon Young Carers Ambassador and what the charity means to him.

Connecting with the cause

By having a supportive family, Ollie recognised that he was able to embrace lifes opportunities; which has played a major role in helping him towards a successful rugby career. Ollie connected with Devon Young Carers as he came to realise that sadly for thousands of young people, this will not always be the case, commenting how “through no fault of their own” young people would be “missing out” on enjoying their time as a child because of their commitments as a carer. He went on to explain:

“You dont really realise at the time because youre younger, but how much support that you have. I can remember dad taking me up to Coventry for rugby trials and staying in hotels and even just little things like after school clubs and stuff like that that I took for granted because it’s just there…”

“…I’m really competitive and I like to win, and I couldn’t imagine being in a team environment and then not being able to play or compete; not because you’re injured but because you just can’t get to the game. That hit home a little bit and I just look back and think how lucky must I have been for that not to be a factor.”

Providing support

Realising the impact Devon Young Carers could have, Ollie told us he would like to help in any way he can to ensure young carers get the help and support they need, stating:

"I’ve never been in this position but if you felt like you were on your own, it’s important to know you have got support and if I could be that in any way, shape or form, then I think it’s going to benefit some people. “

Sadly with the Coronavirus pandemic, things haven’t been easy. As a man who spends his life getting stuck in and keeping busy, the current restrictions have provided an obstacle to progress, but he hasn’t let this dampen his spirit. Ollie has been having “Zoom calls every week” with the Devon Young Carers team, which has not only helped him learn more about the charity, but has enabled him to set exciting plans in motion, ready for the end of lockdown.

“We’ve struggled, because of COVID, I can’t just go out there. What I’d like to do is just go and meet young carers and I think that’s the best way to do things. […] we’ve put a plan in place, and hopefully, that will follow through, we’ve got some stuff coming up on the horizon, which is pretty exciting.”

When asked about his upcoming plans, Ollie explained he was keen to hit the ground running “as soon as we can” planning for “getting out there, meeting people and just raising the awareness as much as I can and giving young carers confidence.”

Raising awareness

Through regular contact with the charity, Ollie has learnt a lot about the importance of spreading awareness as far wide as possible.

“Young people now will go under the radar, who are struggling and have to look after someone in their family who needs help. They don’t even get in touch because they don’t know this small charity is out there. Liz [Devon Young Carers Service Manager] said they support over 1600 young people at the moment, just in Devon, but there are so many more that are under the radar that haven’t asked for help. Even if I can just raise awareness of it in Devon, hopefully more young people will speak out and get the help that they need.”

Upcoming charity auction

Ollie has a lot of exciting projects lined up with Devon Young Carers in the coming weeks and months, including a very exclusive Charity Auction to be launched on Sunday 4th April. It will run for 14 days with an online auction and prize draw.

We asked him to give us some insider gossip to what we might see at the action and he had this to say…

“I am cautious not to give too much away, but there will be opportunities to get your hands on some very unique bits of rugby memorabilia. I don’t think I’m going to say much more on that but they are going to be very unique bits of rugby memorabilia, which are not only special to me, but to other members of the Exeter Chiefs. So that’s going to be really exciting…”

Stronger together

In his final words, Ollie put what Devon Young Carers means to him in a way he knows best, telling us how we are always stronger together.

“…we talk about it a lot in rugby, the team is so much stronger than the individual, and when you work together as a team, you can achieve a lot more. I think for kids that are going through a tough time, there is always that support there if you speak out.”

Watch what happened when Ollie met three young carers