Lifelites enhancing lives of terminally ill and disabled children in hospices for fifteen years
Lifelites, the only charity to provide assistive and inclusive technology packages to terminally ill and disabled children in all baby and children's hospices across the British Isles, is celebrating 15 years of its work. The charity invited key stakeholders to a drinks reception to mark this important milestone at a special reception on 14 October 2015. Amongst the crowd were Lifelites’ Trustees, Patrons Peter Bowles and Anita Dobson and supporters including Marathon Mason Ewan Gordon from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Oxfordshire who recently ran from John o' Groats to Land's End in support of Lifelites earlier this year.
Lifelites begun as a millennium project of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and became an independent charity in 2006. The charity started off donating computers for children in hospices in England and Wales but since then, it has grown to support over 9,000 life limited children and their families in over 50 hospice service provisions across the British Isles.
Lifelites has kept up with the rapid advancements in technology and tailor each specialist package to the needs of the children. Designed for children with disabilities, the packages include a number of magical items such as specially adapted iPads with grip cases, assistive mice, portable touch screen computers, Eyegaze technology, mobile Magic Carpets and much more, some of which were showcased for guests at the event.
Speaking at the celebration event Chairman of Trustees Lifelites Mike Woodcock, said: 'Lifelites – the small charity with a big heart. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Lifelites started out on its mission of enhancing the lives of thousands of terminally ill and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles. Over time, the charity has gone from strength to strength and continues to provide the most astonishing pieces of technology – some that you will see today and be wowed by – giving children with life limiting conditions a world of opportunities that they would not otherwise have. We must thank the members of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists for their valued partnership providing the original technical knowhow. Also, we must give a huge thank you to our generous donors, without whom we wouldn’t be here today.'
Simone Enefer-Doy chief executive of Lifelites, said: 'From our humble beginnings I don’t think anyone could have quite imagined what Lifelites would become today – that’s the nature of technology. But as time has gone on, we have turned our attention to harnessing the power of technology to enhance the short lives of the young people in hospices. Whatever their abilities we’ve aimed to seek out equipment that can help them escape the confines of their illness, to play with their brothers and sisters, to be creative, to control something for themselves and communicate – for as long as it is possible. Whatever direction we go in from now on, you can bet that technology will help us to continue to give these kids with limited lives unlimited possibilities. The fact that we’ve been able to do this is in no small part as a result of generous support from the Masonic community over the years and we’ll be forever grateful.'
There is a Lifelites project in all 50 baby and children’s hospices across the British Isles. The hospices do not pay anything towards their Lifelites project and all of Lifelites’ work is funded by donations: the equipment, ongoing technical support and training at each hospice costs Lifelites around £50,000 over four years.
Masonic Charitable Foundation – A new charity for Freemasons, for families, for everyone
The Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes has announced that a new charity called the Masonic Charitable Foundation is to be established, bringing together the charitable activities of the four existing central masonic charities.
At Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge on Wednesday, 9 September, the Pro Grand Master said:
'The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as support for the non-masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation will be one of the largest charities in the country and will rely on the generosity of Freemasonry for its funds.
It is anticipated that the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be registered with the Charity Commission as soon as possible and that it will begin making grants from 1 April 2016. The proposals remain subject to the approval of some existing charity members.
A shadow board of trustees comprising individuals from the existing charities is overseeing the creation of the new charity and the transition into a single organisation.
Further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months.
Please visit mcf.org.uk for more information.
Above and beyond
Sharing a core belief in the importance of mutual respect and helping others, Freemasons are supporting The Scout Association as it takes its message to more young people, as Peter Watts discovers
When Carlos Lopez-Plandolit took stock of his work-life balance and decided to volunteer for his local Scout group in East London, he initially planned to drop in for an hour each week. But, he explains, ‘I quickly got sucked in and within two weeks ended up leading the group. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.’
Lopez-Plandolit’s group is located in a struggling inner-city borough, and these are precisely the areas the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) will target with its substantial new grant to The Scout Association. ‘We are giving a three-year grant of £211,200 to the Better Prepared initiative, which funds and sustains Scout groups in 200 of the most deprived parts of the UK,’ explains Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB.
The Scout Association plans to start 468 groups in these areas, and the RMTGB grant will get 66 of them started. Funds will pay for premises, uniforms, equipment, membership fees and training volunteers. Each new unit will receive £3,200, reflecting the greater level of support needed in areas identified as being deprived for reasons of poor health, education and crime by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
With the first RMTGB-funded groups launching by the end of 2015, the grant follows a donation of £500,000 in 2008 to The Scout Association from the Grand Charity in a partnership that lasted six years. The money was used to encourage more young people to join the Scouting movement, providing start-up and activity grants. In total, more than one million young people received new materials and equipment paid for by the Grand Charity’s grant, with over 1,600 new Scout sections formed and 23,500 young people becoming involved across England and Wales.
For Hutchinson, the masonic funding is creating new opportunities: ‘The Scout Association has evidence that the skills Scouting provides can help with education and employment. Scouting really helps develop qualities that can make a difference later in life.’
Preparing for the future
Paul Wilkinson, the Better Prepared project manager, explains the strong educational thread that runs through The Scout Association. ‘Essentially, we’re trying to help young people grow and develop,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to help them take an active place in society, to learn to act with integrity, to be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We encourage them to have respect for other people and for themselves.’
Although Robert Baden-Powell was not a mason, the Scout movement he founded in 1907 has a strong overlap with the principles of Freemasonry. While some parallels are cosmetic, such as the use of signs, ranks, uniforms and regalia, others are intrinsic. Tony Harvey’s 2012 Prestonian Lecture focused on the connections between the two bodies. With both open to all – regardless of faith, race or background – Tony explained in the lecture how these two membership organisations share the same core values.
IN GOOD COMPANY
‘Our mission is to change young people’s lives for the better,’ says Wilkinson, ‘and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Freemasonry across the UK. The masonic community shares our vision to deliver life-changing experiences to all young people, no matter what their background.’
Hutchinson echoes Wilkinson’s sentiments: ‘The key aspects of Scouting are respect for your fellow man, having a strict moral code and doing the right thing. That’s a large part of Freemasonry too.’ Non-mason Lopez-Plandolit, meanwhile, attributes the appeal of Scouting to one key factor: ‘What I love about it is that it seems to focus on the common denominators across all religions; it is about being kind to the environment, to your friends and family. They are very pure, these principles.’
Despite the leisure opportunities available to children today, The Scout Association has found that once it establishes a local group, children flock to it. The next challenge is to establish groups in areas where poverty has been a barrier to joining or volunteering. ‘We appeal to young people,’ says Wilkinson. ‘We know that if we go in with the right messages, young people are relatively easy to recruit and some are desperate to join.’
Lopez-Plandolit sees first-hand how young people respond to joining. The Beaver Scouts, who are the youngest section of the Scouting family at six to eight years old, describe their meetings in East London as the highlight of their week, relishing activities such as kayaking and climbing. Lopez-Plandolit’s young group are multinational and this is something he celebrates through activities such as cooking: ‘The children cook something from their parents’ country and everybody has to taste it and say what they like.’
The masonic grant for the Better Prepared project marks a major commitment for the RMTGB. ‘It is a significant undertaking,’ Hutchinson admits. ‘While the shape of the Trust will change as the four masonic charities come together, this grant will leave a lasting legacy of support for children from deprived backgrounds – our remit is to support children in the wider sense, not just children of masons, and this will enable us to reach out to those who most need our help in a very effective way.’
‘The Scout Association’s mission is to change young people’s lives for the better, and the masonic community shares our vision.’ Paul Wilkinson
The RMTGB will keep a close eye on the project as it develops. ‘Part of the reason we are donating in three instalments is so we can maintain some control,’ says Hutchinson. ‘We will receive regular reports so we can see the impact of the funding, and discover publicity opportunities to raise the profile of the masonic charity and Freemasonry in general. We also want to ensure the grants are evenly spread across England and Wales.’
The final instalment from the RMTGB coincides with the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017, and Hutchinson hopes that Freemasonry will take pride in the achievements of the initiative as it celebrates this important milestone. ‘We want to learn from each other,’ he says. ‘The Scout Association has a wealth of experience in working with children and will have practices we can use in our charitable work, now and in the future.’
While masonic contributions are being made at a national level, individuals can donate their time on a local level. An accountant, for example, could audit the books for their local group one night a year. The rewards are extolled by Lopez-Plandolit, who enthuses about his time as a volunteer with the Beaver Scouts. ‘They surprise you so much and are a constant reminder of how we should look at things as if it’s for the first time – to ask lots of questions,’ he says. ‘It’s a great outlook to have around me. I learn so much from them.’
From cooking on open log fires through to building shelters and geocaching, there’s rarely a dull moment at the 2nd East London Scout group (pictured). Based on the Isle of Dogs, the group meets at least three nights a week to play games, set challenges and prepare for their annual scavenger hunt, which this year saw Scouts from across the county raising money for Nepalese aid projects. With 130 members in the 2nd East London group, each night caters to a different age range. ‘We are Scouting every day of the week,’ says Vicky Thompson, Scout leader. ‘Our kids never need to hang out on the streets because, with the Scouts, there’s always something to do.’
Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015
I picked up your magazine today and the picture on the front moved me. I have been involved with the Guide association ever since my daughter attended Rainbows, and both my boys attended the movement from Beaver through to Scout. Your picture has captured everything there is to say about Scouting. I am hoping that it has brought a cheer to many more faces while they flick through your magazine. Well done.
Marion Bell, wife of Stephen Bell, Legheart Lodge, No. 6897, Welling, West Kent
Can I thank you for the article on Scouting in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today magazine? I have been involved with Scouts since I joined as a Wolf Cub in 1957, now serving as an assistant commissioner for the Lincoln district, as well as being a Past Master of two Scouting lodges.
Scouting greatly helped me after becoming disabled in 1974 following a horse riding accident. The Scouts did not mind ‘Skip’ having a wonky leg and helped me overcome my disability. Today I think there is much I can give back; after all, I get as much fun as the kids do out of it.
You don’t have to be a uniformed leader to help the organisation. Uniformed leaders run the day-to-day programmes but need the support of executive committees to look after the management side of Scouting. As many Freemasons have good life skills, they could be useful at group, district or county level. My own district meets every other month for a couple of hours to deal with mixed issues, from starting new groups to controlling the budget and various district events.
Scouting is expanding and in Lincoln we have started two new groups within a year, with two more in the planning.
If you feel you might be interested in giving some time to Scouting, then you can look them up on their website.
Hugh Sargent, Rudyard Kipling Lodge, No. 9681, Horncastle, Lincolnshire
Now Jake’s ready for his close-up
One trauma is more than enough for any child to deal with, but before Jake turned 16 he had experienced his parents’ divorce as well as his mother’s battles with breast cancer and redundancy. Causing stress and anxiety, these events also led to financial hardship for Jake and his mother.
As Jake grew older, he dreamed of pursuing a career in the performing arts. Realising it would be impossible for his mother to support his aspirations, Jake decided to learn a trade – but deep down he longed to work in front of or behind the camera.
Jake’s grandfather Mike, a Freemason, had always encouraged his grandson to pursue his dreams. When Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012, he encouraged Jake to reach out to the RMTGB for support. Jake was accepted as a beneficiary, gained a place at his chosen university and was offered a room at the RMTGB’s student residence, Ruspini House.
‘Without the Trust, I would not have been able to follow my dream,’ said Jake, who plans to become a Freemason after he graduates so that he can help other children to succeed and give back to the masonic community.
Find out how the RMTGB supported Jake by watching the video at www.rmtgb.org/jake
Sheffield’s family focus
The RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme has awarded grants totalling more than £260,000 to 12 charities, including Home-Start Sheffield, a regional branch of a national network of family support charities. Home-Start’s 110 volunteers provide practical and emotional help to 800 vulnerable parents and children each year.
Families receive parenting advice and skills training to strengthen relationships and the care that they provide for their children, helping to break cycles of disadvantage. Stepping Stones awarded Home-Start Sheffield a grant of £24,873 over two years to part-fund the new ‘Parents and Children Together’ project, which will provide more intensive parental support for 90 disadvantaged families to increase their children’s school readiness.
Jayson on a roll for world record
A drummer beat the world record for the longest single drum roll – but ended up in hospital as a result. Jayson Brinkler started the roll at 3am and played for 12 hours, five minutes and five seconds – despite injuring his wrist just days before. The eight-time British champion drummer smashed the previous record by five minutes and two seconds to see him achieve his childhood dream of securing an individual place in the Guinness World Records.
Jayson, 44, who was raising money for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, performed the drum roll at Highfield Baptist Church in Dartford.
He has previously performed on children’s TV show Blue Peter and at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
It’s show time
An initiative to give disadvantaged young people the chance to fulfil their musical dreams and find employment is being supported through masonic funding, as Imogen Beecroft discovers
Over in one corner of a room two people are huddled together at a piano, perfecting a duet. Across the way, young men and women are memorising rap lyrics, strumming guitars and fiddling with DJ decks. Given the sheer array of musical ability, you would think you had stumbled into a professional West End rehearsal. In fact, these groups of young people are preparing for their final performance after just six weeks of training at the Roundhouse – a former railway engine shed in London’s Chalk Farm that is now a performing arts and concert venue, and a charitable trust.
As soon as the first group goes on stage, the friendly, laid-back atmosphere gives way to a vibrant energy as everyone rises to their feet. One of the people singing along most enthusiastically is Africa Krobo-Edusei. He was working in a restaurant when he heard about the Roundhouse’s OnTrack project, a programme for young people aged 16-25 to learn about the music industry.
‘I hated waking up in the morning and going to work,’ Africa remembers. ‘I quit my job because I knew this would be the thing for me. I have such a passion for music, so I took a risk and have no regrets. Now I’ve found a course that has inspired me, I wake up every day feeling happy.’
The intensive course covers all aspects of music production, from songwriting to event management, culminating in a live performance at the Roundhouse. OnTrack is one of the venue’s many programmes and events for young people not in full-time employment, education or training, some of whom have been homeless or in prison. The programmes are overseen by youth support worker (YSW) Angus Scott-Miller, whose role is part-funded by Stepping Stones, a non-masonic giving scheme operated by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB). The scheme, which aims to reduce child poverty by helping disadvantaged children and young people to access education, awarded a grant of £20,000 to The Roundhouse Trust in 2011, followed by a further £20,000 in 2014.
Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB, says: ‘The Roundhouse Trust is one of a very small number of charities to have received a second grant from the scheme. The RMTGB decided to provide support on both these occasions due to the wide range of opportunities that the organisation offers for disadvantaged young people. Freemason’s Hall is also located within the same London Borough as the Roundhouse, so it was the perfect opportunity to support a charity on our doorstep.’
Angus coordinates the youth support team, visits schools and pupil referral units (for children who have been excluded from school), and provides pastoral support for 200 young people each year. Fran Pilcher, trusts and statutory manager at the Roundhouse, says: ‘The grant from the RMTGB has allowed Angus to continue to engage some of the most disadvantaged young people with creative opportunities.
‘Many of those who access our services are vulnerable and experiencing multiple difficulties. The YSW role helps to create a safe environment for any young person, many of whom have no other support networks to turn to. With the backing of the RMTGB, it has become an integral part of the Roundhouse.’
Angus, 30, has been a YSW for six years but has been involved with the Roundhouse since he was 16 years old, when he was a student on one of its programmes. ‘It was the first thing I did outside school,’ he says. ‘It was a big step for me and I fell in love with the arts thanks to the Roundhouse.’
A few years later, Angus was checking the Roundhouse website daily to see if there were any jobs available when he saw an advert for his current role. ‘At the time my mum was kicking me out and all I had were two job interviews,’ he says. ‘I got two offers but took the one at the Roundhouse because I just love it. It did a lot for me as a kid and I want to give something back.’
Playing to strengths
Angus’s background helps him in his role providing pastoral care for the young people in the programme, of which 60 per cent are classified as disadvantaged, and he speaks passionately about the difficulties facing young people in London. ‘It’s so easy to get lost in a big city and get mixed up with the wrong crowd.’
Oliver Carrington, who manages the RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme, says Angus ‘does a fantastic job in building trust with the most disadvantaged young people that access the Roundhouse’s services. He helps participants overcome any potential barriers that they may face and is very effective in developing their strengths and nurturing their talents.’
Angus is modest about his work, but has dealt with issues as diverse as someone liking a girl at school through to abuse and suicide. ‘For a young person to trust you, you’ve got to build a relationship, and once you have that they will want to come to you for advice,’ he says, adding that he builds this trust by not putting on a persona. ‘I just listen, try to understand and help.’
Angus recalls one young person going through a particularly tough time. ‘He’d robbed a house and taken a lot of money. Some people found out, came to his house with guns and threatened his mum.’ Angus helped him get on a drama course at the Roundhouse. ‘After that he went to drama school. He now has his own place, a girlfriend and he’s acting professionally. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that helps young people like the Roundhouse. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but that’s what we do: we change lives.’
Africa believes the Roundhouse has turned his life around too. ‘There are people who show an interest in you and teach you how to apply your skills to the real world. They let you know that music isn’t just a hobby – it can be a career and you can excel if you put in the time.’ Africa has indeed excelled in his course, making strides in his musical ability as well as finding lifelong friends. ‘It feels like we’ve built a little family,’ he says.
Once the course is over, the young emerging artists can return to the Roundhouse for various events, or book out one of the venue’s studio spaces from £1 an hour to start making their own music. As Angus says, ‘It won’t be goodbye. This is just a welcome to the Roundhouse.’
Africa is certain he’ll be back and already has big plans for his musical future: ‘I’m going to start an artist development programme that takes on young artists like myself and works to help give them some direction. I always had a passion but this place is making that dream into more of a reality.’
Skye pushes the limits with a smile
Skye, the granddaughter of a Freemason, is 14 years old. She has Turner syndrome, a condition that affects growth and development, as well as mild autism and global development delay, which makes reading and writing difficult
Skye’s parents introduced her to judo when she was seven years old as a positive channel for the frustration she experiences as a result of her condition. She has since become highly skilled in the sport, excelling in both mainstream competitions and those for people with disabilities.
One of Skye’s ambitions is to compete in the Special Olympics. To qualify, she must compete internationally, but her family were struggling to meet the cost of travelling overseas. Through its TalentAid scheme, the RMTGB has contributed to Skye’s competition, accommodation and travel costs. In 2012, she was selected for the GB Special Needs International squad and has since achieved two gold and two silver medals in international competitions.
For Skye, judo isn’t just about competing. She struggles to interact with other children, so the sport gives her the chance to socialise as well. Funding from the RMTGB scheme enables her to go on trips that are not only essential for the development of her talent, but also for her confidence and happiness.
Middlesex 2020 Festival launch
In March, the Province of Middlesex launched the 2020 Festival Appeal for the RMTGB. Alastair Mason, Pro Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex, said, ‘What better cause can there be than to make a difference to a young life that might otherwise have been deprived of opportunities?’ The Province raised more than £4 million in its 2009 Festival for the RMBI. All donations are being received via the Relief Chest.
To support the appeal, visit www.the2020festival.co.uk
Pass it on
Drawing upon the teamwork found in a game of football, sports charity Street League is giving unemployed young people new prospects. Sarah Holmes reports on how Freemasons are supporting the charity as it reaches out to even more communities
It’s a blustery winter afternoon at the Moberly Sports and Education Centre in north-west London and, despite the menacing grey sky above, twenty or so lads have gathered to play their weekly game of football. Refereeing is Adam White, a twenty-three-year-old sports coach from Wembley. He used to play in these games all the time, before he was referred on to study for a Football Association (FA) coaching qualification by Street League, the charity that organises the matches.
‘Three years ago, I would have been more inclined to stay in bed on a day like this,’ admits Adam. ‘But Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’
Established in 2001, Street League uses football to engage unemployed young people – both girls and boys – from disadvantaged backgrounds across England and Scotland.
The aim is to get as many individuals as possible back into training and employment through its innovative academy network, which teaches essential employability skills and GCSE-equivalent qualifications through a ten-week programme.
Now, thanks to a grant of £20,000 from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Street League will be able to run an additional academy in south-west London – helping a further twenty young people to find employment in 2015.
At school, Adam was better known as the ‘naughty one’ – a reputation that only fuelled his disruptive behaviour. Things reached a head in 2006, when, at the age of fifteen, he was expelled. ‘School wasn’t the best time for me,’ he says. ‘I used to be silly and mess around. Football was the only thing that mattered, so my parents and teachers used it as a carrot to dangle in front of me to make me behave. I remember my mum hiding my trainers whenever I was naughty.’
After completing the Street League course in 2012, Adam went on to achieve his Level 1 FA coaching qualification, later returning to the charity to volunteer at two of its academies.
Now a paid Street League staff member, he is helping others to find focus in life, as he did. ‘As someone who has been through the process, it’s incredibly gratifying to see the lads come out the other side and get jobs,’ he says.
The passion of Street League’s latest cohort is clear at today’s match. Although the pitch isn’t in the best nick – the faded AstroTurf is torn and chewed up and mounds of leaves have piled up against the corners of the metal grate fencing – it doesn’t faze the youngsters. They bound enthusiastically around the pitch, chanting and encouraging their teammates as if they were playing at Wembley. For them, this is more than a simple football match: it’s a chance to turn their lives around.
‘Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’ Adam White
Street League attracts its numbers through free weekly football sessions for unemployed sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. When a player shows the desire to change their life, they will be invited to attend one of the quarterly ten-week academies, which are structured around two hours of classroom-based learning followed by two hours of football practice. It’s an innovative approach that continues to attract the attention of funders, including the RMTGB.
‘We found out about Street League through our Stepping Stones scheme, which the charity applied to,’ says Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB. ‘We always receive more requests for funding than we can possibly provide, but Street League stood out for its unique approach to helping young people.’
‘The academies offer both sport and education, giving their participants the opportunity to keep fit and achieve key qualifications,’ he continues. ‘That’s not to mention the careers guidance, mock interviews and CV-writing sessions they include in their curriculums. We award our grants to charities that are shown to have the biggest impact, and Street League proved to be a worthy recipient.’
The grant from the RMTGB acts as a formal seal of approval, which will hopefully encourage other sources to invest in Street League’s cause. With interest in the academies on the rise, expansion is a real priority for the charity. ‘This newest academy will help us branch out into communities facing real challenges in Lambeth and Wandsworth,’ says Nathan Persaud, Street League’s north London operations manager.
Typically, forty-three per cent of the young people Street League works with in south-west London will have previous criminal convictions, and only twenty-three per cent will have left school with any qualifications. They are some of the hardest-to-reach individuals in the city, but Street League’s football-oriented initiative is connecting with some of them.
‘Football is our hook,’ says Nathan. ‘It’s our unique way of engaging young people who might not otherwise be interested in the course. It gives it credibility in their eyes.’
Football is incorporated into every aspect of the academy, including the classroom hours. Participants brush up on their basic maths skills using fantasy football leagues, while the CVs of professional football players provide templates for the participants to learn how to apply for jobs. Many also study for FA-approved coaching qualifications, so they can go on to complete their mandatory work placements in local coaching clubs. ‘All participants have to complete one hundred hours of work experience, so we try to set them up with a meaningful placement in local businesses,’ adds Nathan.
Tackle the future
The support of Street League’s corporate sponsors TM Lewin, Barclays and Premier Inn has also proved integral in placing participants by offering internships, and in some instances long-term employment, to academy graduates. Last year, eight hundred and forty-seven young people went into employment, training or education after graduating from Street League, and this year that figure will exceed 1,000 for the first time.
But it’s not just the work done in the classroom that has an impact.
As Nathan explains, what these young people learn on the pitch is just as important: ‘It’s difficult to discuss softer skills like communication and teamwork with these guys. In a classroom environment, it might seem too intimate and too confrontational, but on the pitch we can teach them how to control their anger and communicate effectively within their team so that hopefully those skills will filter into their everyday lives.’
Wayne Smith is one such youngster whose confidence and career aspirations enjoyed a massive boost after participating in Street League. He joined the Kensal Rise academy in January 2014, then a shadow of the confident young man who captains his team through the match today. ‘At first, I just wanted to play football. I never dreamt I’d be able to establish a career in it,’ he says.
Through the academy, Wayne completed his Level 2 FA coaching qualification and gained experience as a volunteer coach by setting up drills and refereeing training sessions for successive groups. Now, he’s working towards his Level 3 award with hopes of going into coaching full-time.
For Wayne, the encouragement he has received has transformed his life, and it’s a sentiment that also rings true for Moussa Silakwa. Struggling through a media studies course at college when he first came to Street League, Moussa didn’t even have the confidence to talk to his own teammates during a match. Two years later, he runs a football academy in Battersea Park for teenagers pursuing a career in the industry. ‘It’s unbelievable how many opportunities are available through Street League,’ he says. ‘It can really take you places if you are willing to work.’
New life goals
Not all participants at Street League come straight from school. Filip Ricardo (pictured above) was studying politics in Manchester when he decided to pursue a career in football. ‘I only went to university because I didn’t know what else to do,’ he says. ‘If vocational options like Street League had been made more apparent in school, then I would definitely have gone for them.’
Having already achieved his A-levels, Filip used his time at Street League’s open football sessions to access one-to-one careers advice and support. Within two weeks he had been set up with a part-time job coaching school children. It was the first, fundamental break that enabled Filip to get a foot in the door of the football industry.
‘I realised you don’t need a degree to make it in life,’ he says. ‘If people don’t fit the mould at school, it’s easy to brand them the badly behaved kid. Teachers treat them differently, they miss out on opportunities, and that can make them more rebellious. But if these kids were told what they can do, instead of constantly being told what they can’t do, it could make a big difference.’