Wapping Youth Football Club – using sport to empower, inspire and change the lives of young people

This month we are profiling a brilliant youth led organisation that is using sport to empower, inspire and change the lives of young people – Wapping Youth Football Club. In particular, we hear about how the organisation has participated in and benefited from ELBA’s Everyone’s Business programme. Everyone’s Business creates employment pathways for young people who are at risk of Serious Youth Violence, providing them with employment opportunities that might otherwise struggle to access.

1. What does your charity do?
Wapping Youth Football Club (WYFC) is a youth led organisation that is using sport to empower, inspire and change the lives of young people. We believe that we can tackle issues in the community by engaging young people in sport. We work with over 200 young people and engage over 40 volunteers.  We also provide community workshops for young people which aim to help them progress into sustainable career paths. The organisation has actually only fairly recently been registered as a Community Interest company and it’s constantly  growing! At present we are looking to diversify our model into different industries and sectors. Here is a video that we made from our Wapping Youth FC Summer Camp 2021, which gives a taste of what we do!

2. Can you describe Everyone’s Business? What is its purpose?
Everyone’s Business identifies the ways in which businesses and business volunteers can help  to address the multitude of issues that vulnerable young people in our communities are experiencing. The programme creates employment pathways for young people who are at risk of Serious Youth Violence, providing them with employment opportunities that they might otherwise struggle to access. As part of the programme ELBA also facilitates networking between grassroots organisations like my own. I am part of a network of youth focussed organisations in Tower Hamlets who not only are accessing business support via ELBA business partners, but are also collaboratively developing local strategies to address Serious Youth Violence.

Most recently, the Tower Hamlets network has been planning a campaign to communicate the impact that racism has on young people in the borough- ELBA has been identifying specialist support to develop this campaign.

3. Why did you choose to join the programme and what have been the tangible benefits?
I joined the programme mainly to access business support, particularly because it’s such an early stage organisation with a really youthful team. Last year I was lucky enough to work with a brilliant business coach from Societe Generale – he coached me in terms of getting my organisation set up as a community investment company and since worked with me to establish a board – he is now my chair! I have since worked with ELBA to recruit 5 more brilliant trustees as part of the Everyone’s Business programme. This year I am working with another brilliant coach from BUPA- she is actually a specialist in staff development and talent improvement and is therefore the perfect match for me. Most recently we have been exploring ways to give back to the staff and to motivate and develop them. I have really appreciated being part of the network too, particularly during such a challenging time- they are a brilliant support system.

4. What are the challenges that young people in Tower Hamlets are experiencing at the moment? How has this been affected by the pandemic?
The lack of opportunities, role models and inspiration are the main challenges. I believe that not enough is being done to help young people see what they can achieve if they go down the right path, with the right support and access to the right opportunities. A lot of young people are in a small bubble in their local community and only see people around them. This doesn’t allow them to get out of their comfort zone and leave their estate- this is why programmes like Everyone’s Business are so important. There is always a challenge in terms of accessing the young people who need our support the most, and also making sure our services are as adaptable as possible.

When we opened up again after lockdown 60% of the youth club members were overweight. A lot came back unfit and had lost the skillsets they had been trained up in. They did train virtually but due to issues around inequality and the digital divide, many did not have tablets, laptops or wifi- and couldn’t access remote training.

5. Do you have an inspirational story/moment about your work that you would like to share?
We delivered the HAF programme (Holiday Activities and Food) and were the largest Tower Hamlets largest provider this summer. We are proud to say that we engaged 1,192 young people over a 4-6 week period.  We focussed on ensuring free school meals were delivered and committed 760 hours of delivery. This was one of the largest summer programmes delivered in London- we received international recognition!

 6. What kind of support are you in need of right now and how might volunteering fit into that?
As the organisation transitions from a small to a medium sized organisation I would like to feel confident we are growing the club in the most effective way possible, whilst managing its many different structures. At present we have a large number of volunteers, so careful consideration needs to be made in terms of how we transition into having a number of well-trained, part-time, paid staff. I also hope to develop an understanding of how we can create and nurture a team of senior managers to become confident leaders.

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