Using sports to foster development and social cohesion has proved to be a particularly effective mean of engaging with vulnerable young people. As several studies have confirmed, inter- and intra-community sports activities/events are a powerful tool in this regard, bringing together vulnerable children and young people from different backgrounds and allowing them to interact and play together in a safe neutral environment. Sports have also been shown to foster self-confidence, personal development and teamwork, benefiting all areas of an adolescent’s life.
Our Active Youth Matters project does more than just help individual young people and organisations; it encourages those beneficiaries to become agents of change within their own families and communities. Thus, the project is constructed in such a way that its impact will extend far beyond the number of direct beneficiaries, continuing to have a positive effect long after the programme has officially come to an end. Those beneficiaries are given all the skills and grassroots support that they need in order to impart their knowledge to other marginalised young people and implement programmes of their own, with the ultimate aim of spreading the project’s message across the country and encouraging the fostering of personal development through sport.
Sports have a particularly important role to play when it comes to children with special needs and girls. Stereotypes, social norms and traditions have traditionally resulted in sports being off-limits or too rough to them.
Sailing, in particular, has been associated with the higher classes in society and has been limited to the lower classes.
Opening up sports programmes to every child, giving them the opportunity not only to learn key life skills but also to explore avenues that are typically closed to them, will help them to integrate into wider society and encourage them to actively question social norms. We encourage all participants to address issues such as inclusion, tolerance, fair play and equal rights – and for girls in particular, it gives them a tangible opportunity to exercise their rights, both on and off the field.
Volunteering with Restorative Justice throughout the ‘Watersports Youth Matters’ project has been an extremely rewarding experience! I have learnt a great deal about restorative justice and it’s values of equality, power-sharing, dignity and respect, whilst building on and developing the skills essential for working in the charity sector. The staff are welcoming, supportive and obviously passionate about RJ4ALL’s work. It was great to see the ways in which the project has allowed youths from all over Southwark, as well as refugees with little to no English, to come together and share new experiences and develop new skills. I am proud to be a part of a project that provides opportunities for those who are perhaps more prone to unhealthy behaviours as well as social and economic exclusion, providing a safe space in which youngsters can have fun and leave any problems they may have at the door, for a day on the water.
Assisting on this project has provided me with both fun and invaluable experiences that I shall utilise moving forward along my career path. RJ4ALL is an excellent example of a charity making a significant difference to those in need, and I have no doubt any future volunteers would have equally, if not more beneficial and positive observations.