Sahal Barre admits that if you’d met him a few years ago, he wasn’t someone you’d want to be friends with.
The teenager from the Burngreave area of Sheffield described himself as an “aggressive person”, had no interest in education, and admits his free time was spent messing about.
Move forward to now, and Sahal is preparing to go to university to study sports therapy, having successfully created a mentoring scheme that has helped him, and other young men like him, get their lives moving in a positive direction.
Sahal is the founder of Big Brother Burngreave, a project that uses sport and physical activity to provide positive activities for teenagers and young men to keep them off the streets and away from the lure of gangs that are prevalent in the community.
We caught up with Sahal at a celebration event for him and his two co-founders of the project held at the Virgin Money Lounge in Sheffield, attended by people from the community as well as local press, councillors and the coach of the Sheffield Sharks basketball club.
In keeping with the project, the opportunity to bring together youngsters from the community was more than just a chance to have food and make use of the facilities which included a bowling alley and air hockey. There were workshops focusing on money management, getting into coaching, and an introduction to video production.
For Sahal, and those who supported him to get where he is now, it was chance to reflect on his and the success of the project.
“Sport has helped me a lot,” he said. “Every time I was coming, I was learning how to love and just growing up. That’s why I love sport and this project so much. It’s something that has changed me and I know that it can change other people’s lives in the future.
“As the years went on, I had my friends Tes and Abdul Malik (co-founders) with me. We were mentored by Safiya (Active Burngreave Community Coordinator) and Kathryn (Yorkshire Sport Foundation Development Manager), and then we were mentoring other young people to do what we do.
“We were getting qualifications. Giving young people qualifications and then saying, “here’s a job opportunity – do you want to go?” That’s actually helpful – it means a lot.
“When I started Big Brother, I didn’t want to go to uni – I hated education. Big Brother taught me that to do something for yourself, you must help other people.
“I think from my dad’s side, I’m the first one to go to university. When my mum found out I was going to uni, she was buzzing.
“Before, I had small goals. Just to finish something and then get married. They weren’t the goals that somebody needs. Now, it’s go to Leeds and progress to start something that’s not been done before. And to achieve my dreams – not just my dreams, but my family’s dreams.
“I’ve got a bigger mindset and want great things in life now.
“What I’m most proud of about Big Brother is how we all came here as a group. It’s been two years and there’s not been a time where we thought Big Brother would go down. It’s always been on top and improving to be the best.
“Also, what I’m proud of is me. After all I’ve done – I’ve done so many great things – but I’m just proud of myself for sticking to what I’ve been doing, believing in myself.
“As a founder you can never leave – I started this and I will always be there.”
For more on the Active Burngreave project, click HERE.