Within every community, there are people, groups and organisations working to make it a better place.
The passion and selflessness of these people on their own is powerful, but bringing like-minded people together can take that to new levels.
That’s what happened last year, when David Bussue, Service Director for SACHMA Health and Social Care, brought together four faith-based youth organisations to apply for the tackling inequalities fund provided by Sport England, and distributed by our team at Yorkshire Sport Foundation.
It was a collaboration that saw the formation of Level Up – four women doing similar things from different church groups across Sheffield. One of the four women was Lisa Phillip, a woman with more than 20 years’ experience in youth work.
“It’s been so much better than I imagined,” enthused Lisa.
“The link came about through David because he told us about the fund and what it was for. Each of our groups had done things like fun days with rounders and basketball games between different branches, but it was a first for some of us.
“I thought we’d get together, do this activity and that would be it. But it has been so nice meeting other people with the same drive and vision as myself. You can work with a group and feel like it’s just you. I did not imagine that it was going to introduce me to a group of people who I wanted to work with over the next few years.”
Prior to last year, Lisa’s work had been confined to those who attend the Manor Newstart SDA Church but this took her into the wider community. An activity weekend was planned, using connections the women had at boxing clubs, with football coaches, and Zumba instructors.
In September 2020, the Level Up Active Weekend took place, welcoming 22 ethnically diverse young people aged between 12 and 25, to be part of activities as the initial lockdown measures were being eased.
“We had boxing, football, American football and Zumba,” explained Lisa. “We wanted to give these young people the chance to try things that don’t come around very often. A number had booked just for the first day but came back on the second day because they enjoyed it so much.
“These young people would do activities like this if they had the money to do it – they would go to sessions every week. It gave them a taster and it was fantastic, and something they would thrive on if they were able to do it regularly. We’re looking for ways to do this more long-term, that is sustainable. But it was really enjoyable and we had lots of great feedback.
“A lot of the parents were really happy that their kids were getting out, because they felt lockdown had adversely affected their children. They really appreciated the opportunity to do something like American Football, which is really different and otherwise very expensive.”
Lisa estimates that more than 60% of those who attended were from less affluent households, and had limited outdoor space. She believes the sessions were a boost to both their physical and mental health, and admits that the success of the weekend has changed her own perspective on sport and the role it will play for Level Up in the future.
“I’d always separated things you to do build self-esteem as being different to sport. But watching kids over that weekend just brought it home that it’s a confidence thing. It helped them to feel better about themselves. These are children who don’t have these sort of opportunities either at school or outside of school, so anything we can do to build up their confidence is perfect. I think sport is such a good way to do that.
“For anything we are planning, sporting activity will be in there. It covers so many things: mental health and wellbeing, physical activity for the body – it ticks all the boxes. We’re planning more activities for the summer, including regular boxing sessions and a football camp.
“We want something rolling so that we can always offer sporting opportunities. I think sport is really important, and maybe I didn’t think that before. I’m quite academic, so I was always of the mindset that doing well at school, preparing well for interviews was the way to do things. Something like sport can do so many of the things that we want to build up our kids.
“It builds relationships between them when they’re doing sporting activities. I think it’s important for us to try and provide them because lots of people have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide. Anything we can do to improve that for anyone is so worthwhile. We realise just how important it is.”