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Give London charity stories
London Football Journeys
“I am helping to
make peace among
young people in
different areas”
Halema Hussain sounds like a confident, articulate young
woman. But she didn’t used to be that way. Until last October,
the 15-year-old was wary of talking to strangers and was
reluctant to travel beyond the streets of Wembley, her home.
She wouldn’t use public transport and often felt unsafe.
A lot of London teenagers feel the same
way. As a 2012 report on education
commissioned by the Mayor of London
found, too many young people in the
capital – especially those from less
privileged backgrounds – are strangers
to their home town.
Working with a group of kids from her
school, Ark Elvin Academy, the project
taught Halema how to plan, film and edit
a short video about the area where she
lives, how it feels to live there, and what she
thinks about football. The teenagers talk on
camera, interview each other, and gather
views from their community, too.
“Whether they find it too
difficult to travel, or feel
intimidated about leaving their
neighbourhood, young people
can sometimes miss out on the
rich experiences that London
offers,” the report said.
When the Ark Elvin kids had finished their
video, they swapped it with a group of
young people from St Thomas the Apostle
College in Peckham, across the other side
of London. They were part of the project too
and had been making a similar film about
their lives and their community.
Things changed for Halema when
she got involved with London Football
Journeys, a project that uses football as
a way of bringing people from different
communities together – including those
who, like Halema, are not actually that
interested in the game.
When the groups meet to play football
together, it’s not about who wins. “It’s
always about mixing the groups up – not
at all about them versus each other,” says
Alex. Each six-hour visit includes pointers
on communication and teamwork, learned
through football and mini matches. “Then
we have food together and visit the local
youth club or centre.”
Between February and November last
year, 87 young people aged 11 to 15
took part in the project. They felt more
confident meeting young people from other
communities (78%) and travelling to other
areas in London (72%). They said they’d
become better leaders (79%) and better
communicators (88%).
Emmanuel Akin was one of them.
Like Halema, the 16-year-old is now an
ambassador for the cause. “I am helping
to make peace among young people in
different areas. This is a skill to sell. I hope
that employers like it,” he says.
Once the two groups had watched each
other’s films, and talked about what it might
be like to live in another part of London,
they went to visit each other’s community,
to have a look around its school, to make
friends and to play football.
travelled by myself before. But I felt really
comfortable because I had everyone
on my team with me.”
The unique part of London Football Journeys
is not the football, but the way the project
uses video, explains Alex Baine, who
founded the project in 2012, after two years
working with a Mumbai project that used
football to help slum kids learn life skills
and find a way into education.
“We take the kids outside their comfort
zones by asking them to tell a story about
who they are and where they’re from,” he
says. “They have to think about how they
want to introduce themselves in a way that
creates positive expectations.”
“It was my first time in Peckham and I
really enjoyed it,” says Halema. “I’d never
Each film is shot across three weeks, with
one three-hour session each week. “Rather
than us just filming them, we let the kids
decide all aspects of their video,” explains
Alex. “We then edit it, bring it back for
feedback, and get them to sign it off
once they’re happy with it.”
When Emmanuel helps to organise the
football journeys, “I have to explain the
roles and tasks to the kids, which has
helped me learn how to become a
good leader,” he says.
different youth groups and letting them
experience hosting, as well as travelling to
an unfamiliar environment, is not only smart
but is the easiest way of helping to
tackle these barriers.”
“The project has made me
feel positive about my area,
particularly as there have been
gang-related issues in the past,”
he adds. “Some young people
see it as a threat, going into
other areas. We do not have
those concerns now. This is
a great achievement.”
Community leaders agree. “Breaking
down postcode barriers is needed in
society today,” says George Henry,
community coach at Crystal Palace FC
Foundation. “The concept of taking two
The London Community Foundation has
backed the project with two grants totalling
£29,000, from the Evening Standard’s Red
Nose Day fund and Sport Relief fund. “That
money has made a huge difference,” says
Alex. “We’ve been able to expand our
project to four new boroughs in London
and undertake an independent impact
report on our programmes.”
Halema is clear about how the project
has affected her. “I’m confident now,”
she says, on her return from a project
meeting in Victoria. “I’m using trains and
buses, travelling around London, going
everywhere by myself, doing public
speaking. The project is amazing.
It’s changed my life.”
Give London
Unit 7, Piano House,
9 Brighton Terrace,
London SW9 8DJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7582 5117
Fax: +44 (0)20 7582 4020
[email protected]
Give London is an initiative of The London Community
Foundation, registered charity (1091263) and company
limited by guarantee (4383269).
Quality accredited by UK Community Foundations
to standards endorsed by the Charity Commission.

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