A charity housing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) and young people in care is using football to challenge negative images. St Christopher’s Fellowship works in partnership with local authorities to help young people develop the emotional and practical skills they need to live independently, and runs the All Blacks team, a squad made up of over 16’s living in supported housing.
‘Sport does not pay attention to a person’s background or upbringing, it is for all,’ Life skills and Participation Co-Ordinator and football team manager, Alex Jones, told Copyright. ‘We think that sport has wide ranging benefits for young people’s health and self-esteem, but also that it can be used to help young people develop skills such as confidence, teamwork, leadership and communication.’
More than half of new placements at St Christopher’s last year were UASCs, and the charity is keen to encourage cohesion and help them form relationships with the existing young people in care.
‘For me it is making friends’, one participant told Copyright. ‘I get to make friends with people who help me with my English.
‘They help me to understand how things work here.’
Many of the children in care find it difficult to discuss their past, but there are parallels between those from the UK and those seeking asylum, ‘A lot of their journeys have been full of things that make them mistrust adults, and when they’re playing football they get a chance to do something where adults are not the ones with power,’ said Jones in an article in The Guardian.
‘Then the trust comes.’
Words: Ellen White
Find out more about St Christopher’s here.