A sprinkle of knowledge, a dash of power, mix in a little control and leave to bake for 6 months. What do you get? A group of young people working alongside youth workers to create a positive space for themselves and other young people in Sutton park.
Young people previously felt unsafe in their local area – an opinion shared by parents and carers. There were real concerns about anti-social behaviour, drug taking, knifes and gangs. As a result, young people and parents with younger children were not using the local park space, meaning it was an attractive place for trouble to occur.
“I used to come round here 3 or 4 times a week, there were a lot of bad people around. Boys would come around and threaten to smash my windows and set my house of fire. It made me feel pressured and scared” (Josh, aged 12).
The Community Ambassadors Programme (C.A.P.) gave young people the opportunity to create what they wanted to see happen on their park. They agreed that free football training should run alongside the CAP and the group applied to the ‘Microfund’ – a small grant offered by Clarion Futures. They succeeded!
With the grant under their belts, Community Ambassadors liaised with the Leeds United kicks project officer to organise free weekly football sessions on the Multi-Use Games Area. Young people promoted the sessions with posters and used a radio interview at a local youth led radio station.
Youth workers Rebecca and James also brought in outside agencies, such as local PCSOs and the fire service. This gave an opportunity for these partners to build positive relationships with young people, and promoted the benefits of engaging young people at a street level.
As a result of all the increased access to activities and the presence of partner organisations, young people began to feel that Sutton Park was a safe space. Where young people may have previously felt unsafe, young people had the opportunity to engage in an inclusive environment, making new friends
“It’s a lot better now than it was 2 years ago. There were guys terrorising us, throwing stones at our houses, trying to steal our bikes and coming down to the park and causing trouble. Now we come down, we meet new people, mix in and make new friends. We have seen people around or from school who we’ve never spoken. Football has given us the chance and we have made new friends” (Ed, aged 15).
The Community Ambassadors Programme is delivered with the support of our partners Clarion Futures and the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. The scheme aims to increases levels of aspiration and empowerment, by taking social action to street level.