Here at Hoops we’re all about helping you to get into sport and fitness. And on our journey we’re meeting some great people, who are working towards the same goals as we are. Football Beyond Borders are a charity doing great work, so we met them to find out more.
“Our programme exists to tackle the linked problems of educational underachievement and social exclusion for young people from economically disadvantaged communities.”
Football Beyond Borders (FBB) doesn’t sound that different to a lot of charities when you read its mission statement.
For the clue to the FBB unique selling point, like with many things, you have to look to the name.
“Football is a universal language, it’s the most popular sport in the world,” Liam Baxter, FBB’s social media manager, told Hoops.
“For us, if you’re passionate about something then you should always use that to decide what you want to do.”
“We are coaches – but we’re role models too”
It was that belief that led a group of university mates to set up the charity in 2009, with the aim of re-engaging students at risk of exclusion from their schools with education, through the medium of football.
While the idea for FBB was at first nurtured on tours to east Europe and Africa, it was when it was brought back to London that it really began to develop.
What took shape was a programme of after-school classes, which has seen positive results in terms of cutting down on truancy and bad behaviour in participating schools.
Because of those results, 18 schools across London are taking part, while the charity’s first project in Wales was announced this year.
“We are coaches – we call ourselves practitioners – but we are also role models to these kids,” Baxter said.
“To the young people we work with, we are somebody they can rely on and seek advice from.
“We work with them to make the right choices, and to help them understand that actions have consequences and the value of making positive choices more often than not.
“We may have been in their position before and are perhaps more relatable than a teacher.
“It’s important for them to have role models in their life. They may look up to professional footballers, but it’s also important for them to have ordinary citizens who they can relate to on and off the pitch.
“It’s easy for us to relate it back to someone like Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final.
“We get our kids to research him and find out about his background and where he has come from – he’s now a world superstar but he wasn’t when he was eight or nine years old.
“He’s got there through resilience and drive, no one could have guaranteed to him that he’d be where he is now.”
“We’re building an FBB family”
One look at the results suggests that FBB may be on to something.
Stats taken from the 40 students to have completed the first year of the FBB Schools programme showed that school attendance increased from 91.2% to 96.2%, while the number of incidences of bad behaviour dropped by 27%.
But the charity’s focus isn’t purely on results – they care about the people.
“I’ve seen children from when they first came to the project aged 14, where they’re only half-interested and don’t really engage, through to now where they’re 17 and have been with us for three years,”
“One of our lads has gone on to be head boy at his school after previously being at risk of exclusion, and the difference in him is staggering. We know that without our help it could have gone the other way.
“One of the most important things with FBB is that it’s not just an after school project – we’re building an FBB family.
“That’s everyone involved, from the kids to every supporter, parent and person involved is part of that family.
“And hopefully we all work together to really make a difference.”
“It’s only a matter of time before we grow”
And the charity really are making a difference.
One look at the FBB website shows the depths they go to in order to provide their charges with a positive experience.
YouTube channels, broadcast training and a clear emphasis on enjoyment shine through – and testament from students past and present are overwhelmingly positive.
Unsurprisingly given the programme’s success, FBB are setting their sights on achieving more.
“We really want to expand throughout the UK,” said Baxter.
“We already have one school in Wales, we hope to have a lot more by September. It’s difficult in London, a lot of schools are working on tight budgets.
“But we want to expand, we’re ready to expand, and we have a lot of good people behind us.
“It’s only a matter of time before the FBB family grows and we’re really able to make a difference all around the country.”
To find out more about Football Beyond Borders, click here.
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