As summer comes to a close, so does Cambridge United Community Trust’s ACTIVATE sessions. The Trust held nine sessions a week from the end of July to the beginning of September, in a hope to promote the physical and mental well-being of young people from the city of Cambridge after lockdown restrictions eased.
The ACTIVATE programme engaged young people in (school) years 1-9, where they could participate for free in safe and fun football/multi-sport sessions and also have the option to receive a free takeaway lunch after sessions finished. This was all made possible through the support of the Premier League Charitable Foundation. In total, over 150 young people engaged with the programme and there were over 350 total hours of activity! One parent told CUCT what they thought, “the sessions were fantastic, amazingly run and [we were] just so grateful we were able to come. It made a huge difference to all of our mental health to have an organised activity to do. Thank you so much.”
Almost half the participants at the sessions receive free school meals and more than 350 free healthy lunches over the course of the summer were handed out. Two-thirds of parents strongly agreed/agreed that the lunches helped their household finances in these difficult times.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, the Trust put in place significant measures to ensure the safety of all the young people attending the sessions. Upon arrival, all participants had their temperature checked digitally and were required to sanitise their hands. In feedback forms given after the sessions, 100% of parents/carers and participants either strongly agreed or agreed that they felt safe at the sessions. Sessions were planned to build the confidence and self-esteem of the participants, therefore if any of the young people felt uncomfortable adjusting to the new regulations where contact during sessions was allowed, they were able to join a separate socially-distanced non-contact game with others instead.
Many of the parents/carers would stay and watch the as the sessions took place, and it was evident that they recognised how their children benefited both physically and mentally from the sessions during such unprecedented times. For example, one parent said that “after being shut at home for months, it was great to have an activity to go to where my daughter could safely interact with other children her age and also be active as her other activities had been closed for months.” Indeed 90% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed that the participant felt more inspired and engaged after attending the sessions and 80% felt their son or daughter’s mental health has improved since coming back to sessions.
Sam Squire is the Premier League Kicks Officer at the Cambridge United Community Trust, and has hosted all of the ACTIVATE sessions since they began in July. The ex-Cambridge United player explained what it has meant to him hosting the sessions and the effect they have had on the participants.
“It’s been a privilege to have led all of the ACTIVATE sessions,” Squire said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being able to witness the participants gain confidence in themselves and in the word around them as each week has gone by. Now looking back, it feels like a journey.”
Squire also stated: "I think the greatest benefit for the young people who participated in the ACTIVATE sessions has been being able to communicate face-to-face with other participants. Over the 6 weeks participants have been able to see their existing friends and gain new ones, all from exercising at a social distance! From speaking to the participants parents/carers this has had an incredibly positive effect on their mental health after being unable to have this form of interaction for so long during lockdown.”
Although the ACTIVATE sessions have come to an end, Cambridge United Community Trust are still striving to make Cambridge a safer, stronger, more inclusive place. To carry on our mission we will be re-launching our Premier League Kicks (PL Kicks) sessions again very soon. To hear all about this and their other programmes please follow @CUCTrust on all social media platforms or visit their website at: https://www.cuctrust.co.uk/