How we started
In 2006, a number of small groups and project workers came together to form a strategy as to how to grow and sustain their projects, which were primarily funded by the Active Communities Development fund. This coming together of like-minded agencies shared and sought new ways of working to improve outcomes for young people at a time when they were stigmatised and labelled as troublesome. In response to this a new charity, London Active Communities was formed, with a remit to deliver services in South London, acting as a lead agency for the sports, youth and community development sector. London Active Communities had four core remits in the first instance: To deliver high quality grass roots sports and youth work projects, to provide a workforce development and training function to improve the skills of the sector and to improve the evidence base of our sector and recognition of sport as a strong method to impact on communities. By 2009, the charity was re-branded to Active Communities Network due to new projects in South Africa and Northern Ireland being established. Since then the charity has grown in stature, delivering projects across all regions of the UK, in South Africa and supporting local partners across five continents.
1. Ade Akande
Ade grew up in Elephant and Castle, south London which is known for its high level of gang crime, territorialism, drug abuse and mass unemployment. As a youngster it wasn’t easy to stay away from negative activities and Ade found himself hanging out with the wrong people. However, despite this Ade always had a love for football.
Many of his close friends received prison sentences for serious crimes, but Ade made sure he was not going to be another product of this environment and with the help with ACN he soon started taking advantage of the opportunities provided to him and gained qualifications and work experience.
With the help from his youth workers Ade achieved 10 G.C.S.E’s at B-C and in his final year of school Ade went on to play for Staines Town Academy as well as attending Kingston College studying a sports science BTEC course.
After experiencing the serious loss of a close friend through a fatal shooting incident in Peckham it motivated him to pursue positive aspirations, which led him into further education at St Mary's University, where he has completed a BSc Sport science degree in 2014.
After completing his degree Ade worked as a paid member of staff with ACN before taking on the role of project coordinator of Tower Hamlets with partners Celtic Football Foundation where he continues to inspire young people. Ade said, “I would like to help people like me from a young age so that it doesn’t have to take them as long to realise that crime is not the way forward”.
- Ade Akande
2. Dean McComb
Dean is a 25 year old man from the Upper Springfield Area who is currently engaging and volunteering with Active Communities Network. The last number of years have been traumatic for Dean and his family as they have endured so much personal loss through car crime and suicide. He lost his sister when she was knocked down and killed by death drivers, he lost two brothers to suicide and his father collapsed and died suddenly at home all in the space of a few years. Furthermore he was to suffer more grief when his partner and mother of his two children took her own life two years ago. Throughout this turbulent period in Dean`s life he was a member of the Active Communities Network GOALS group. He has long been a non-attender in education and through engagement with ACN began to use interventions and boxing to provide renewed focus in his life.
More recently another bereavement from Dean`s brother partner has seen Dean has recently reengaged with ACN. Intense mentoring has lead Dean on an action plan placed on volunteering and harnessing life experience and boxing skills to work with younger groups. Recently he completed an Access NI vetting form to allow him the opportunity to volunteer with our organisation. Dean was a very successful amateur boxer and he as expressed an interest in working with the young people in our youth inclusion projects and young people who find themselves marginalised within their community. He speaks openly, and has been using ACN to help address low self-esteem and issues around confidence and expressing himself.
Dean was a very successful amateur boxer and he as expressed an interest in working with the young people in our youth inclusion projects and young people who find themselves marginalised within their community. He speaks openly, and has been using ACN to help address low self-esteem and issues around confidence and expressing himself.
He left school with little or no academic qualifications and this has impacted on him and his ability to read and write. At present he is currently doing a VRQ level 2 qualification, when he is undertaking written tasks where he is being supported to ensure he completes tasks and there is also additional support from the course facilitator. Dean has now immersed himself in a key volunteering role with an at risk group of young people in his local area with his ACN mentor. He is also organising a city wide boxing tournament with young people as a part of their social action. Dean also expresses that he wants to do essential skill courses in English and Maths when he completes the VRQ so we will source this training and put this in place for him.
He is very enthused at the moment and optimistic about the future. He always speaks about his two young children and he wants to ensure that he can provide for them. He wants to create a good stable environment for the children were they will be brought up safe and happy.
- Dean McComb
3. Michael Kuku
Michael Kuku first attended an estate football session on the Aylesbury when he was 11 years old. Michael’s main reason for attending was to improve his confidence and to gain additional social skills as well as improving his footballing ability. Previous to attending the sessions Michael had a habit of getting caught up in the wrong crowd, which lead him into trouble both at home and with the police.
Michael previously attended Walworth Academy, however at the age of 12 his poor behaviour led to him being sent to Nigeria where his parents had initially emigrated from with the idea to teach him some discipline. Michael returned to London at the age of 14 and despite his willingness to go back to school the lack of available space at schools in Southwark meant that Michael was not able to attend for one school. Eventually in September 2014 Michael was enrolled back into school however due to his year absence he had to enter into the year below which resulted in a dip in confidence.
Looking to boost his confidence and gain additional skills Michael started to volunteer with Active Communities Network, helping staff to set up sessions, sorting out the participants before the session starts, helping with outreach and refereeing matches. Michael’s positive engagement in sport has influenced his peers by encouraging them to become involved in sports sessions and moving away from gang related activities. His determination and commitment to provide support in sessions has had a positive effect on the younger people he coaches who now look to him as a role model.
With this new found confidence and enhanced communication skills Michael and his peers developed a youth social action group which developed a programme to help engage inactive young people as well as those involved in gangs to try and deter away from antisocial behaviour. Michael was a key member of this group because of his experience of volunteering in sport, knowledge of his community and his ongoing achievements in music.
Since becoming part of the ACN programme Michael has shown great progression with his behaviour, his confidence is increasing and his ambition and determination has really accelerated. His growth within his own community is visible and he is fast becoming a positive leader to all of those around him. His short term goal is to become more involved in volunteering and to keep attending accredited and non-accredited courses to improve his CV. His long term goal is to become an ambassador for ACN.
Most recently, Michael completed the VRQ in Using Sport to Tackle Youth Crime, an Equality and Diversity Workshop and completed an Introduction to Youth Work qualification during the summer. Michael feels that these qualifications will help him stand out from his peers when entering the working world. Growing up in such a difficult part of London, Michael is a shining example of how sport and social action can help to have a positive impact on himself and the wider community. The dedication that he has shown thought his journey with ACN is to be applauded and we look forward to seeing his progress in the future.
— Michael Kuku
4. Bobbi Clarke
Bobbi who is from Leigh Park first became involved in Active Communities Network in the summer 2015 when she was 21 years of age. Bobbi was not in Education, Employment or Training and was experiencing some challenges in her personal life resulting in low confidence and increasing risk-taking behaviors including, substance misuse.
A keen footballer and amateur boxer during her youth, Bobbi had originally undertaken a football scholarship in the USA but this was cut short when the club folded and returned to the UK in the Spring of 2015 with low self-esteem and lack of direction.
Bobbi was identified to us through the local boxing club and originally volunteered on our Boxing Awards sessions and quickly showed a passion and commitment to supporting young people.
Bobbi was offered the chance to attend a GB Boxing Tutor course through Active Communities Network and as a result this enabled her to gain an income through the delivery of boxing sessions around Havant.
It was quickly evident that Bobbi had huge potential as a youth worker, exhibiting key skills such as empathy, patience and an ability to build positive relationships with young people.
Bobbi was supported to increase her knowledge and understanding of the protective factors required when working in this environment and undertook training, including Safeguarding & Child Protection, Sex and Relationships Tier 1& 2 and awareness courses covering, substance misuse, Domestic violence and Child Sexual Exploitation.
Bobbi quickly gained confidence and leadership skills and she has since progressed to support and lead on our community multi sport delivery provision and become a vital member of this small team operating in Leigh Park.
Bobbi has also played a vital role in a number of specialist projects which has supported young people within schools and the community to be better educated, aware and to have a voice regarding matters that affect them including, Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Exploitation.
Bobbi has successfully applied to a local University to study Physical Education and Sports Coaching Degree from September 2016 and will continue to work with ACN gaining more experience and widening her opportunities in Sport for Development, Youth Work and Teaching.
- Bobbi Clarke
5. Andrew Mongi
Andrew first attended sessions with ACN at the age of 12 as a young person in our Southwark programme, initially taking part in local football and sport sessions. As he moved through his teen years Andrew started demonstrate an willingness to volunteer and he quickly started nominating himself for the qualifications ACN had to offer. With the qualifications under his belt he soon starting putting them to good practice and become a sessional worker for ACN and managed the Southwark Tigers youth football team with great success. His roles soon expanded with ACN due to his hard-work and eagerness to learn new skills and Andrew was presented with multiple different opportunities to take his hand to. One of which was the opportunity to use ACN resources/equipment and design the leaflets for the summer tournaments and local programmes across London. With a taste for design Andrew went on to study graphic design at university and has since started his own successful graphic design businesses.
The company now works with a variety of organisations to deliver his mission of ‘providing high quality visual communications with a personal service’.
In addition to his design work Andrew has continued giving back to his community and in 2015 Andrew set up Train Station UK, a community based fitness programme, which gives people the chance to access quality free weights training in their community. This has been hugely successful. He also offers this as a portable service to be used at events. He has been to many of the ACN hosted events with Asda Foundation and Laureus where he and his team of volunteers have been great at engaging young people and staff alike.
- Andrew Mongi
6. Manchester Girls Dance Group
In Manchester ACN’s dance project has helped to empower girls who previously suffered with low self-esteem and confidence. The programme has been running in Gorton, East Manchester, delivered by Mercedes Cox of ‘Active Me’, are based in the heart of East Manchester at a local dance studio two evenings a week.
Key to the programme’s success is the family atmosphere that has been created. Mercedes explained: “Dance can be quite unfriendly, so I wanted to create an environment where everyone could come and feel at home.”
This friendly approach has not only helped to retain members and allow the group to grow, but with continued support the participants are now experiencing an increase in body confidence and self-esteem. These health and well-being attributes are further enhanced by the group’s success in national dance competitions. The group performs regularly at community events, such as the recent BCA Cheer and Dance competition.
When asked what she thought of the sessions one of the young people said: “At the sessions you are surrounded by people who come from totally different lives to yours. Not only can you learn from each other, but it makes you look at yourself as a different person. This has really improved me socially”.
Another said: “The programme has taught us many things such as teamwork, how to get along with new people and, most importantly, it has taught me about self-discipline.”
The girls and young women have also started taking it in turns to volunteer at the sessions and deliver sections of the class themselves. In addition to this, 10 girls are currently completing their Level 1 Dance Leader’s award and have already gained work experience by delivering six hours of dance to 40 children at a recent holiday camp.
Most recently the girls performed at the Active Communities Network 10 Year Anniversary Awards, where they also picked up the award for the Best Programme Engaging Girls and Young Women.
- Manchester Dance Group
7. Belfast Young Leaders
Providing communities with diversionary activities and properly engaging isolated young people is what ACN does best. In West Belfast, our girls football group is an example of how lives can be turned around through sport.
The girls became involved with ACN through taking part in a football programme in November 2016. Before this they were wondering the streets at night and congregating in the local park with nothing to do. They were first engaged through outreach work by one of our coaches who asked them what they would like to do. Their main interest was sports and fitness, but there were no local girls’ teams around for them to join. Our coach asked the girls to meet with her in the local community centre and together they created an action plan.
They began an eight-week, girls-only multi-sports programme, with a range of different sports each week. On completion of the programme they decided football was the sport they wanted to continue for another eight weeks.
Motivated by a desire to keep fit, make friends, and build confidence, the group became a regular fixture and enabled the girls to form a close friendship group. Together they attended a residential trip where they attained a Young Leader’s award. Now they are preparing to run a city-wide football tournament in collaboration with ACN.
Far from existing on the fringes of their community, the girls have now established themselves as a force for good in the heart of their neighbourhood. Through the community events and fun days they organise, the girls have become role models for the younger generation. And they’ve still got their sights set on furthering their professional development, with many showing an interest in gaining coaching qualifications.