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John at a football event

06 April 2020

I did not expect the 6th of April to be like thisHow different today is compared to previous months: 

Through our network of 550 community sport and youth organisations, we support young Londoners to lead, happy, healthy lives and create change for themselves and their community. Sport and physical activity are fundamental to that. What COVID-19 has done though, is remove two key support structures that our members offer young people: access to a safe physical space and trusted adult outside of the homeAnd what we don’t know yet is when these crucial foundations of physical and mental wellbeing will be accessible again. 

However, despite the challenges of the current situation (and there are many with more likely to come)the agility, creativity, quality and speed of the response from London Youth members and youth workers has been phenomenal 

I’ve seen it first-hand via a WhatsApp group I set up 19 days ago. Nothing formal; just a way to keep people connected, share some helpful tips and look after each other. 124 people from 60+ organisations are now part of this group, and here’s a snapshot to what I’ve seen: 

  • Without hesitation, sharing and signposting to immediate and useful funding streams (and offering guidance and top tips) so that their organisations have the best chance of emerging from COVID-19 intact. 
  • Alongside organisational sustainability, there’s also been a wealth of advice, knowledge and resources shared so that sport coaches and youth workers can bring their services online and share ideas with parents and guardians. In essence, providing young people access to that safe space and trusted adult. 
  • They’ve looked after each other. Simple check-ins.How you doing?”, “Can I help you with this?”, “This will make you laugh!” messages.

For me, these embody the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and their #WhiteCard movement – small actions can and do make a difference!  

At London Youth, there’s some small actions of our own I’d like to highlight: 

  1. Our dedicated COVID-19 resource pageClick here to view this. 
  2. Our #StayInWorkOut activity calendar and resource pack. Click here to view this. 
  3. Our top tips for taking activities online. Click here to view our tips. 
  4. Our youth worker wellbeing support service – all staff at our members get access to our Employee Assistance programme. Click here to find out more. 

Although none of us know timescales, I do know that London Youth and our members are now starting to consider life post-COVID-19, and what this means for how we best support young Londoners and our local communities. The shoots of recovery will take time. Confidenceresilience and wellbeing support will need to be priorities (for young people, youth workers and youth organisations). I believe 100% that sport and physical activity will have a critical role to play, and I can assure our members (new and old) that we’ll continue to work with you to offer the experiences that are most needed and most impactful. 

I’ll finish with a quote from Karl Wilding, Chief Executive Officer at NCVO – ‘Charites don’t have a right to survive. But people who depend on them have a right to the services they provide. I’d encourage businesses, funders, government and policy makers to really reflect on this. For me, community sport and youth organisations, alongside education and the family are the key building blocks in nurturing and developing children and young people. What they need now, and long term is the recognition and support of the vital role they play.

– John Jones, Sports Development Manager  | @JustJohnJones