The Arsenal Foundation works with Save the Children on Coaching for Life, our ground-breaking project that uses football to enhance the mental wellbeing of children in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Arsenal in the Community coach Bex, 23, has seen the benefits first hand.
“I had wanted to get into coaching for a while but didn’t know how or where to start. I was told about Arsenal in the Community’s Coach Development Programme, where you can get experience coaching in Community sessions and receive advice and guidance from the coaches there. I applied, was accepted and have been part of the programme since September 2022.
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was young – me and my little brother were Junior Gunners who were lucky enough to be picked to be mascots. My dad used to take me to games all the time and when the Emirates opened he managed to get season tickets, so we’ve been going ever since. I’d heard about Arsenal in the Community and their projects, so it was a combination of my interest in coaching and being an Arsenal fan that made me apply for the CDP.
“Part of the programme involves coach education sessions with Community coaches, who have taught me so much. Assisting on their sessions gave me a chance to see and work on so many different projects. I’ve been involved in the Primary Stars project, delivering PE sessions in primary schools, and I’ve worked on sessions with children and adults with disabilities as well as Kicks sessions, where I coach a great group of young girls from the local area. I’ve also been to tournaments, helped groups invited to matchdays, hosted events at The Arsenal Hub and delivered speeches to children in the local community.
“I was told about the opportunity to get involved in Coaching for Life through the CDP because some coaches get to work on projects abroad. We heard about how the project was impacting children’s lives and how it’s educating and training both junior and adult coaches, as well as what we would be involved in if we went. I was so excited to be part of it and was very lucky to be able to go twice and work with everyone there a second time.
“Going to the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan to coach was one of the best experiences of my life. I was a little nervous and very excited before I went, and going into the camp for the first time was an overwhelming experience. I don’t think you can prepare for it. But everyone made me feel so welcome and comfortable from the start, which made being away from home and in a new environment much easier.
“On the first trip, we (myself and the two other CDP coaches) worked with the coaches on preparing and learning about the mini-leagues that were going to be introduced to the Coaching for Life project in the summer. On the second trip I got to see the mini-leagues being delivered and help with any problems that cropped up in the first few weeks.
“On both trips I got to see the impact the project was having on the children involved. They were being taught valuable life skills such as expressing and understanding their emotions, and how to communicate effectively. Coaching for Life helps children stay in school and away from child labour and marriage, and gives young girls the confidence and strength to stand up for their own rights and young boys a purpose in life that they might have felt they were missing. Most importantly I saw that the project gives them a space to be children, forget about their situation and circumstances and have time and space to just be themselves – something they rarely get.
“I also got to see how important this project is to the local coaches. They understand the impact Coaching for Life has on the children and are so proud of the work they are doing. But it also gives them back some of what they left behind. They can provide for their families again and give back to their community – something they all take so seriously. Even though Coaching for Life is about improving the lives of the children, it has definitely done the same for the coaches involved.
“There’s still so much more to do, though, because the camp has over 80,000 people living there and more than half of them are children. I feel the main thing is trying to make the children and the coaches in the camp feel connected. I still remember a mother telling us how they felt forgotten in the camp, that the world had left them behind, but that through Coaching for Life and the connection to Arsenal and London they feel part of the world again.
“Working with Save the Children was amazing. They always made sure we felt comfortable and safe in the camp but also in Jordan. Everyone there made the experiences so positive and fun – I still can’t thank them enough for everything they did. They gave us the opportunity to visit other projects in the camp that they run to help us understand their work and the impact it has, which we were incredibly grateful for. They also helped us explore Jordan and understand the culture, which was all new to us.
“On a personal level I have learned a lot about myself as a coach and a person. As a coach it has reinforced my belief that football should be a fun, safe space, because everyone deserves that time and opportunity to explore and play the game. As a person I’ve learned I’m more capable than I thought I was, and to have confidence in myself and my abilities.
“Ultimately, though, it’s about the people at Za’atari. The camp provides them with a community again – a chance to rebuild and create a life for their families and themselves that they had to leave behind to survive. A big part of that comes from all the different organisations and projects like Coaching for Life that provide people with the opportunities to work and children the opportunity to take part in the same activities as other children all around the world.”
For more information on Coaching for Life click here
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