Arsenal in the Community runs programmes that can support local youngsters for as long as they want to engage with the services on offer – notably the Kicks football programme on local estates. Jely Kikamba, 22, is one example of a young man who has used the club to help change the course of his life.
“I was born and bred in Islington and I moved from the estate where I was born to the nearby Elthorne Estate a few years ago. Life there isn’t always easy and I think people know there are problems with gangs and crime in the Islington area, but there are ways out of crime, too. When I was younger a lot of us played football in the park whenever we could, and the more I went the more I realised Arsenal in the Community were always turning up. As an Arsenal fan and a football fan I was interested in finding out more, and I ended up volunteering.
“I started off by getting involved with coaching at the Kicks football sessions, helping to set them up and keep them running smoothly. I also ended up doing other courses such as first aid, and when I was 16 I did a two-week programme weeding gardens in the local community. Through the club I also took part in a show at the Almeida Theatre. It was all spoken word stuff on stage, sort of like poetry but modern, and it was a great experience. We also went on a trip to the Isle of Wight, where we went quad-biking. That was even better.
“These days I’m studying at Middlesex University but I still work for Arsenal, in the stadium on matchdays. I help Gunnersaurus in the shop before kick-off, and I also help during the Junior Gunner penalty shootouts at half time. It’s good fun, and I’ve got to meet a fair few players as a result.
“I’m studying film – the creative side, making documentaries – and I think working for Arsenal in the Community has helped me to get where I am now. I gained a huge amount of confidence, particularly in the way I look at myself and how I can mix with different types of people. On an estate you may find a certain type of person, but at the stadium it’s very different, and Arsenal gave me an insight into how different my life could be.
“I’ve done a lot of things and made a lot of friends, and even now when I meet up with them it feels as if we’re all interconnected. Arsenal in the Community has made it easier for me to get by, and who knows, if I decide against a career in film maybe I’ll end up working in the media – maybe for Arsenal.”
Read more on the history of Arsenal Kicks here
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