Arsenal in the Community

“There are ways out of crime”

Community Stories Jely

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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