A group of Islington care experienced young people enjoyed a huge surprise at The Arsenal Hub this week as singer-songwriter and Gooner Mabel paid them a visit to encourage them to follow their dreams.
The Brit award-winning musician stunned the group when she made a surprise arrival during an Arsenal Kickoff session - a home learning and football after-school club proved by Arsenal in the Community. She held a Q&A session before taking part in a game of football and joining them for an end-of-term feast to complete a memorable afternoon!
Mabel was open and honest about her own mental health challenges growing up and was keen to offer and share her advice with the youngsters, especially those who find themselves in similar situations. She was keen to explain that anything is possible regardless of their background or living situation and to keep being persistent.
“I am very passionate about encouraging young people and making them feel important and seen,” she said. “I definitely grew up with my own struggles with insecurity and mental health growing up, so being involved in projects that help young people understand themselves is the best way I can spend an afternoon.
“I have a responsibility with my platform to make people feel like anything is possible, and for me it’s about putting opportunities in front of them. It’s easy to get removed from these projects because my schedule becomes crazy, but connecting with people is what music is and being there on the ground is so important, even for my own mental health.
“Seeing youngsters get involved in their passion is so incredible as it brings responsibility and work ethic. Sometimes you can’t dream further than tomorrow, and we’re not born with the same set of opportunities.”
The visit continued a busy Arsenal-themed week for Mabel, who was one of the artists involved in our Islington FM-themed men’s away kit launch.
Despite being a relatively fresh Gooner, she already feels a deep connection with the club having attended games at Emirates Stadium and revealed she had to quickly compose herself at the kit shoot after being told she was filming alongside Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli!
“My boyfriend is a big Arsenal fan, and he was watching All or Nothing,” Mabel said. “After 30 minutes I was like: “oh my God, I love this team.” I love Mikel Arteta and how he leads with positivity. I know what performance pressure is like, and I just loved the attitude that he brings to the club.
“Stepping into the Emirates for the first time, I felt like I wanted to be there every weekend. I’m not the most sociable person but there is something about going to football games in this country that I enjoy so much and being part of the energy.
“I felt like it was a family and a club of the people from all walks of life, and it felt so positive, so to find out about Arsenal in the Community and the work they do makes me love Arsenal even more.”
Also in attendance was Councillor Michelline Safi Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families from Islington Council. She was delighted to see Mabel and Arsenal come together to encourage children with difficult upbringings, as well as vulnerable and diverse backgrounds, to strive for a better future.
Reflecting on Mabel’s visit, Councillor Ngongo said: “As a young person talking to fellow young people, I could see them relate to everything she said, and how she copes with her mental health. Our young people need those tools and experience, and everyone learned by listening to her. We are proud of her - she is very inspiring.
“Arsenal in the Community is not just about giving children a space or activities, it is really about giving them a future and a sense of belonging as they feel a part of Arsenal. It’s not about what Arsenal are doing today; it is planting a seed to help these young people feel valued and offer them a safe environment.”
Councillor Ngongo reiterated the urgent need for excellent foster carers for care-experienced young people. “We are trying our best to promote fostering because we care about our young people and treat them as our own. Some come from challenging backgrounds, but I believe they deserve the chance of a future. I would ask anyone to please open their heart and their house, and we are here to support you to look after our young people.”
Being an effective foster carer can make a huge positive impact on young people’s lives. If you would like to know more about fostering, Islington Council are keen to talk to you. Please email email@example.com or telephone 020 7527 7933.
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