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Fund gives vital help to get young people active again

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Historically, sport has been a unifying presence in society - something which can help a group of people through a crisis.

That has certainly been the case with Margam Youth Centre in Port Talbot, where a grant from Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund has allowed young people in the area to get back to playing football again. 

The receipt of £1,500 - along with a further coronavirus-related grant - has helped the local community through the effects of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Margam Youth Centre is run by its secretary George Ridgeway, who devotes his spare time to ensuring youngsters in the area have what they need. 

In total, the youth centre has 90 junior players and the fund is allowing those youngsters to return to the pitch. 

 

“We applied for a start-up grant so we could get our pitches back up to standard to allow the children to come back to training,” says George, who works for the local health board. 

“We had the pitches all fertilised and re-done, while we also had the grass cut ahead of the players returning to training three weeks ago. 

“We have seven pitches within our organisation. We have two full size ones and we have smaller pitches for the under elevens, under nines and under sixes to use. 

“Without this fund, we would have had to spend between £1,500 and £2,000 on the pitch. Usually, our contract is with the council who cut the grass and bill us every month. 

“They charge us £100 plus VAT to cut the field every 10 days, which is a challenge to find.

“Usually, in a crisis, the first thought that comes into people’s minds is that they have to increase their monthly fees. But the grant has enabled us to decrease our fees to give our members some help. 

“We are only training at the present moment. We reduced our fees in September from £12 to £5 because we know some parents are struggling, so we thought as a goodwill gesture we would lower our fees. 

“All the parents are very pleased and can’t get over it. It’s all about working together and looking out for each other.” 

Lockdown was a big strain on the health and well-being of children up and down Wales. And Ridgeway is quick to emphasise how beneficial the grant has been in maintaining the health of their members. 

“It’s about children’s physical and mental health. During lockdown, they would often have been indoors - playing on their X-Box and I-Pad.

“What I’ve noticed when the children have come back is they’ve returned more keen, excited, smiling and looking forward to playing football. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about putting smiles back on the children’s faces. We have about 90 junior playing members in our age groups from under sixes upwards. Last week we also started back up our disabled inclusion football side. 

 

“As an organisation we are also very fortunate that we’ve picked up a grant for Covid-19 which allowed us to purchase safety equipment like hand sanitisers, temperature checks, masks, disposable plates and has allowed us to buy cleaning equipment for the youth centre.” 

Margam Youth Centre has also gone the extra mile to aid the families of its members. With many parents experiencing a drop in income due to being placed on furlough, or losing their jobs altogether, the charity has tried to soften the blow.

George adds: “During the lockdown period, we also gave every member a food hamper worth £50. We had members messaging us saying how much that benefitted their family.

“We have had so many messages. A lot of people have been affected financially by lockdown, so we wanted to look after people in our community. 

“Both the football team and the youth centre is a focal point of this community and it was vital we survived this period.” 

The Be Active Wales grant funding has been made possible thanks to Welsh Government and repurposed money from the National Lottery, which continues to be one of Welsh sport’s biggest supporters.   

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