Saturday’s game against Cheltenham may have been Charlton Athletic’s Street Violence Ruins Lives (SVRL) themed matchday but the impact the club’s programme has on local youngsters is far more wide reaching.
Set-up 13 years ago by Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) after 18-year-old supporter and Harry Potter star Rob Knox was stabbed to death, the programme raises awareness of the serious consequences of knife and street crime among young people.
However, it has evolved to become a lot more than just that over the past few years, aiming to maximise the impact of CACT’s existing crime reduction work in the community through one-to-one mentoring, group work and enrichment activities.
Despite the added challenges that have been brought by coronavirus, more than 5,400 hours of mentoring have been delivered to 400 young people over a 12-month period up to this April.
“It’s about enriching and empowering youngsters to take them on a journey,” Paul Robinson, CACT’s Crime Reduction Mentoring Manager exclusively told London Football Scene.
“We’ve seen a lot of young people come through the programme and we’re pleased to see a lot of them go into mentoring themselves, working within the communities they come from.
“It’s very much about further education as well – a lot of them grow up to sit on Youth Forums and Youth Council, enrol on our National Citizen Service programme or attend a post-16 academy or traineeship programme.”
Over 60 youngsters from areas covering Greenwich, Bexley and Dartford took part in Saturday’s SVRL action-packed day of activities which included Go-Karting and Mini Golf before heading to The Valley for Charlton’s League One encounter against Cheltenham.
Two of the youngsters at the event were Ezra and Tudor who attend the weekly sessions run by CACT with Tudor adding: “We have a lot of fun, there’s different activities and we meet new people as well which is great.”
With coronavirus restrictions lifted, CACT hope to once again provide a full-range of diversionary activities to regularly engage with youngsters – not that the pandemic stopped them from delivering their remarkable support.
“In some ways it helped us because we had to change and deliver our work on young people’s platforms instead,” Robinson added.
“We never thought we could mentor that way but we were mentoring young people on Zoom, WhatsApp and even through the PlayStation.
“We still managed to see so many young people through those platforms and of course, they knew those platforms better than us!”
Charlton Athletic’s players also wore t-shirts promoting the campaign ahead of the game with boss Nigel Adkins full of praise for the work the club does in his post-match press conference.
“I’m a strong believer in how important a football club and their role in the community is and Charlton are at the forefront of that in the Football League,” Adkins said.
Indeed, the legacy Charlton Athletic Community Trust has built with the Street Violence Ruins Lives campaign is second to none, providing role models and positive opportunities and experiences to youngsters who may otherwise be at risk of the allure of street crime.
When asked to define what the initiative gives to youngsters, Robinson summarises, “What we aim to do is raise young people’s aspirations.
“It’s about young people having fun, enjoying the club they have on their doorstep and working alongside it to be a positive part of the community and grow within that community.”