At this time of year, following the excesses of Christmas, nearly everyone you speak to is on a health drive, vowing the go to the gym more. But this morning I was invited to an event where I heard how a charity encouraging youngsters to participate in sport is not only making them fitter, but literally changing their lives.
Street Games was set up in 2007 to help young people living in some of Britain’s most disadvantaged areas get into sport, with the aim of broadening their horizons and improving their communities. Seven years on and it really seems to be working.
At its Business Breakfast this morning I, and the other invited guests, watched a film made by the members of Pill Youth Club in Newport who have benefited from the charity’s work. Their excitement and enthusiasm was plain to see as they played netball and hit the dry ski slope – but it is having wider benefits. The youngsters say “sport is our medicine”.
However, they are in a minority. Statistics show 70% of disadvantaged children would like to take part in more sport.
That’s why Street Games brought together representatives from business, public sector groups and the government today to demonstrate its work. The charity believes there are benefits to supporting deprived communities through sport for everyone involved. It now hopes to work with even more organisations across Wales.
As an example of increasing collaboration, Street Games today launched a new initiative called Table Tennis in the Community, with the Welsh Government and Welsh Table Tennis. Seven local authorities across Wales have donated land to the scheme so that outdoor table tennis tables can be put into communities for young people to use and enjoy.
Speaking at the event the Welsh Government Sport and Culture Minister, John Griffiths AM, talked about the link between sport and poverty, and how the former can help the later. He said “We’ve got particular problems with health and poverty in deprived areas. It’s a difficult time for public spending. So it’s really important we build partnerships and get key organisations working together. That’s where the third sector and business are really important”.
He went on to say “Today is really on that territory. In Welsh Government we really want to work with Sport Wales through Street Games on this crucial agenda”.
When the new table tennis tables are put in place this Spring they could help to produce a future Commonwealth Games medal winner, like Ryan Jenkins, or an Olympian like Darius Knight, who were both at today’s launch.
But the real goal for Street Games is to get more Welsh youngsters playing sport and enjoying it. The more partners they have on board to help with that, the more likely they are to succeed.