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How Sheffield Charity is Using Sport to Keep Young People Away From Crime

BAMe sports group
September 2022
Reading time 3 Minutes

Reach Up Youth are using sport to help keep young people away from crime in Sheffield

Founder Safiya Saeed reveals how they’re shaping role models with their two projects: Big Brother Burngreave and Sisterhood.
lady smiling at a surprise cake

'There’s nothing better than young people trying to do better,' Safiya says when asked about the work of Reach Up Youth. The community organisation was founded in 2013 by Safiya, who wanted to improve the environment her five children were growing up in. 

‘Burngreave is a deprived area but we celebrate a lot of diversity,’ she says. ‘There are lots of local businesses and it’s very family-oriented. In 2013 I saw lots of families who didn’t really know what was going on. There weren’t a lot of resources coming into the area so Reach Up Youth was born.’

Reach Up Youth’s projects provide social education and physical activities to encourage young people to reach their potential, providing opportunities for young people – particularly those in the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community. In January 2017, Reach Up Youth received their first fund of £500 from Yorkshire Sport and used this to kickstart some of their successful projects, which include sports training programmes, mental health workshops and mentoring schemes. Since then, the project has already helped more than 500 people in Burngreave, but donations are key to keeping their work going.

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BAME playing basketball
Man coaching basketball

Safiya describes using sport as a ‘hook’ to get young men involved in their project Big Brother Burngreave. ‘When we started, I knew it was very important that I gave them structure,’ Safiya says. This structure is demonstrated via coloured T-shirts. ‘If they’re at school they wear blue, if they’re at college they wear red and that’s because we want them to identify each other’s strengths. It means those in the red T-shirts can be role models and look out for those in the blue. They’re from the same catchment areas so they’ll probably go to the same college so we know they’ll be positive examples. Out of those young people, the six that stand out to us become champions and from those six, three are promoted to become leaders.

'We use sport to start conversations and bring down barriers. We don't do social sports without a purpose.'
group of girls playing basketball

‘The boys are mentored to respect females and taught how to have positive behaviour in and out of education, and how to represent their community. We’ve done that under the umbrella of training and now we’re moving onto employment skills.’

In Burngreave, Safiya felt young women were lacking in relatable mentors from their background, so with Reach Up Youth, she set up Sisterhood. This project is aimed at girls aged between 11 and 20 and, again through sport, they’re taught about leadership and confidence-building skills. ‘We do training and safeguarding, we talk about boundaries and respect and we also talk about mental health and the support you can get. Within these groups we address body image, exploitation, leadership, independence and communication skills.

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‘We use sport to start conversations and bring down barriers. We don’t do social sports without a purpose. There’s always a hashtag and a campaign – and that’s how we try to teach them. We also try to expose them to sports such as ice skating, cricket, athletics and ice hockey – things many think you have to be privileged to have access to.’ 

Safiya sees the effects of her work in each young person. ‘I enjoy watching them grow, getting a first-time job, and getting married,’ Safiya says. ‘The best part is seeing how these young people change because of what we’ve provided and the choices they’ve taken. I’ll take them to awards nights, the cinema, another city – whatever they need to do to understand that the world is a massive oyster and they can make what they want of it. They just need to start with one good decision and stick to it.’

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