Football Fern, Grace Jale, has just finished helping the New Zealand Football Foundation and Youthtown deliver what she believes could be a life changing experience for children in our community.
Recently, the New Zealand Football Foundation in conjunction with Youthtown successfully completed a trial of its Football Connect programme, which is aimed to provide children who may be unable to financially participate in Football at a club or holiday programme, the opportunity to fall in love with the beautiful game.
Football Connect brought together 23 boys and girls from across the Central Auckland region, who had ever met before, and ran a semi-structured programme hosted by Football Ferns Grace Jale and Paige Satchell as well as Former Fern Amber Hearn.
“With the NZ Football Foundation wanting to give back to the communities who are a little less fortunate, I thought that this was a really cool opportunity to work with kids who were interested in football and hopefully build a lifelong connection to the game I love” said Jale.
“The first day was really funny because all the kids were a little standoffish as they didn’t really know us or each other. But then by the end of the first holiday program you could see that they are making friends, as well as improving both their communication and footballing skills”
“And as each day finished you could see they were all getting more and more confident in themselves and each other, which was really cool to see” said Jale.
As part of the Football Connect programme, the NZ Football Foundation and Youthtown have worked with the newly formed Auckland United club to not only keep these kids together as a team for the next season, but will also be covering their fees to help them continue their journey with Football.
“These kids loved the programme so much that one of them would walk an hour or so to attend the sessions as he didn’t have a ride.”
“I kept saying to him that he could ask us to help him out, but he was adamant saying ‘No, I’m happy walking. It’s worth the travel.’ This blew me away. I don’t know how I would do that when I was younger.
Jale feels the best part of the Football Connect programme was giving back to the community and seeing passion for football blossom.
“These kids would have had a taste of football at school, you do it for PE or play at lunch time, but helping them to really start to love football and develop a passion for the game. That’s not only the best feeling, but also the most important part of the programme”
To find out more on the Football Connect programme please contact firstname.lastname@example.org