Blackburn Rovers Community Trust provided Eissa with a sense of belonging

“I feel I belong here, and I belong in Blackburn.”

Emotional and strong words from Eissa as he explained how crucial of a role Blackburn Rovers Community Trust has played in both his and his family’s life.

Ten years ago, Eissa arrived in England from Myanmar and had to claim Asylum, after taking the brave decision to leave his homeland due to being dangerous for him and his family.

Eissa and his family were alone in new surroundings, with little to no support, living in the Blackburn with Darwen area.

However, he started to lay the foundations for a new beginning when he attended a DARE session for advice, and he met Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Community Inclusion Manager, Ilyas Patel.

Ilyas introduced Eissa to various projects suitable for him at the Community Trust, including the Community Ambassadors programme and Men in Sheds.

 Eissa said: “Blackburn Rovers Community Trust really helped me when I first moved here.”

“I met new people, and I was able to socialise too. My English at the time wasn’t very good at all, but by attending various sessions, my communication skills improved.

“I moved to England from Myanmar, and it wasn’t safe. Initially I wasn’t allowed to work when I first moved to England, so I used to volunteer and help out with the DARE project.

“I volunteered on various programmes, and it helped me stay busy but also support the local community too.

“To this day I still volunteer, and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Eissa’s journey with Blackburn Rovers continued, and soon enough, once he was allowed to work, he worked as a matchday steward at Ewood Park.

Now a full-time taxi driver, Eissa’s journey has been a difficult one, but he is now settled in the area with his family, and he is enjoying life.

He continued: “I always feel so welcome when I come to Blackburn Rovers. I now have a full-time job too.

“I was a very reserved person, I never spoke to people, but Blackburn Rovers Community Trust has helped me feel so much.

“I was a bit scared to talk but I am not anymore, I feel very confident, and the Men in Sheds group helped me with that as we would do things together. I don’t feel like a stranger from another country, I feel like I belong to Blackburn.”

Eissa volunteers to help Blackburn Rovers Community Trust on a consistent basis.

From Tanzania to Teesside: Hassan’s inspirational journey with Middlesbrough FC Foundation

From Tanzania to Teesside. Not the most obvious route for a someone just short of their teenage years. But that was the route taken at the start of a new chapter in the life of Hassan Mtambo.

He was 12 when he and his family left Zanzibar and made Middlesbrough their home.

It is often said that football is a universal language. It certainly helped Hassan settle and quickly make friends.

It led to his first association with Middlesbrough FC Foundation; the first steps on an inspirational journey.

Seeing a group of young people playing on some land near his Acklam home, he asked if he could join in. He was quickly accepted and introduced to a Foundation session.

That session became an integral part of Hassan’s teenage years. It helped him socially and athletically. He explains; “If I hadn’t started there I probably would have been up to mischief. Growing up, there were two different groups. One would get up to mischief, the other just wanted to play football and be part of a group that enjoyed playing football.

“We were happy, we played football and would go home fed.” It had sown the seed.

Hassan moved on to college and that progression gradually saw him outgrow his participation, but the separation wasn’t a lengthy one.

When his college studies came to an end, Hassan applied for a job with MFC Foundation and was awarded an apprenticeship.

He remembers thinking, “I started here as a kid and now I’m working here. That was a strange feeling, to complete that cycle. It was, wow, I’m now helping people like someone helped me.”

And that, for Hassan, is what it’s about. It’s never been about any financial reward, it’s about helping people and making a difference. He qualified as a PT  during his college years and acknowledges he could earn a higher salary. However his ethos is simple and heartwarming. “If I can make one person happy in my sessions, make life better for them, that’s the reward I need.”

It’s much more than football for him now. His personal and motivational skills, his interaction with others, became clear and he started to work on other programmes. Among them, Football Welcomes, Kitchen Therapy, Match Fit, and PL Primary Stars.

His former mentor and now line manager Paul South recalls: “When he was young, he liked going to the gym. He liked training. I quickly learned that one part of sport he likes is to educate others, to manage them, to be a mentor for them.

“When he first joined the foundation as an apprentice, he thought I would be working with schoolchildren, in schools, helping them. He soon found there was much more to his role, and I think Match Fit (formerly Fit Boro) is probably his favourite.

“I have never had a second thought about asking him to cover sessions on different programmes. Feedback from schools and participants is always encouraging.”

The Football Welcomes programme saw Hassan work with different people, different cultures, different skin colours and different languages. Football again has proved a common language. Participants from 17 different countries act as though they’ve been lifelong friends under his guidance.

His work in schools has helped not only teachers and schoolchildren, but the Foundation as a whole.

So what does the future hold for a man on a mission? “I’m studying to be a nutritionist,” Hassan reveals. “It’s so I can help the people who are struggling with their nutrition. I’m looking to develop something on an app so we can reach a lot more.

“We’re taking our programmes to places they they’ve never been, like the Central Mosque in Middlesbrough. It’s different, it’s a challenge outside your comfort zone. But people have responded in a good way. I’m working in places that are not my culture and with people who have a different background. But you have to learn.

“For me, I’m just doing small things, but sometimes it makes a big difference. Maybe it’s a gift.”

Abdu Abubakar has become a role model to many after his dedication to supporting other refugees and asylum seekers settling in Hull.

Abdu Abubakar, from Hull City, has become a role model for his dedication to supporting other refugees and asylum seekers settling in Hull.

Abdu, a valued member of the Hull City, Tigers Trust team, initially joined as a participant before dedicating over 200 hours to volunteer work, assisting his peers with education and language barriers, as well as supporting staff in community sports sessions. He has been a full-time team member for almost four years now.

Abdu’s journey to Hull from Eritrea as a refugee was marked by challenges, but through resilience and community support, he has flourished. Initially facing language barriers and isolation, Abdu found his footing through programmes like the Kicks International Programme and has since become an integral part of the local community, significantly improving his English proficiency and confidence.

Abdu volunteered extensively, mentoring others and assisting with language barriers in various programmes. His dedication to helping others has been evident throughout his employment with the Trust, particularly during lockdowns, where he supported community members battling loneliness and inactivity.

Abdu’s impact extends beyond his immediate community, as he actively works to increase activity levels in Hull, particularly among young adults and ethnic groups. His efforts have led to thousands of attendances in programmes aimed at promoting physical activity and community engagement.

Abdu’s infectious smile and genuine passion for the Tigers Trust and its programmes make him a standout representative of the organisation’s values. His commitment to personal growth and supporting others has not gone unnoticed. Abdu, has become a role model and a representative of the pathway’s that are possible for refugees and asylum seekers with support from Club Community Organisations.



Men’s Health Week – Pop Up Health Project Proving a Success

A new pop up stand at Millwall’s The Den is providing free health checks for supporters. 

As part of Men’s Health Week, we wanted to highlight a fantastic initiative that is helping predominantly men. Millwall Community Trust staff and Lions fans took advantage of the Vaxi Taxi / Health and Wellbeing service at the ground prior to EFL Championship games, thanks to a partnership between the Club, the Club Community Organisation, Partnership Southwark and Crisis Rescue Foundation. 

More than 170 people – many of which were male – attended the pop up stand before a game where health and wellbeing experts offered preventative care advice about how to spot signs of heart disease, stroke, cancer and mental health issues. 

The team offered free blood pressure checks, height, and weight measurements along with free, healthy snacks and toiletry goodie bags. 

Sean Daly, Millwall Community Trust’s CEO said: “It was a superb evening where both sets of supporters and staff members were offered the opportunity to get a free health check. 

“Many of the people who were checked, many of which were men, did not know they had high blood pressure or high cholesterol until they were checked out. A lot of referrals were made, so it’s important that we support these initiatives because we have access to around 20,000 fans each game and have great reach into our communities.” 

The partnership will see these pop-up stands appear at every Millwall home game during the 2024/25 season. 

AFC Wimbledon Foundation inspired Rachele to begin her volunteering journey.

14 year old Rachele joined one a PE session facilitated by AFC Wimbledon Foundation when she was in primary school and she has begun volunteering with the Foundation.

The sessions, lead by Football Development Officer Scott Lockwood, are designed to help children enjoy sport and inspire active lifestyles. Since then, Rachele has joined a variety of Foundation programmes, including Football for All, Kicks and our Holiday Courses.

She is now also a regular volunteer for AFC Wimbledon Foundation, supporting the Family Zone on a matchday, where her whole family now attend as season ticket holders.

The provsions that AFC Wimbledon provide for their local community have had such an impact on Rachele, that she got her brother Etore involved where he is going from strength to strength, attending and and playing in every session possible.

She exclaims: “I help out now because of the help they gave me and watching my brother play gives me joy.”

Scott explained “Our sessions have provided an environment where Rachele can be herself and thrive, which has also inspired her to support future generations as a volunteer coach” adding that “we are thrilled that Rachele wants to engage and inspire local children, helping us support and deliver positive change in our community.”

AFC Wimbledon’s Family Zone provides a fun, safe and inclusive environment for young people, children and their families, aimed at enriching the matchday experience. Activities include an inflatable football target, mini football matches, face painting, colouring, lego and much more! Rachele helps bring this to life, providing energy and enthusiasm to make games at Plough Lane a memorable experience for young children, especially if they are attending for the first time.

London Football Clubs Launch New Programme to Help Young People Find Employment

Football Clubs across London are part of an exciting new programme which will provide 16-24 year olds that are struggling to find work, with the key skills and experience to find meaningful employment.

The EFL Trust’s Training Ground programme is aimed at young people who are struggling to get that critical first step on the employment ladder. The initiative is aimed at young people that are trapped in the vicious circle of not being able to find meaningful employment because they do not have the skills or experience that they can only gain by being in work.

Debbie Cook, Director of Community for the charitable arm of EFL said “This is a unique opportunity for young people to overcome barriers and unlock their potential. They will be supported through our Training Ground programme which provides practical support and training, alongside mentoring and wellbeing activities that will increase the confidence of participants.”

The Training Ground programme offers small groups the chance to receive one to one mentoring; participate in group workshops on topics such as life skills and money management; undertake work experience or volunteering in a range of contexts to develop employability skills, and to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

The course looks after the body and mind, combining both developing employability skills and improving health and wellbeing. Employability is developed by teaching key skills such as team building, interpersonal skills and CV writing. The health and wellbeing element of the programme combines physical health activity with mental health support.

The programme will be run at 11 Clubs in Greater London:  Wimbledon, Arsenal, Brentford, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leyton Orient, Millwall, Queen’s Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspurs and West Ham United

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

The EFL Trust Training Ground programme is currently available to those aged 16-24 living within the Greater London Authority area and is an employability programme designed to support those seeking employment or further training.

Find out more here 




Saints Foundation Helps Jess Overcome Adversity

“I don’t think any of us can understand the challenges Jess has faced but she’s still been able to come to school, achieve what she has and then be a key part of our projects in such a short space of time, she really is phenomenal.”

The words of Saints Foundations Community Champion James about Jess Vallis a remarkable young woman who has overcome adversity to achieve success with the Club Community Organisation.

Now aged 17, Jess started her journey with Saints Foundation in Year 9 at the age of 14. The young carer from Harefield in Southampton was struggling to balance school life with caring responsibilities for her disabled brother, often coming into school tired, struggling to focus and stay in lessons, and not having many opportunities to take time for herself.

Jess was referred to James at Saints Foundation for one-to-one mentoring. Jess felt that she didn’t fit in with her peers, and people did not understand and had no empathy for the challenges she faced both at home and at school.

Consequently, not only did she bottle her feelings up whilst at school but began to do the same around her family, so not to be seen as a burden to the challenges that they all, already had to face.

James worked with Jess to help and support her in being more open with her parents about these issues. Sadly, Jess’s brother then passed away. She credits the network she had built with James’ support and the tools she was given, in helping her when she returned to school.

Jess said: “I came back to school, I had my PE teachers to support me, James was there too and it was nice for me to see my whole network come together.”

Jess recently started her own coaching journey with Saints Foundation and their Premier League Kicks programme. She is putting her skills to good use coaching young people from the local area who are at risk of anti-social behaviour.

Her journey overcoming adversity was recognised this year when the Foundation awarded her the ‘Jordan Wilsher Award’, an award (pictured centre) that recognises people that have overcome adversity to achieve success.

James said: “The Jordan Willsher Award is very close to our hearts. I think the journey Jess has been on is incredible. It is truly inspiring, and she fully deserves this award.”

Southampton and Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu met Jess, an aspiring goalkeeper herself, at one of her sessions to present her with the award.

Barry’s beloved Leeds United helps his fitness journey

Barry Larkin is a well-known face around Elland Road for fans and staff alike.

His affiliation with the club stretches back over 50 years to the 1973/74 season.

Known for his larger-than-life character and his wearing of shorts no matter what the Yorkshire weather brings, you can often hear his voice echoing “PROGRAMMES!” before you can see him.

However, a conversation with a member of staff from Leeds United revealed a vulnerable side that was far from the happy Barry everyone was used to seeing. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Barry like many has experienced loneliness and lived in isolation outside of his matchday duties with the Club. However, it was the Club he loves that came to his aid.

Football Club charities, such as Leeds United Foundation, have a plethora of provision to support their local community. FIT FANS is one of these programmes. FIT FANS aims to transform the lives of people aged 35-65, which is a time of life that people’s lifestyles naturally start to become less active. FIT FANS helps people like Barry change their eating and drinking habits, while losing weight and improving their health in a safe and sustainable way.

Having joined FIT LEEDS at his beloved Club, Barry lost 16kg over the course of the 3-months and his blood pressure dropped significantly. However, and perhaps more importantly, his well-known personality began to shine through as he encouraged and inspired other participants.

As a result of his participation in FIT LEEDS, Barry became involved in other activities to continue his positive change, both physically and mentally. He attended the Social Goals Group which supports participants to improve their mental wellbeing through engaging in conversations which, for most, revolve around their passion for Leeds United.

Barry’s weight loss and increased confidence has seen him find work as an Event Safety Steward again after a chance conversation with another employee of the Club.

Not only has his commitment to change been recognised externally but internally by the Club. He recently visited the Leeds United Training Ground and was presented a shirt by Liam Cooper and he now has a role with the Leeds United Foundation, driving the minibus to transport food hampers to families most in need during the school holidays.

The Foundation’s influence on him is so huge that as well as selling matchday programmes he also promotes the work of the charity to supporters, leading many of them to follow suit in joining and signing up to FIT FANS.


Stroke Survivors health and fitness sessions with West Bromwich Albion the best thing Linda ever did.

“I was in a dark place because of my stroke but meeting Loz and Dave at West Bromwich Albion has helped me so much, made friends with me and helped me with my movement.”

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”says Linda who has been attending West Bromwich health and fitness sessions for Stroke survivors.

Linda has been working with The Albion Foundation for just over 18 months as part of their health and fitness sessions for stroke survivors. When she was first referred to the programme, Linda was low in confidence and had a negative outlook on life in the aftermath of her stroke where she initially had no movement in her left arm.

One of the programme coaches, Lauren recalled: “When we first met Linda her confidence was very low, really low self-esteem and she didn’t want to leave the house.”

However, the sessions have been revolutionary in Linda’s self-confidence, which she said is ‘the main thing’ she can take away from the immense progress she has made.

She said: “This time last year, I didn’t want to meet people, I didn’t want to go out. The first time I came, it was like I’ve been in a new world, I’d woken up and that’s what started me, living again.”

Linda could not speak more highly of coaches Lauren and Dave who have supported Linda on her journey.

“I was in a dark place because of my stroke but meeting Loz and Dave has helped me so much, I have made friends with me and helped me with my movement.”

As Linda’s confidence grew, as did her mentality to try anything she was tasked with. This new found attitude was part of the reason whilst on holiday with her family last year, she managed to regain some movement in her left arm- an emotional moment for all involved from Linda to Lauren and Dave.

She said: “Last year I didn’t have the confidence to move like I do now, now when they ask me to do things I know I can try.”

Linda’s attitude to never give up is something she wishes to influence upon others.

“I’d like to say to anybody, if you’re at home don’t just sit there, don’t give up, try and try.”
Since joining the group, Linda has been able to build back her strength and mobility but most important of all she is now full of energy and confidence in meeting and talking people as well as in her own movement.

The Albion Foundation partnered with the Stroke Association and Age UK Sandwell to offer closed health and fitness sessions for stroke survivors. The programme aims to support stroke survivors in their journey towards physical, emotional, and social recovery, enhancing their overall wellbeing and quality of life:

  • Physical – tailored exercise routines focusing on improving mobility, strength, balance and coordination,
  • Emotional – peer and coach support to help survivors navigate emotional challenges,
  • Lifestyle – education on nutrition and lifestyle changes to prevent future strokes,
  • Social – group fosters a sense of community and shared experiences.

“Kenny is a true representation of Crewe Alexandra in the Community”

Crewe Alexandra in the Community, alongside the Club, have built partnerships with over 100 local organisations to help generate resources and support their communities.

These partnerships focus on understanding their communities’ priorities and needs and then delivering the most effective forms of intervention and practice.

A key player in many of these partnerships is inspirational volunteer Kenny MacDonald. Kenny contributes countless hours every week helping Crewe Alexandra in the Community’s programmes in the areas of the town where there is the most need.

Kenny is pictured front row, third from left.

Crewe’s Head of Community, Ray Walker, explains that it’s Kenny’s work on one particular partnership that has had a massive impact on people in the local community:

“Kenny is a key figure in our growing community programme with the Guinness Partnership. Guinness are the largest provider of social housing in the area, with over 6,000 properties in the Crewe area alone. This housing provides accommodation to some of the most vulnerable families with a diverse range of challenges, including care leavers, people combatting alcohol or substance misuse and mental health issues, families suffering hardship and older people that need extra care facilities.”

“As part of this programme Kenny organises events and thoroughly involves himself in our community activities, working with families in the most deprived areas of Crewe. For example, at Christmas, Kenny organised a charity event involving over 100 children which raised over £2,000 for the local hospice. He was also at the heart of coordinating the Wishing Well’s Christmas toy appeal which saw 163 selection boxes and a large number of toys donated to support a St Paul’s foodbank.”

These events use the power of sport to reach out to all these communities to bring people together, tackle social isolation or act as a diversionary activity that reduces crime and antisocial behaviour. Using sport in a way which links residents to key services helps improve health and wellbeing and supports sustainable communities.

Ray added:

“Kenny was also the driving force in setting up his own Football Club within the local Community for young children. Children of all abilities are now able to engage in football sessions, which has boosted their self-esteem and developed their sense of belonging. Under 8’s, Under 9’s and Under 10’s teams now play under the Crewe Alexandra in the Community banner in the charity’s mini soccer leagues.”

Kenny, pictured above third from the right, modestly comments:

“There’s a lot of hardship in this area so I am more than happy to help out and tie in other agencies where appropriate. Why would you not want to help?”

Ray concludes:

“Kenny is a true representation of Crewe Alexandra in the Community”.