15-year-old Eshaal Khan, who cares for her sister who has complex special needs, is one of 314 young people supported by Brentford FC Community Trust Young Carers project.
The project provides young carers with respite activity, the opportunity to meet other carers; attend homework workshops, youth clubs and provides support to find employment.
“Life was quite difficult and overwhelming for me.I did not have a chance to stop and relax as I was constantly on my feet. I couldn’t make friends as I felt they wouldn’t understand my situation. I thought I was on my own and not able to have a break.”
Since joining the project, Eshaal has been a regular, attending youth clubs and workshops: she says
“I was able to become more confident in myself and realised that there are lots of other young carers like me. I relaxed and enjoyed myself in the workshops and youth groups. It made me forget my responsibilities, even just for an hour or so. It was respite for me to unwind and have some time to myself.”
Eshaal made new friends but also accessed a support mechanism that has proven invaluable to her, saying
“My life has definitely been enhanced since joining the project. I was able to have a break from my responsibilities and relax…meet others like me and develop friendships. My confidence improved and I was able to have fun with other people. The busy parts of my life were placed on hold while I had a chance to stop, relax and ground myself. I realised how many different things I enjoy doing and helped me discover so many new things about myself.”
Covid 19 proved particularly challenging as outside engagement was very difficult owing to the vulnerabilities they or their families may face to infection. The restrictions and the need to shield made things particularly hard for Eshaal. However, the Trust kept in regular contact online and at Christmas she was the beneficiary of a Christmas hamper, in recognition of her dedication caring for her sister and family, with the story receiving media coverage from the BBC.
Eshaal is just one many young people that have benefited with engagement through online platforms hosting quizzes, drop-ins and contacting each young carer, to check in on their welfare and offer support during a difficult period. When restrictions eased, Brentford offered group park sessions, plus mental health and well-being workshops designed to deal with anxiety, install confidence and improve resilience.
Project Manager Kathryn Sobczak, a former carer herself, said:
“The families we help find it unusual that we come from a charity connected with a football club. They always ask about that…. we explain that Brentford do a lot more than football, providing a range of social and welfare services. The football connection helps, a lot of families know the club and the young people are keen to engage with it.”