Our AFC Wimbledon Foundation are aiming to replicate the success of an initiative that changed lives last year by expanding the ‘Active Womble Summer Programme’ this summer.
After four months of assisting the Dons Local Action Group, Foundation Director Philip Rudling declared that it was ‘Back to the Bread and Butter’. In other words refocusing on its core activities of providing sports opportunities for all at a pivotal time with the move to Plough Lane on the horizon.
Last summer’s project at Phipps Bridge Youth Centre in Mitcham was a huge hit as it made a big difference to disadvantaged children in the area, offering an opportunity to take part in multi-sports activities, dance, drama – and serving up food at a time when free school dinners were not on the menu.
This week the summer scheme has started with a bang at Liberty Primary School in Mitcham with 30 children aged 7-12 participating and next week it will be introduced at Smallwood School – just a stone’s throw from Plough Lane.
“This is a continuation of the successful programme we coordinated last year at Phipps Bridge,” said Philip. “We are aiming to provide more opportunities for local children at different venues, so we are using Liberty School in Mitcham, which is nice because quite a lot of the kids that attended last summer are coming to this programme too. It’s changed a little bit from last year due to Covid-19 restrictions so we decided to go to local schools that we had worked with quite closely over the years. We want to provide an active summer programme for free to help referred children who have been struggling during the Covid-19 period.
“The idea is to get children moving and get them active through multi-sports activities and other activities. We want to get them doing stuff outdoors as a lot of them will have been sitting around indoors. We are also doing more educational elements, so a teacher is coming in twice a week to do literacy and numeracy with the children and our staff are embedding educational themes through practical activity. We think this is good timing because there are a lot of kids that have had limited education recently due to the Covid-19 crisis.
“Next week we are starting at Smallwood School, which is a stone’s throw from Plough Lane on the Hazlehurst Estate. “We will also be introducing the programme at Fircroft Primary School in Tooting. As part of all this, we are also promoting the football club as part of this work. Kids from Smallwood have been able to see the new stadium being built from their tower blocks! It will be great to bring the kids along at some point to a match at Plough Lane when the time is right.”
Funding from our supporters helped get the programme off the ground last year and it’s also been a real community effort this time around. Fabienne from Bonnaire Arts and Education is again delivering her popular dance, drama, and music sessions, the Dons Local Action Group are providing food, and local residents are working as Chefs!
“We had good feedback from the parents and pupils at Phipps Bridge last year and they are delighted that we are back,” added Philip. “They are excited that they are able to engage with the football club again and get involved in fun activities during the summer holidays. Two local residents are getting involved in preparing the food for children and Kasha Petit,( Female Development and Health Officer at the Foundation) did a lot of work with the local residents at Phipps Bridge last year. “Fabienne from Bonnaire Arts is doing two days a week with the kids and Gabby, a teacher from Cricket Green School, is doing the educational elements two days a week.
“We had worked really closely with DLAG in the last four months. We did quite a lot of back office work, including helping to set-up the call centre. We had two staff working on that in the last three months, plus staff working shifts on the minibus collecting and delivering food. That’s been great and we’ve been happy to support that, along with providing policies and procedures for the group. Coming out of this period, we were keen to get back to our bread and butter! We are looking to continue the relationship with the Dons Local Action Group and they have provided the food for this summer project, which is great. Craig (Wellstead) came over on Monday and dropped off some food, which is obviously very helpful because it reduces our costs for the project. The Dons Local Action Group are also going to provide food for the other venues.
“There was very little provision of activities going on last year for 7-12 age group in Mitcham. We worked closely with the youth service to use that site at Phipps Bridge. They tended to work with older kids, but we were able to provide activities for the younger kids. It was good for us to provide opportunities for the younger children and for them to engage with the football club. The parents were delighted with the provision of activities that we provided for the children last summer. The inequalities in society have come more under the microscope during the crisis. They were issues we were addressing last summer with our programme at Phipps Bridge and we are aiming to build on that now. We work with local schools and agencies that refer children to us.”