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BIGKID brings football to young people

Shaninga, creator of the BIGKID Foundation

Shaninga has always been dedicated to bringing out the best in young people, believing in the enormous potential they have to make a difference.

As a teenager, he wanted to create a legacy that would benefit younger students who were at risk of expulsion at his college. He set up a mentoring scheme to help kids with behavioural and social problems to stay in school. During his university days, Shaninga and his friends formed the rap group, ‘BIGKID’, and toured the UK reaching out to young people on the toughest estates before their gigs.

Once he’d graduated and started a full-time job, he continued to mentor young people in his community. The focus switched from music to football after a chance meeting at work lead to an opportunity to deliver a community football programme in Brixton for Fulham Football Club. Now working in Lambeth, BIGKID truly recognises the important role young people can play in changing the world and uses football as the catalyst.

“We work with kids who are at risk from social exclusion which ranges from teen pregnancies to gang involvement, dysfunctional households, drug and alcohol abuse, anti-social behaviour or not able to be themselves in a social setting,” said Shaninga.

“We have a lot of people who spend all their time indoors playing video games simply because they don’t know how to interact with others or they were bullied at school. We have boys being forced into gang situations, who don’t really want to be in gangs, or on the periphery of gang activity. We are trying to pull them out of that - they just need a support system around them.”

The project offers high quality football, coaching qualifications, mentoring and leadership training to give young people from challenging backgrounds the skills and confidence they need to make positive life choices.

Shaninga said: “If they just focus on football, the lifestyle they could have is so much better than misbehaving and risking their lives on the street. Six of our boys have been signed to professional football clubs – Crystal Palace, Watford and two of our boys are with US clubs right now on scholarships.

“These kids just need to realise their potential. The world is bigger than their estate. The message we tell them is: there’s a big world out there, you have a lot of potential and we want to see you realise that potential. If you can just see yourself as a leader, then you can help lead yourself into a better place and while you’re doing it, you can bring a whole bunch of people with you as well.”

BIGKID is now putting money raised through Sport Relief, in partnership with the #iwill fund, into action by creating new, exciting volunteering opportunities for young people to build new skills and bring their community closer together.

Shaninga said: “The funding is going to help us sustain the programme - it’s going to help us keep doing the work that we’re doing so we can reach more young people and continue to impact this community.

“We really believe that behind every kid there’s something big and our job is to try and help those young people find that and see that. We want to see young people prosper and do really well and change not only their lives, but the lives of the community they live in.”

There is still time to get involved in Sport Relief and help more life-changing work like this. Find out how you can step up and do your bit.