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Alfie transforms lives through football

Photo courtesy of Impact Football East Lothian

When Alfie stopped playing football himself, he realised he could use the sport to help other young people. Now he has been shortlisted for the Young Volunteer of the Year category for the East Lothian Inspiring Volunteering Awards.

His nomination comes on the back of his volunteering with the football enterprise Impact Football East Lothian, which helps young people develop through football.

The 15-year-old Bridges Project client from Prestonpans was first asked by Impact Football’s Head Coach, Rikki McNeill, last year to help out with a joint project with Children 1st that focuses on social inclusion of young people.

“I initially thought it would be a one-off but I enjoyed it and kept going back and did more and more each time,” says Alfie.

He was soon tasked with a range of different responsibilities – from organising paperwork to setting up equipment at the facility and supporting participants during the sessions. The youngster’s versatility and commitment has impressed Impact Football’s Head Coach.

“Alfie really has been a breath of fresh air and can really connect with the young people on our Children 1st programme. He has managed to build a great rapport with all of the young people and has shown great maturity. He really is a great asset to the programme. For Alfie to demonstrate such a growth in confidence at his age, having never been involved in such a programme, has been exceptional,” says Rikki.

Alfie has enjoyed his volunteering with Impact Football so much that he still volunteers with them six hours a week.

“I really enjoy it as it is nice to help people. It is great doing something you enjoy at the same time as you are helping people,” he says.

The 15-year-old has also taken a lot away from his volunteering experience.

“I have learned how to help people and it has also helped me with what I want to do in the future. I want to go into something sports related so volunteering with Impact Football has been really helpful,” says Alfie.

His subsequent nomination and shortlisting for the Young Volunteer of the Year category for the East Lothian Inspiring Volunteer Awards has been another highlight. Alfie will know if he wins the award at an online event on 3 June, organised by Volunteer Centre East Lothian.

“I am really happy and proud to be nominated for the award,” he says.

The 15-year-old has now been inspired to volunteer for other organisations once society goes back to normal following the Covid-19 pandemic and has already done some voluntary work for the lunch club PSG Lunch Club in Prestonpans.

Alfie’s story is particularly remarkable when having in mind the fact that he only 18 months ago was disengaged from school.

“I wasn’t really going to school and didn’t enjoy it. That’s when I started receiving support from Bridges Project,” says the Bridges Project client.

With help from the charity, Alfie has now reengaged with school and gained a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Upon leaving school in May, he hopes to start a Steps to Employment agreement with continued support from Bridges Project and East Lothian Works. Later on in the year, Alfie is hoping to join a programme with the sports employment charity Street League with a view to starting college in 2022.

“The support from Bridges Project has been very helpful. It has helped me to start going back to school and also to start coaching,” says Alfie.

Transitions Service Coordinator Natasha McInninie has been Alfie’s main mentor during his time with Bridges Project. She says she has noticed a massive change in the 15-year-old since he started volunteering with Impact Football:

“Alfie has become more mature and responsible and it has given him an insight into how he can use his own skills and qualities to help children in his local community to become more active and healthy. He is interested in helping others to develop their football skills, and he enjoys sharing his skills and helping others. Alfie really is a kind and thoughtful young man who has so much to offer and he has a great career in sports coaching ahead of him. He is a great positive role model for other young people and has the ability to inspire others.”

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