Olympic Athletes Help Young Cumbrians Get On Track


A national charity, the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, has teamed up with local organisation Cumbria Youth Alliance to offer a unique programme to young people in West Cumbria.

The 14-month project, which is headed by olympic boxer Courtney Fry and professional footballer Chris Elliott, is offering disadvantaged young people in West Cumbria an unprecedented opportunity. The 17 participants, aged 16 – 25 years from Allerdale and Copeland, face a range of issues from social isolation, mental health issues and addiction to not currently being in any form of employment, education or training. The project is designed to help these young people make a positive change and take steps forward.

As lead athlete on the programme, Courtney Fry, who won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and represented Team GB in the olympics, has struggled with alcoholism in the past. He managed to turn his life around and is now helping young people to do the same. Fry is using his own inspiring story to get an important message across to participants, who may be more likely to engage when sport is used as the vehicle to help them progress.

Ben Jefferson is coordinator of the A Sporting Chance project at Cumbria Youth Alliance, he said: “It’s a unique opportunity and it’s the first time a project like this as happened in Cumbria, so it’s nice for us to be able to do something for young people.

He continued: “It is led by professional athletes who have all gone through a certain level of difficulty in their life but overcame it, so it’s good for young people to understand that; just because you’re not doing well or are facing hard times, it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve what you really want.”

The programme is divided into three parts; the initial stage ‘On Your Marks’ took place last week, when participants took part in icebreakers and were set a challenge to identify which role within the project each team member should take on. Stage two, ‘Get Set’ commenced yesterday (Wednesday 5th April) and involves a six week project. The team of young people will be awarded a small amount of money and must use it to have a positive impact in their community.

On completion of the project, participants will attend a celebratory ‘Go’ event, held in the Lake District to receive certificates and review their progress. Programme leaders will keep in touch with the participants for 12 months afterwards to ensure they are getting the support they need and to keep track of their positive steps forward.

Alongside the community project, they will also be working towards personal qualifications and partaking in courses to improve life skills, such as money management.

Ben said: “We hope that the outcome of the project will lead to employment, education or training for the participants and will play an important part in helping them take those next steps forward into the next stage of life, whatever that may be.”


He added: “14 of the participants have already been signed up for traineeship programme at Greenwich Leisure Limited which will lead to full, paid apprenticeships. This will help with our outputs, which is what we need if we are going to roll this out across Cumbria in the next couple of years.”

The programme is being run as a pilot scheme with the support of Active Cumbria and Inspira. If successful, organisers aim to offer the project in every locality across Cumbria.

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