A project uniting refugees and the Leicester community through football at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been recognised for its ‘outstanding contribution’.
Facilitated by staff and students, the project offers weekly football sessions for refugees and asylum seekers in Leicester. The sessions provide them with a break and a sense of community while they wait for the UK government to determine their status.
The award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Workforce Development’ was presented by the UK’s governing body for university sport, British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) at their 2019 Football and Futsal Conference.
It recognises initiatives which encourage personal development within the university workforce infrastructure or for a group of individuals, within some aspect of football.
Tom Daly, Football Development Officer for DMUsport, said it would “simply not be possible” without the support from the various partners and contributors.
As a registered Tier 1 Football Association (FA) Hub, DMU is entitled to funding from the FA to support community and workplace driven football projects. DMUsport also collaborates with #DMUlocal and charities such as City of Sanctuary, the Red Cross and the LCFC Community Trust.
Tom said that the inspiration for the project came from Leicester’s large refugee community and history of immigration, as well as the pre-existing ethos of volunteering at DMU.
He said: “We have well-established community engaged schemes here at DMU with DMU Square Mile and #DMUlocal. But we didn’t want to duplicate existing projects, so we worked closely with organisations in the city to do something a bit different.
“There has been a really positive response from the refugees, some of who have come from backgrounds that you couldn’t even imagine. We have targets as an FA Hub, but this project is about so much more than meeting those targets. It’s about the smile on people’s faces and the difference in their body language during the sessions.
“As soon as you put a ball at people’s feet, regardless of what country they are from, they can speak the international language of football.”
Tom believes that it is not just the refugees who benefit from the project. Students who get involved see a lot of personal development in soft skills and experience, and are more employable as a result.
He said: “I recently spoke to an alumnus who volunteered while he was here who was sure that the experience of joining the project had led to his graduate role in London. Getting involved helps the students so much, they really come out of their shell. They might have been very shy at the beginning and you see the change when you hear them speak up confidently at the end of the year.
“When you see it for yourself, there is something so special about being part of that change to people’s lives. The recognition of the award is of course a bonus, but the impact of the project- that is the real reward”.
Posted on Monday 29th July 2019