Monday evening saw an encouraging initiative take place at the Academy of Light, as our Under-21 and Under-18 teams welcomed a large group of UASC (unaccompanied asylum-seeking children).
The children, housed locally by foster families across Sunderland and South Tyneside and aged between 16-18, participated in an organised football session in the indoor barn at the AoL after being welcomed to the training facility by our Academy sides.
Mixed teams of U21, U18 and guest players faced off with matches in the barn to an enthusiastic reception from fellow players and staff alike watching on from the sidelines.
This was then followed by a refreshment break in the refectory, where players and the UASC ate and chatted together before wrapping up with a tour around the AoL facilities.
Whilst present at the event, safc.com caught up with Alex Simpson and Nicole Butler from South Tyneside Council’s leaving care team.
Alex, Opportunities Broker, said: “This is a really good initiative. These lads have been through awful circumstances prior to coming to the UK, and this is fantastic for them.
“A lot of them haven’t been here too long and consequently don’t speak much English or know too many people socially, so to come together and have that chance to socialise through football is massive.
“It’s been really straightforward actually to get it planned, and it’s something that can have a huge positive effect.”
Nicole, Personal Advisor, added: “To come and make friends and to meet new people is a chance these lads need.
“It fosters a real sense of community, through playing football as well which is a great way to get involved.
“The hand-shaking, fist-bumping, even all of that just breaks down barriers and really boosts confidence for the lads, and it can benefit the Sunderland boys too.”
The initiative continues the hard work taking place to amalgamate the Academy of Light and the regional community, boosting leadership experience for our youngsters and benefitting those across the North East.