Blog written by Ed Gwilliam, Global Community Football Project Leader 2019/20
Global Community Football is a project aiming to help integrate refugees and asylum seekers into the Sheffield community through weekly football sessions and social interaction. The sessions run weekly at Goals Football Centre and provide a relaxed, fun environment for volunteers and participants alike to enjoy a chat and a kick-about.
Refugees and asylum seekers can often feel isolated within their own communities and the project seeks to connect them with others and to engage in weekly exercise. Whilst the standard of football is not usually up to much, the banter and fun that comes with the sessions makes it enjoyable for all ability levels. The sessions not only carry the obvious health benefits, but also provide a social outlet and a chance to develop confidence and english skills and make participants feel like part of the wider community.
Speaking from experience, volunteering with GCF is very enriching and is a great way to mix with new people, develop confidence and the session quickly feel more like a casual kick-about with mates rather than volunteering. It is amazing to see the participants grow in confidence, and more than just in a footballing sense, as they are made to feel at home by the volunteering team. I remember celebrating with a regular participant called Mustafa as he told me that he’d gained resident status after months on the waiting list, although this was nothing compared to his goal celebrations while wearing his iconic Frank Lampard top.
The project has also participated in other similar activities and sought to build bonds with other volunteering projects. One such occasion was the Mount Pleasant FC charity Football tournament in October (Pictured), where we put out a mixed team of volunteers and participants to contribute towards a great cause and raise awareness of their ongoing campaigns. Although we did not win on the pitch, it felt great to share the experience with others and to enjoy some fun while raising money for charity.
I would encourage all others to volunteer as it has given me so much during my time at Sheffield, beyond the sessions it has given me an ongoing interest in the refugee and asylum seeker cause and encouraged me to take up other volunteering activities. But more importantly it has given an outlet for a community which often feels isolated and cut-off from others, and the memories of a mixture of refugees and students playing without barriers every Saturday are some I will cherish.