Leaha, one of our young residents living in 24-hour supported accomodation, couldn’t afford to buy football boots. But thanks to the Life Change Fund she was able to take part in an international football competition. Leaha tells her story.
“Before coming to the YMCA, I was almost floating and had no real goals. When I was living at the Foyer at first I really felt out of my depth. Some of the younger people had mental health or drug issues. I became homeless for completely different reasons and all I wanted to do was to get somewhere in life. But I was referred to YMCA DownsLink and there wasn’t really a choice. It was the next step for me and I had to take it.
I had fears that the YMCA would be just another hostel, but after moving and settling in I found it really is more of a home. I haven’t been here long but the staff have already shown me how to achieve my goals independently.
While I’ve been here I’ve been involved in Centre Point’s Street Football Team England. I heard at the very last minute that I was chosen to play football in Portugal due to someone dropping out. I had been expecting to go to Mexico in November with this organisation so I thought I had much more time to prepare.
Shortly before leaving to play in Braga, Portugal my boots broke. There was no way I could afford new ones before leaving, so I spoke to the YMCA staff. They said, ‘We can’t have you representing England without boots!’ They helped me apply to the Life Change Fund which gave me the money to get what I needed. If it wasn’t for this simple act of kindness, I would have had to give away my opportunity to represent England.
Looking back I didn’t realise how lucky I was to have an opportunity like this of going to Portugal, and how it would better my life. I felt anxious, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it. However after struggling to get into the right mindset to go I found that having this experience has bettered my life. If you have the same opportunity you would be silly not to take it. You don’t realise it’s going to impact your life until you do it. Unless you take that step you’re never going to find out. For me it has broadened my horizons in terms of travelling as well as sport. Ultimately it’s opened up a range of work opportunities and skills.
This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t get help from the YMCA’s Life Change Fund. I couldn’t have gone and played and had this opportunity without the football boots paid for by the YMCA.”
Leaha has completed three sports leadership courses with Brighton & Hove Albion in the last year and looking ahead, she hopes to get into disability coaching. We wish her well.