In the latest of his recent series profiling the work of the Surrey Cricket Foundation, Richard Spiller, looks at the work done by its staff to help make cricket a vehicle for social change.
It’s easy to see cricket in isolation, through the contests on the field supported by the facts and figures around them.
But the game’s role as a vehicle for social change and development – benefiting physical health in the community and building social links – are every bit as crucial, being more important than ever over the past two years of life dominated by the Covid pandemic.
Cricket for social good is among the key tasks of the Surrey Cricket Foundation (SCF) and is the responsibility of Gavin Reynolds. Among the programmes figuring large in his diary are two schemes.
Street Child United
The first is in partnership with Street Child United, in which the Foundation are building a team of eight youngsters who will represent Team England in a tournament involving 22 countries in India, prior to next year’s World Cup.
At present a squad of youngsters – girls and boys – between 13 and 16 years old are being recruited, from which the final candidates with the chosen. No one will be older than 17 when they arrive in India for the Street Child World Cup, other countries taking part including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Burundi and Hungary.
“They all have one thing in common, having come from challenging backgrounds,” Reynolds explains: “We’re working with Street Child United and all those who are identified for the initial group will come from challenging backgrounds, whether it’s having been in foster care or suffered trauma or been a refugee.
“It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for all of them – whether they go among the final group to India or not – and a real opportunity to change their lives for the better. There’s a weekly cricket session and mentoring so that anyone who might be struggling at school, for instance, will get help and advice. We’ve got monthly workshops on topics like digital marketing, how to write a CV, mental health, first aid and nutrition.
“And at the Kia Oval we’re able to give lots of work experience opportunities, like catering, stewarding and groundsmanship, because of the range of events which happen here.”
The youngsters start work during April and Reynolds reckons: “It’s going to be fascinating to see how they all get on, particularly for the eight who make it to India.”
He is also building towards repeating the success of last year’s inaugural Vauxhall Activity Loop, which was a week-long programme in early August for youngsters living around the Kia Oval.
Staged in conjunction with ten organisations in the neighbourhood directly surrounding The Kia Oval, the aim was to engage with around 100 children and their families, particularly at a time when successive lockdowns had made their lives particularly difficult.
Based at the ground as well as partners like Henry Fawcett Primary School, just round the corner from the ground in Bowling Green Street, activities included cricket, beekeeping in Kennington Park, performing arts, cooking, IT, arts and crafts, rock climbing and gardening.
Teachers and teaching assistants from schools in the area were involved with the children – from years three to six – with a healthy lunch and snacks provided each day. And it culminated in the kids and families being given free tickets for one of the matches in The Hundred at The Kia Oval.
“It was a great chance to offer all sorts of activities which a lot of the kids wouldn’t have enjoyed before,” says Reynolds, “and it meant getting them away from computer screens.
“They came from a variety of local schools and that was a benefit because there’s been lots of cases of trouble between pupils from different schools. But if they’ve already met in a totally different environment that’s far less likely.”
There will be plenty more courses going on this year – including over Easter – where funding has been sourced, although there is a need to find future backing to support the aim of giving more than 500 youngsters per year access to the scheme.
One of Reynold’s favourite moments from 2021 was when, in conjunction with the Croydon Chance to Shine Street Youth Project, a group of 21 children – aged from 10 to 14 – were hosted for three days by the Arundel Castle Foundation. They spent their time playing cricket, learning bushcraft, abseiling and archery skills, touring around the castle and enjoying a trip to the beach.
Reynolds adds: “Some of them had never been to the beach and there were lots of new experiences, which were wonderful for the kids especially at such a difficult time. We’d never done anything like that before and it was a great example of how the game can help.”