On the eve of the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco, Active Communities Network (ACN), an organisation which uses sport to help change the lives of young people in the UK, Ireland and South Africa, has been announced as the 2018 Laureus Sport for Good Award winner. Benedict Cumberbatch, Host of tomorrow evening’s Ceremony, made the announcement at a press conference in Monaco alongside Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, ACN Founder and CEO Gary Stannett and 24 and 25-year-old project leaders Ibrahim Kanu and Ade Akande.
ACN believes all young people should have the same opportunity to succeed, regardless of backgrounds. Using a variety of sports, the organisation works with marginalised and vulnerable young people, helping to strengthen and reinforce positive lifestyle choices, and offering a pathway to learning new skills and progressing into education, training and employment programmes.
ACN has come a long way since it was founded in 2007. With support from Laureus Sport for Good and other partners, over 160,000 young people have been through its programmes in the UK and Ireland, with phenomenal success: 30,000 participants have moved into education, training or employment. And 50,000 – almost 1 in 3 - have begun giving back to society by volunteering at ACN or other community programmes, turning those young people who could have been marginalised or excluded by society into young people who are making a contribution instead.
The Laureus Sport for Good Award is awarded to an organisation or individual who, in the opinion of the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, has used the power of sport to overcome violence, discrimination or disadvantage. The Academy believe ACN has made an outstanding contribution to society through the medium of sport; making a significant contribution to the lives of young people.
ACN delivers frontline projects that utilise the power of sport to positively impact on young people’s lives and the wider communities of central/south Portsmouth and Leigh Park, Havant which are among the most deprived communities in the UK.
ACN work in Portsmouth and Havant delivers a year round sports based programme open to all young people, living or socialising within the community and offers open access programmes at key times throughout the year.
ACN programmes also offer specialist mentoring and lifeskills support initiatives to enable participants to make positive lifestyle choices, and targeted projects with a formal referral process to identify and support young people deemed at risk or vulnerable.
Project staff also support participants into ongoing development pathways, including education, training and employability schemes and work experience and placements with employers.
Young people from Portsmouth have also hosted fellow participant from the ACN project in Belfast to share experiences and learning as part of a cultural exchange programme in 2017
At the Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony, ACN programme participant Dean McComb joined Gary Stannett and ACN Programme Director Jim Donnelly on stage to receive the Laureus statuette. Growing up in one of the most disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland, Dean and his group of friends were among the most disengaged in Belfast as young men. They were expelled, barred and forgotten.
However, Dean met his mentor Jim through an ACN boxing programme, and with Jim’s support, has made positive life choices and stayed out of the serious trouble that destroys the lives of many others growing up in the same neighbourhood.
Despite being faced with a number of obstacles in his personal life, Dean’s resilience, courage and the sport of boxing kept him focused. Today, he is a volunteer with the organisation in Belfast, passing his own experiences and learnings on to the next generation. Dean’s inspirational story is proof that sport can change the world.
Benedict Cumberbatch said “I have seen first-hand the work Active Communities Network undertakes, and for me it is the perfect example of ‘Sport for Good’. I met inspirational leaders who have come through the programme and are now role models, coaches and facilitators, giving back to the next generation. Tomorrow evening we will celebrate the highest achievers in sport but I know everyone in the auditorium will be moved, inspired and motivated by the incredible work done by this organisation.”
Julian Wadsworth MBE, National Partnerships Manager at Active Communities Network said “We are extremely proud and honoured to receive this recognition from Laureus and this award highlights, not just the power of sport but also the benefits of partnership working to provide outcomes for young people and communities”