Everton first-team stars Jonjoe Kenny and Tom Davies visited Everton in the Community’s uplifitng Youth Zone to discover more about the work the Club’s official charity does to support and protect young people across Merseyside.
Throughout the week, evertonfc.com will be running a special series of features celebrating the award-winning early intervention work of Everton in the Community, which has led to a project the charity has led on being awarded £700,000 from the Home Office to extend its programmes. Donate to EitC by texting EITC31 £5 to 70070.
Kenny and Davies were accompanied by Merseyside Police Chief Constable and Everton in the Community [EitC] Ambassador Andy Cooke, as they joined a typically fast-paced and diverse Youth Zone session, hosted at Everton’s People’s Hub in the shadow of Goodison Park.
The two Everton Academy graduates were greeted by the charity’s CEO Richard Kenyon and Director of Youth Engagement Sue Gregory and given an overview of how EitC works with Merseyside Police to empower young people and effect positive social change in some of the community’s most challenging and hard-to-reach groups, focusing on areas of high anti-social behaviour and crime.
The Liverpool-born pair eagerly got stuck into the evening’s activities. Midfielder Davies showed off his creative talents when he joined a group of young children for some arts and craft. Kenny, meanwhile, proved something of a dab hand in the kitchen and helped some youngsters master the art of cooking the perfect stir-fry.
Outside on the facility’s Cruyff Court football pitch, the two Everton players and Chief Constable Cooke oversaw a series of passing drills before taking part in a penalty shootout. They were able to squeeze in a quick game of FIFA with a handful of participants, too, albeit Kenny and Davies stayed long after finishing time to sign autographs and pose for pictures with their new friends.
Everton right-back Kenny, who grew up in the heart of L4, hailed the Youth Zone's impact on the community and credited it for giving participants "another life".
He said: “It’s been great to come here with Tom to meet the kids and put a smile on their faces. The Youth Zone is a great facility and is really having a positive impact on the local community.
"It is giving kids something to do instead of staying on the streets and getting into trouble – it is really giving them another life.
“Everton in the Community is doing great things in the local area and programmes like this are helping to get crime out. Crime doesn’t just happen here, it happens everywhere, but what they have done for the community and getting crime out has been fantastic.
"They are stopping the kids hanging around on the streets by bringing them here and it is making a difference.”
Everton in the Community CEO Kenyon added: “Programmes like the Youth Zone are really important because they give young people in our community the opportunity to come to a relaxed, fun environment but also, crucially, an environment that's safe.
"The children who come to the Youth Zone come regularly and we build relationships with them. That gives us the opportunity to get to know the children and find out if there are any issues we can support them with.
“This Youth Zone has been proven to help reduce crime in the area – and help reduce the number of young people falling into crime.
"Our plan is to be able to replicate this in other areas outside L4 and in the wider city region, so we're excited to be able to do that and put smiles on more young people's faces. And have a really serious, beneficial impact on reducing crime in those areas, too.”
The Youth Zone operates twice a week and provides a safe environment for young people aged 5-19 to have fun, while developing confidence and raising their aspirations.
It engages with more than 100 children from Liverpool 4 each week and combines football and sports sessions with workshops on topics including healthy lifestyles, road safety and employability, as well as educating youngsters on the dangers of gang violence, drugs and alcohol.
Everton in the Community’s relationship with Merseyside Police is more than 10 years old and has seen the force fund and support the charity’s programmes to engage young people in more positive activities, which benefit them and their local community.
The Youth Zone is funded by both the Premier League and Merseyside Police’s Community Cash Back Fund, which utilises money obtained through the Proceeds of Crime Act. Cash recovered from criminal activity is channelled towards the provision of this programme, designed to prevent crime and criminal exploitation in the areas surrounding Goodison Park.
Speaking about the partnership between the Club’s official charity and Merseyside Police, Chief Constable Cooke said: “Throughout the past 30 years Everton in the Community have been passionate in their desire to give young people positive opportunities to benefit them and their local community. And for more than 10 years Merseyside Police has been fortunate to be part of this work.
“I was delighted when we were able to assist in funding the Youth Zone through cash we have received via the Proceeds of Crime Act. It is within our gift to use that money on programmes such as this, which give young people in some of our poorest and most deprived areas aspiration and the opportunity to do good in their communities.
“When young people are given the chance to take part in such positive programmes, they are less inclined to find themselves hanging around on the streets with no sense of purpose and vulnerable to criminal exploitation.
"It helps better prepare them to make the right decisions in life and steer them away from becoming involved in criminality, or anti-social behaviour.
“For me, this is the best possible use of the ill-gotten criminal gains we seize, and it gives us the opportunity to put something back into the communities where criminality and anti-social behaviour have had such a profound and debilitating impact.”
Everton in the Community’s youth-focussed early intervention programmes consistently reduce crime and anti-social behaviour by 78-82 per cent in the areas in which they are delivered during the time of the session.
The charity was recently awarded funding by the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund to deliver early intervention programmes targeting young people aged 8-19 across Merseyside, focussing on areas where violence is high.