Cutting his teeth on The Valley turf with Connect

A young person on the Connect Enrichment programme, a project Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) delivers as part of the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund, has opened up about his time as a groundsman at The Valley.

The Connect project allows CACT mentors to provide both intensive one-to-one mentoring to build resilience and a programme of positive diversionary activities.

The project engages with 10 young people each week for 10 weeks, and trips CACT staff have taken them on include dry slope skiing and residentials at outdoor education centres, while some participants have also been involved in music-making

An opportunity for one participant to gain valuable experience and life skills arose with Charlton Athletic’s ground staff at The Valley. One young person, who wishes not to be named, helped prepare the pitch for Charlton’s Play-Off Semi-Final against Doncaster Rovers and also helped re-seed it for the new season.

Paul Robinson, CACT’s Mentoring/Crime Reduction Manager, said:

“This is what the programme was set up to achieve, to broaden the horizons of young people and give them the opportunity for things they never thought would happen.

“This young person has been a huge success and long may it continue.”

Nathan Chapman, Head Groundsman at The Valley, said:

"The young person has been a great help in the three months he has been here. He has picked everything up very quickly and has communicated exceptionally well with all staff.

"He followed health and safety guidelines that we advised him of and he had the initiative to come up with suggestions to assist moving the club forward with their health and safety policies."

The individual, who received one-to-one mentoring, thoroughly enjoyed working with Charlton’s ground staff. He said:

“By attending the Connect Enrichment programme I have received a major amount of help from Paul Robinson to guide me through the right path of life.

“I’ve completed one-to-one mentoring, participated in trips such as go-karting, football, [and] residential trips that included canoeing and climbing activities. 

“I was also given a great opportunity to work with Charlton Athletic as a groundsman to help ensure the pitch was to a professional standard. Additionally, I gained knowledge of how to maintain a football ground with the help of Nathan Chapman (Charlton’s Head Groundsman at The Valley) and his grasscutting skills.

“It has been a fantastic experience and I have really enjoyed my time with Charlton and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who supported me.”

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