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23 Feb 2021 | 16:16

During the third lockdown, the Coalition launched its #AdaptSupportRespond initiative which aims to showcase and share how sport for development organisations have adapted their programmes and continued to support communities and individuals in need. In this article, three charities highlight the wider outcomes they are achieving through sport and physical activity, and how they will contribute to the recovery from the pandemic.

Yashmin Harun BEM, Chair and Founder, Muslimah Sports Association (MSA): 



Yashmin Harun"Before lockdown, MSA was delivering 15 sessions a week, in addition to our football sessions which engage with more than 150 women and girls each week. However when lockdown began, we had to adjust to the restrictions and move programmes online to continue to provide opportunities in the community. We introduced activities such as online yoga, Go Walk, Couch to 5K, and a six-week bicycle learning course. We also launched a book club to discuss Islamic literature, which takes place twice a week, and workshops that focus on supporting women's mental health. 

"Covid-19 has had a significant impact on our community and participants. The safe haven we provided, where participants could keep active, suddenly stopped. Many of our participants spoke about an increase in anxiety and isolation, with no time for themselves with work and home-schooling challenges. Therefore, the impact on our community has seen people revert to increased inactivity levels, and we have had reports of isolation, depression and weight gain. The fear that Covid will affect our community has also seen an increase in apprehension, with a reluctance to venture out unless for essential duties, but neglecting exercise, as this is not seen as a priority. 

"Our online ‘Positive Minds’ workshops have offered many women a safe space to discuss how they are feeling and meet other sisters who are feeling very alone and isolated during the pandemic. They have offered some time to connect with others which we have found to be so important for everyone’s mental wellbeing. We have been able to deliver different topics each week using specialist speakers from our community to ensure topics are relevant to everyone."


School of Hard Knocks

Nathan Persaud, Programmes Director (England), School of Hard Knocks:



"When it comes to recovering from the pandemic, sport for development organisations like School of Hard Knocks are ideally placed to deal with several areas. The main issues that we contribute to are tackling the effects of isolation; a reduction or a lack of physical exercise; unemployment, and the associated increase in poverty, and homelessness. 

Nathan Persaud"During lockdown, we have adapted our traditional eight-week course for adults, which usually runs for two days each week, into an intensive five-day version delivered entirely online. We have run 10 of these nationally now and have tweaked and improved them as we have gone on. This has really come out of learning from the last two lockdowns about how we can still deliver this effectively, and started with a pilot in May last year. Prior to this, during the first lockdown, we produced a large suite of videos for our participants to access. 

"Our school delivery is now also all virtual, using the schools' infrastructure. Through previous lockdowns, we actually put a contingency plan in place which has meant our response to the third lockdown was much quicker. We are pretty much at full delivery with this, although there have been some technical and logistical issues with individual schools. 

"Our outcomes will pretty much remain the same. That means adults obtaining ‘EET’ (education, employment and training) outcomes, plus mental wellbeing and physical fitness. With our schools programmes we are targeting wellbeing, improved behaviour, confidence and communication skills. However there has been an impact on our ability to accurately measure changes in pupil’s lateness, attendance and behaviour from schools data. As the data is patchy, it can make valid comparisons difficult.

"We are hopeful that there will be little or no impact on our sustainability as, at the moment, we are still able to deliver programmes and have even picked up three new contracts specifically in relation to our online employability courses. Our work with schools is less predictable and we do not envisage any growth in this area for a while. In six months we will be slightly above our pre-Covid capacity, and a year on year we are expecting growth."


3 Pillars

Mike Crofts, Chief Executive of 3 Pillars Project: 



Mike Crofts"We have continued to act as advocates and a support network for the young people we work with on release. This produces positive outcomes in relationships with Probation Officers, housing arrangements and accessing work and education. We will be unlikely be able to deliver in prisons until lockdown restrictions are lifted and only after prisons return to their normal routines, which may take another few months. This motivates us to focus on our post-release work and continue to mentor referrals, albeit remotely. 

"Through extensive partnership development over the past year, we have started to attract referrals from a greater number of prisons and like-minded charities. We see this as a positive development. Additionally, we continue to correspond with those people that have benefited from our rugby intervention in custody, so that they may continue their journey with us on release.  

"The lockdown has affected low-level fundraising and our ability to plan events, which affects sustainability. However we have reduced costs and utilised the Government’s furlough scheme, whilst also being able to offer some continued mentoring support during the pandemic. In 18 months we hope that we will be fully operational delivering our rugby intervention and coaching in prisons. This includes up to six cohorts of 15 apprentices per cohort per annum in London and the South-East, and up to four cohorts of up to 15 apprentices per cohort per annum in the Midlands (maximum of 150 apprentices per annum). Running in parallel with this we have the capacity to mentor around 20 apprentices in London and the same in the Midlands. We do not risk closure in the next 12 months as we have taken steps to reorganise our financial situation.  

"Sport is going to be key to alleviating the national sense of psychological trauma that Covid-19 has created. It will enable a place to re-gather and rebuild friendships and communities. As an organisation, we feel feel the need to provide this sense of community and help people re-adjust to post-prison life, now more than ever."


Find out more about our #AdaptSupportRespond initiative. To contribute, contact [email protected]