Street Champs, an initiative recently launched in Manenberg and Gugulethu, is using sport as a way out for youth.The programme is working with young people who live in socially marginalised communities with high levels of youth unemployment, a lack of educational opportunities and gang violence.Oasis, a local organisation, in collaboration with several local partners from the Gugs United Movement, officially launched the 2019 Street Champs Programme last month. “It is hard to reach the children and youth that fall between the cracks of traditional community hub-based programmes. Children with more functional family lives often have more access to these programmes which can leave more at-risk children behind,” says Oasis founder Clifford Martinus. Martinus added: “These communities, unfortunately, face high youth unemployment and have a lack of safe spaces for young people to spend their time. “This project is taking a stand, giving youth a place to be, a sense of belonging, discipline and direction whilst improving their well being. By bringing these different communities together, we hope to see an increase in positive integration and a reduction in anti-social behaviour.” Oasis is working with Gugulethu Ulibongolethu Sports Development Organisation (GUSDO) and Project Playground (PPG) to deliver a twice weekly program of activities for young people in the communities of Gugulethu and Manenberg. The initiative is supported by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Fight for Peace International (FFP). “The Street Champs programme identified hotspots in these communities and takes the programmes to the youth themselves, using tools they are used to – street soccer for example – as the first step towards accessing other training - psycho-social, educational and life skills for example,” says Martinus. “Ultimately this programme is dealing with a very complex dynamic – there are no magic answers and results will not be overnight.” The idea was conceptualised at the beginning of 2018 and took at least six months to take shape. The initiative will include street soccer, netball, boxing, arts, life skills and more.A team of facilitators from the area will receive training to provide sports, life skills and art sessions focussed on improving levels of physical and mental well being. “Ultimately [we are] aiming to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour and violence within these communities, the programme will create a network of safe spaces for youth to come together and develop skills to increase the opportunities available to them,” he says. The initiative is open to all and will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 16:30 at Nceba Park, New Cross Roads, NY74 Community Hall, Gugulethu and The Downs Community Centre, Madge Road, Manenberg.“The key target age group is young people from the age of eight 8. The morning sessions are targeted at 16-year-olds plus and the afternoon sessions are focussed on children aged eight to 15,” says Martinus.