To Care Is To Do, supported by The Supporters Club and Premier League, is designed to engage and inspire looked after children and care leavers within the local community, and sees Tottenham Hotspur Foundation provide a range of support services to help improve educational attainment, increase employability, develop life skills and promote healthy and active lifestyles to all ages.
Amidst the excitement that is a Tuesday afternoon football session at Wadham Lodge, Walthamstow, our goalkeeper Hugo stopped by to visit JoJo at his day job.
As a baby, JoJo, now 21, was placed into care by Haringey Council. Having progressed through the Foundation’s children in care and educational provision, he is now employed by the Club’s charitable arm as a full-time development coach.
“I don’t really remember life before going in to care,” he said. “But that doesn’t bother me. I see the people who raised me as my real family - my grandparents, dad and sisters – even if they’re not my biological family. And Rich from Tottenham Hotspur Foundation – Rich is like my big brother. Without Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, who knows where I’d be.”
The bond between JoJo and his mentor, Tottenham Hotspur Foundation’s Community Development Manager Richard Allicock, began in 2007. Through the To Care Is To Do programme, all young people in care who are referred to the Foundation are assigned a dedicated mentor to offer guidance and support, working with them to develop individual pathways through to education and employment.
“I came in to work one day and this shy, little kid was sitting at my desk,” Richard said of his first meeting with JoJo in 2007. “JoJo had come to the Club on a work experience placement and as we’re both from the local area we hit it off immediately - he had seen me around, knew my friends, knew my family and we had an instant connection. I think he looked up to me for guidance and support because I was from Tottenham too.”
JoJo was referred to the Foundation’s looked after children programmes by Haringey Council at a young age, and was keen to explore everything that the Foundation could offer him. He followed an educational pathway with the Foundation through Kicks when he was still in school, studied for his Sports BTEC qualifications at our Football and Education Development Centres, and he then went on to study a Foundation Degree, graduating in August 2014.
Today, JoJo is a full-time development coach with the Foundation and Spurs Ladies, and believes that the support he received through the looked after children programmes such as To Care Is To Do, was paramount to his success.
“I was really nervous as a kid, but having a mentor like Richard to turn to helped me to explore my feelings and channel my emotions into a positive route. He showed me everything that Tottenham Hotspur Foundation could offer me, and opened up a career in football that I never even knew existed. Rich is more than just a mentor to me, he’s my best friend and my brother.”
Upon meeting JoJo, Hugo said: “I am truly inspired by JoJo and his story. The challenges that this young man has faced over the years and how he has come through them all with educational qualifications and a job at the end of it is credit to his attitude and the work of Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.
“Stories like this put football into perspective, but it also makes you realise the role that football can play in making a difference in people’s lives, and this has been the case for JoJo.
“His love for the game and for Spurs resulted in him coming to us at a young age, and through the Foundation and projects like To Care Is To Do, he has got to where he is today, and it was great to see the positive influence he now has on other young people that he coaches.”
Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, the charitable arm of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, has a proven track record working with looked after children and care leavers to support and guide them on to education and employment pathways. This includes one-to-one mentoring, life-skills workshops, pre and post-employment support, work experience opportunities and study assistance as part of the To Care Is To Do provision.
Nikki Kelly, Senior Manager, Tottenham Hotspur Foundation said: “JoJo is an inspiration to so many young people on our To Care Is To Do project. He has grabbed every opportunity that has been presented to him with both hands, and has excelled throughout his time at the Foundation.
“At Tottenham Hotspur Foundation we’re committed to delivering opportunities that change lives and know that through the support of our partners, we will provide the looked after children in our community with the network, tools and guidance they need to build a positive, stable future.”
Pete Oliver, Managing Director, Commercial & Marketing, BT Consumer, said: "The Supporters Club is all about making the most of the unique combination of BT Sport viewers, BT staff, our TV broadcast reach and BT's partnerships to help bring change for good. To Care is To Do is a great example of how BT is using sport to improve the prospects of youngsters around the world."
The Foundation secured a substantial grant over a three-year period from a recently-formed and growing partnership between BT Sport’s The Supporters Club and the Premier League, which will see The Supporters Club match-fund club projects with the Premier League. The partnership aims to provide funding to strong, innovative, social change programmes focussed on improving the lives of young people.
As part of Tottenham Hotspur’s on-going commitment to delivering initiatives that work to overcome issues facing children in care, To Care Is To Do is delivered in partnership with Haringey Council Virtual School.
BT Sport have produced a short film on JoJo and the work of To Care Is To Do, which can be seen above. An edited version will be shown during the build-up to BT Sport’s live coverage of our match against West Ham on Sunday.