We've invested £9,900 of National Lottery funding into Start Again Project CIC – a social enterprise working to understand, encourage and empower people aged 13 to 30 using the power of sport.
The inspiration behind the project is very personal to founder, Mark Peters. Mark wanted to develop a programme that would provide measurable benefits to young people living with mental health problems.
Already aware that young people face barriers to taking part in mainstream sport, Mark saw the need for targeted and tailored activity sessions for young people that could take place in the local community and be led by experienced staff.
The result is a project that provides opportunities for enjoyment of sports in a safe and secure environment.
The story behind the project
But what drove Mark’s desire to make such a difference in his local community? He’s clear that his family were significant.
Growing up in north Birmingham with an older sister and two younger foster brothers, it was only when both brothers moved out at 18 that things changed. The brothers’ lives went in different directions: one flourished and went to university, but the other isolated himself, becoming more and more withdrawn.
It was he who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sectioned at the age of 22.
Being detained under the Mental Health Act meant that Mark’s brother had no choice but to go into hospital.
This was a turning point – and the inspiration – for Mark’s efforts with Start Again.
The power of sport
His brother’s treatment in hospital was "very frustrating" and Mark felt that, despite regular visits from a range of medical professionals and plenty of advice, there was "no real engagement".
“To me, it felt like no one was really listening to what he wanted. No one ever seemed to get to know him”.
Mark goes on to reveal: "I was a youth worker at the time, working with a charity, and this treatment didn’t chime with my own knowledge of working with young people.
I began to see how I could use my background in sport as a way of really connecting with people
Mark Peters, Start Again founder
"In my work, I’d learned that the best way of engaging someone was to listen to them, to find out what they were interested in and to make a connection that way. To me, it felt like there was a gap here in the way the health service was supporting young people like my brother."
“My brother has a supportive family with the resources to step in and fight for the help he needs to bring back his self-esteem and become more resilient and independent. I wanted others to have that too."
Mark, an ex-professional footballer, has a strong belief in the power of sport to change lives for the better.
"I began to see how I could use my background in sport as a way of really connecting with people," he reveals.