The day you plant the seed is not the day you pick the fruit
Great change doesn’t happen overnight. Change occurs after a first thought or action.
Saturday saw a plan, one that I have had for a while, finally come together. It started as a plan to initiate a conversation that can have a ripple effect of positive change over time; one that was paused by pandemic delays but one that I wanted to ensure still moved forward.
So, let me explain to you why the concept of planting seeds is so relevant here.
I volunteer at AFC Sudbury football club as part of their Football Operations Committee, and together we discuss a variety of topics about how we can continue to progress the club and also make positive changes for those who engage with us in any capacity. This includes staff, volunteers, players, fans, and visitors.
My role is in relation to Safeguarding and Welfare, and this is how Saturday’s event came about. It allowed 2 of my greatest passions to unite – the power of sport and importance of wellbeing.
I wanted to hold an awareness raising event to help local people, and those travelling from other teams, as well as individuals who utilise our buildings for other activities (such as dance classes), to know what is available to them in relation to support for their health and wellbeing.
I also had another idea I wanted to progress, which was about making service information accessible for those who may not feel able to speak up or reach out to ask for help. The Committee understood what I wanted to achieve, with both the event and QR code, and we planned to move it forward. I spoke to our Head of Media who turned my idea to put a directory of services into a QR code for fans to access discreetly, which we shared in toilets, by the bar and in our programme amongst other places, came to life.
Our initial event was meant to be in January but we had to push it for COVID19 relates reasons and we instead held it on Saturday last week, our last game of the season.
We had some wonderful support from truly valuable organisations – which I will list at the end of this blog – who gave their time to engage with our vision. A few people asked me on Saturday how I felt the event was going and I will relay on here what I reflected.
On the day, we did not have as many people engage directly with the stalls of organisations attending as much as I would have like but what we noticed was conversations. When I was an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor in a past role, my organisation attended an awareness event at a local university, a young girl came to our stand and told us that generally she observes that many don’t feel able to approach stalls, but what they do is take a photo from afar or use posters in toilets where it’s easier to access discreetly. This is part of where the idea came from.
People may not have been walking up to all the stalls and speaking to services, which is of course gutting when people are giving up their time and care so much for their organisation, but what it did was start conversation. Conversations were overheard in the bar area, people will have looked at the signs, they will have wondered, and it will sit in their mind – even without them knowing.
And here’s the power. One day, them or someone they know, may need to know those services. They may think of a time when they were at football and remember seeing a sign about abuse or testicular cancer awareness. They may then recall a name and they may reach out.
For all we know, people sat in the toilets on Saturday and inquisitively scanned the QR code and came across something they didn’t know they needed. For all we know, they rang a helpline.
It’s the first step. The step to say: there are difficult conversations and sensitive topics to address, and we care. We want to help people know where they can go if they are struggling. We want individuals to have the best opportunity to thrive.
I am doing what I can to take this further to other non-league clubs and to help continue the conversation, as I want to show how simple it is to share this information. How you could save a life. It sounds potentially dramatic to think people at football matches may be at risk of death but what we are trying to raise awareness of covers a variety of topics – from checking your body parts for lumps and growths, to helping escape abusive relationships to knowing which helplines you can call to seek help for suicidal thoughts.
We may not ever get to know if what we are doing is working but as far as I am concerned – no change happens unless you start a conversation.
I will continue to start as many conversations as I can, raise as much awareness as possible, and trust the process.
After all, the day you plant the seed is not the day you pick the fruit.
CONTACT DETAILS FOR SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS:
Anglia Care Trust – https://angliacaretrust.org.uk/ - DA Helpline: 0800 977 5690
Support for survivors of domestic violence/abuse
(Please note: ACT provide a variety of community based services, including support with alcohol abuse, financial guidance, housing and more…)
Compassion – https://www.compass-ion.org/ Support for survivors of domestic violence/abuse
Suffolk Rape Crisis – https://srchelp.org.uk/ - 01473 231 200 Support for survivors of sexual violence/abuse who identify as female
Fresh Start New Beginnings – https://www.fsnb.org.uk/ - 01473 353355 Support for children who have been sexually abused
Movember – https://uk.movember.com/ - Mental health, suicide awareness and cancer prevention
The Ferns - https://www.theferns-suffolk.org.uk/ - 0300 123 5058 Sexual Assault Referral Centre and Independent Sexual Violence Advisor Service
And apologies from 2 organisations that needed to withdraw due to staff sickness, but who have been so wonderfully engaged otherwise:
The Offside Trust - http://www.offsidetrust.com/ Tackling child abuse in sport and supporting survivors
Survivors in Transition - https://survivorsintransition.co.uk/ - 07765 052282/01473 232499
Support for adult survivors of childhood abuse and a service in Suffolk for male survivors of sexual violence/abuse