"What stunned us was the level of help the community has offered"

Funding of £5,000 from the Wimbledon Foundation’s donation to LCF’s London Community Coronavirus Appeal has helped Rackets Cubed redeploy from its usual range of activities to continue to help support young people in Wandsworth during these unprecedented times.  

The current lockdown has had a huge impact on young people across the country. The effects of the lockdown on young people are compounded in London by issues such as overcrowding, poor housing quality and a lack of green space.  

The lockdown measures also mean that children and young people are at risk of falling behind in their education. Many of the children also relied on school meals to ensure a good-quality diet and there has been reports that a lack of contact with friends and uncertainty over the future is impacting young people’s mental health.  

“The sustained period of lockdown is a significant challenge for these children and their families”, said Michael Hill, Chairman of Trustees at Rackets Cubed. “There are approximately 100 Council tower Blocks in Wandsworth. Many of the children have safeguarding risks and experience poor mental and physical health, challenging family relationships and poverty. Now there is also a feeling of isolation for many of the young people from their traditional networks, schools, clubs and friends”.  

Rackets Cubed is helping address some of these challenges with its ‘community box’ scheme, designed to keep young people healthy, happy and engaged in their learning.  

Founded in late 2016, Rackets Cubed is a Wandsworth-based charity that would usually deliver integrated sport, education and nutrition programs to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young children and raise their aspirations. They partner with local inner-city schools and then work together to develop a program in which young people play sports, develop their learning of STEM subjects through class-based sessions and receive an evening meal.  

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that Rackets Cubed’s usual activities had to be put on hold. However, they were able to use the relationships they had built with local schools and food providers to help over lockdown.  

“Our core delivery programs are now suspended given the schools and the hosting sites are closed to many”, said Michael.  

“We thought we could have a role to play in getting essentials to our local families and so we asked our partner schools to reach-out to their most vulnerable families.  

We knew there was likely to be a need but we had no idea of the scale because these were going to be newly vulnerable families. We were hearing that it was not only the free school meal children, but also those families who are not on state benefits, have lost all their income as uber drivers, cleaners or small shop owners. They have no real savings and are especially vulnerable at this time”.  

100 families responded in the first week to the offer of help from the schools in Wandsworth.  

Rackets Cubed used its relationships with other local organisations to identify more vulnerable families so that a total of 250 families could benefit from weekly collections of food, personal hygiene, activity and educational supplies.  

The organisation also used its partnerships with Fairshare, Waitrose and Magic Breakfast to fill the boxes with food and then used the £5,000 grant from LCF’s London Community Coronavirus Appeal via the London Community Response portal to help pack in the other essentials. The boxes are stored at the schools from where they can be collected by families. The project also delivers to local families who are having to shield and isolate themselves.  

“What stunned me is the level of help the community has offered. In crisis mode everyone makes decisions quickly. Decisions that would take days now take minutes”, said Michael.  

Rackets Cubed has been inundated with offers from local people wishing to volunteer and while collecting the community boxes from schools. Non-teaching staff at the schools have taken on an invaluable role in the distribution of the ‘community boxes’ and are even on hand to provide advice about other welfare services to families. The project is supported with the help of six part-time staff members from Rackets Cubed, but Michael thinks the real amount of support is far more than this.  

“The project has been such a success that we have expanded into new areas”, said Michael. “We don’t know what exactly will happen in the future but the uptake to the project has been so positive that we hope to continue this project in some form”.  

The London Community Foundation wishes every continued success to Rackets Cubed and its partners. Our focus, aided by support from our donors, has meant that we are able to provide a range of funding options to charitable organisations in London. They are able to apply for urgent funding via the London Community Response portal, an easy access point with 60+ funders sitting behind it. All funds raised from the National Emergencies Trust appeal and through our London Communities Coronavirus Appeal are being distributed through this portal.