Each year since its inception in 2007, the Jason Roberts Foundation (JRF) has held a no-cost football summer program aimed at providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in structured football activities across Grenada and the Caribbean. As a premier supporter of the Foundation from the beginning, St. George’s University offers assistance in the form of administration, accommodation, educational facilities, and physical practice areas and, starting this year, transportation for participants residing outside of St. George’s.
“The free football summer program is a great way of keeping the kids engaged in something positive once the school term ends,” said Andre Paterson, Chairman, JRF. “As this is our first time utilizing the Woburn playing field, we are really grateful for SGU’s assistance in bringing those kids who live outside of the St. George’s area to participate. Having this transportation makes a big difference. We’re able to give kids an opportunity to take part in a free program that they probably wouldn’t have had a chance to do otherwise.”
Since the launch of its pilot program 11 years ago, which attracted more than 650 young people, the Foundation has developed a weekly timetable of structured sporting activities which include: After-School Clubs, Saturday Morning Coaching Centers, St. George’s University Team Training, and a Special Needs Training Session, as well as Women’s Football and Monthly Floodlit Football sessions.
“We’ve now also grown to where we have three parish programs that are ongoing. Three to five times a week, we deliver sporting and social programs in Gouyave, Grenville, and the Limes in Grand Anse,” stated Mr. Paterson. “We use sports to get the kids interested and bring them in after school, and there we offer the social aspects where we teach them about bullying, equality, and even nutrition. All of these different concepts normally should be taught in schools, but because we’re a more relaxed environment, we seem to be getting more out of it and out of them.
“The biggest step forward we’ve had so far this year is with girls’ empowerment,” added Mr. Paterson. “We’re specifically targeting young girls to get them more involved because there is a situation in our culture where the girls have to go straight home after school to take care of their siblings, or maybe start dinner for their parents, so they miss out on a lot of opportunities. That’s why we’re now trying to reengage our young girls to the forefront.”
Founded by Jason Roberts MBE, former UK Premier League and Grenada National Team football player, the Foundation was created as his family’s way of giving something back to society through sport, with the aim of supporting young people, celebrating diversity, and promoting respect across communities. In 2016, Mr. Roberts was honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by SGU’s School of Graduate Studies for his longtime work on behalf of disabled children in Grenada through the Foundation.
In recent years, the work of the Foundation has broadened to provide a more holistic program of support, including mentoring, life skills, and education and training projects within its wider sports activities. Additionally, it has worked with young people at risk of offending, those excluded from school or struggling in the school curriculum, and young people with physical and learning difficulties.
“The aim of the Foundation is to empower youth through sport. Sports made me who I am today. It teaches you how to work within a group, how to get along with others, and how to deal with success and disappointment,” commented Mr. Paterson. “And unless you’ve been on a team and played sports, I believe that part of your character doesn’t really get developed probably to its fullest extent. The kids in our program learn to accept defeat graciously and that there’s always a chance to win again tomorrow. We haven’t had many instances of conflict or fights because the kids know that, at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and enjoying the sporting discipline that we’re teaching them.”
– Ray-Donna Peters