As a young boy growing up all I wanted to do was play cricket 24/7.
Every night I would play for hours in the garden with my older brother until my mum dragged us in for smashing the ball against the garage door one too many times.
One day, my dad signed us up at a nearby club and started paying the required membership fees for my brother and I. Then he got us the latest kit and expensive bats to ensure we had the best possible chance of being the best for our matches.
Only many years later did I find out that he had taken out several loans over the years to ensure we got everything we needed and to ferry us around to matches, and that all of that had put financial pressure on the family.
There were no alternative free cricket offers available such as Street when I was growing up, and I really wish there could have been because, if that had been the case, we would have been able to access a fun form of the game that Chance to Shine Street is able to provide nationally today - but without the economic burden that sometimes comes with the sport.
More than cricket
Chance to Shine Street is more than just a cricket initiative; it's a bridge that connects diverse communities, fosters inclusivity and celebrates the spirit of unity.
This Interfaith Week we thank Sport England for celebrating the invaluable contributions of our organisation in bringing cricket to more than 8,000 young people annually who traditionally face barriers to sports participation, through just under 300 individual projects in the top 30% most deprived areas across the country.
With 74% of participants not affiliated with traditional cricket clubs, Chance to Shine Street is changing the game and using the power of cricket to drive social change.
I am extremely lucky to be part of the team being able to drive the cause, because the programme is extremely vital to many communities right now.
With the ongoing cost of living crisis, we are able to provide a free and accessible platform for young people to embrace the sport through weekly sessions that result in strengthening the bonds between different faith groups, contributing to social cohesion and personal development.
Through my regular project visits around the country, I’ve been able to see first-hand that young people may venture into an initial session without any prior knowledge of cricket, with no equipment, nervous and often without family support, but end up leaving the session wondering why they hadn’t come sooner.
Bringing communities closer
During Interfaith Week, Chance to Shine Street takes pride in celebrating the diverse faith communities that make up the fabric of our society, providing a platform where young people from different religious backgrounds can come together, share their experiences and forge new friendships.
This collaborative spirit echoes the essence of this week, which promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding.
Across our projects, 78% of participants are from a diverse background and participants learn not only about cricket but also about respect, empathy and the values that unite us all.
This fosters an environment of mutual acceptance and coexistence, which extends far beyond the cricket pitch.
At the heart of our mission is the belief that every child, regardless of their background or circumstances, should have the opportunity to engage in cricket on a weekly basis.