Putting children on the right track

Marvin Onu is currently working as an accountant but plans to ditch his career in finance to become a social entrepreneur
Marvin Onu is currently working as an accountant but plans to ditch his career in finance to become a social entrepreneur

Accountant Marvin Onu speaks to James Cracknell about a new project to help prevent youth crime

An accountant from Walthamstow who once dreamed of working in The City, Marvin Onu’s life has taken an unexpected turn in the last six months.

What started as a side project while Marvin worked on his masters degree in finance and accountancy has now grown into a social enterprise with funding in place for a big launch early next year.

“I decided to pitch my idea to my university and they loved it,” Marvin tells me, demonstrating his shock at how well his project has been received to date. “Straight away they wanted to back me and I got pushed into entering a competition, The Big Ideas Competition, and I won!”

So what exactly is this great idea that has got so many people excited?

“I want to conquer youth crime and violence, to keep young people from going down the wrong path – using sport.”

Marvin’s idea is an online platform, Run Track Sports, to help link coaches and training providers across various sports with young people in deprived areas who might be at risk of getting involved with gangs.

“One of the things they did in Glasgow to tackle gang crime was ‘early intervention’. I don’t know why it’s not being used more widely, because it works.

“People want results as soon as possible so maybe they don’t want to play the long game, but we know this strategy works, so I am going to use it myself; making connections between educators, local businesses and charities.

“You have to show young people there is a career path available to them.”

Marvin is in a strong position to be able to establish this type of model, as a young man himself who grew up in Walthamstow and attended Kelmscott School. He has family members who are involved in running local businesses and knows many local sports coaches already.

“My brother is 16 and I could see him drifting away, but I helped him to stay focused on football and now he is doing his A-levels. Sport can change the mindset of young people because it teaches you about teamwork and respect.”

Last year, 16-year-old Amaan Shakoor was shot dead outside Kelmscott Leisure Centre. No-one has yet been charged with the killing.

“It happened almost right outside my house,” says Marvin. “That same place where he was shot, I used to play football there, but now kids are scared to walk past. Murder has become the norm.

“If more young people know each other, it helps deter violence. If you grow up playing football with someone, even if you are from different areas, you will know they are not your enemy and not want to hurt them.”

To help with this mission of bringing more sporting opportunities to young people, Marvin is working in partnership with other local and charitable organisations. One is A-Star Sports, set up by his former personal trainer.

“Their motto is ‘every child is a star’. They have been working in schools for 20 years and now we are going to run some big football events, once a month, in different areas.”

Run Track Sports is set to be officially launched in April 2020, although the first coaching sessions are beginning this month. Initially it will be available only in Walthamstow, but Marvin has ambitions to expand across East London to include other deprived areas such as Leyton, Stratford and Canning Town.

UnLtd is now helping him to realise this dream with both financial support and mentoring. “Without UnLtd, none of this would be happening. It would have still just been a website. I can be a role model for some of these kids and UnLtd has given me that opportunity, so I am very thankful to them.

“I thought I was going to work for a bank but it looks like I’m going to become a social entrepreneur instead. I realised that if you have an opportunity to help your local community, you might as well take it.”

Find out more about Run Track Sports:
Visit runtracksports.com

This article is supported by St James Street Big Local in association with UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. To find out more about UnLtd:
Call
 0207 566 1100
Email cheryl.ndione@unltd.org.uk
Visit unltd.org.uk