Jovana’s Story

With COVID-19 sweeping across the world and having detrimental effect on people’s lives, livelihoods, mental and physical wellbeing, it should come as no surprise that it is having a negative effect on young people too.

According to a recent study by Youth Sports Trust, 83% of children and young people with pre-existing mental health problems believe that their problems have worsened, with their concerns surrounding the safety of their family and friends, school closures, loss of routines and feeling out of touch socially.

The Harlequins Foundation has witnessed this first-hand with some of the participants on our programmes.

Jovana Madarevic first came through our Project Rugby programme and later joined our satellite club at Grasshoppers RFC, the grassroots club she has subsequently gone on to join. 

Jovana, 14, said: “I am a very social person and hanging out with friends gives me a lot of energy.

“Lockdown meant I felt extremely sad that I couldn’t see my friends, I also felt disappointed because I had just started my rugby journey and was looking forward to seeing where that took me.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of The Foundation’s sessions, including our satellite hubs. The lack of social interaction with her peers and access to physical activity led to Jovana suffering with low moods and finding it hard to stay positive, feeling out of touch with friends.

James Collins-Clark, Foundation Development Officer, said: When we got the news that London Sport was supporting us to start up our Rugby HUBs (virtually) it was a great feeling.

“This meant we could re-engage with our participants and more importantly they could re-engage with each other.

“What was particularly nice was being able to provide a rugby starter pack for all of HUB participants, which included a Harlequins rugby ball, a pump and a kicking tee.”

Jovana said: “I felt very anxious about joining the virtual HUBs because I didn’t know how it was going to be as well as not knowing or speaking to people for such a long period of time.

“I have never had a rugby ball to myself and when I saw that James was delivering rugby starter packs on Instagram I was really excited along with my new friends from the HUB, we were texting each other throughout the day checking to see if James had been.

“When James gave me the starter pack, I felt so happy.”

The Foundation is currently delivering three virtual HUB sessions a week for our regular attendees to join so they can reconnect with us and more importantly each other.

We offer a positive and safe learning environment which provides young people with structure and the opportunity to develop the essential skills through sport and physical activity.

Jovana said: “Since starting up the virtual HUBs 4 – 5 weeks ago with James and Hollie, (Harlequins Foundation Wellbeing Coach) my self-confidence has gone up so much, I have never been a big fan of fitness but Hollie made it so fun.

“I really look forward to the HUBs each week. I wake up at 0700 everyday looking forward to my 1800 HUB session on a Wednesday.

“The Foundation do great stuff like allowing us to play at The Stoop in front of thousands of people, which is an experience I will never forget. 

“If The Harlequins Foundation never existed, I would probably never of tried rugby and it’s a sport I have come to love!”

During these difficult times, it is vital that young people stay active, for both their physical and mental health. Our work helps support hundreds of young people like Jovana, in providing them with the resources they need to stay active during this time, but we can only do that with your support. 

We’re asking for your donations to help us reach more young people like Jovana, helping them to stay fit and active and develop key mental resillience skills.

Anything you can spare will make a difference, and helps us to Build Brighter Futures together. 

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