Yakoob Seedat uses his interests to make a difference at weekends and in the evenings.
Yakoob coaches children in football on Saturday mornings. In the afternoons he runs a Chill Zone for kids age 5-10, then in the evenings helps run the teenage youth club in his area. As well as giving up his Saturdays, he has also set up for local kids: a football league at West View Leisure Centre for Disadvantaged People, a small sided cricket league, a Tae Kwondo academy, and represented young people in focus groups and at the local Neighbourhood Management Partnership Boards. He does it all of his own volition and describes himself as a friend of the community!
When I realised I had weekends free, I started playing for my local football team. They then asked me to coach on Saturday mornings, so I landed into it and since then I’ve progressed and I love it. When I was young I wanted to do more activities but there was no one to help, so I really like to be able to give back to the kids in my community. Helping people is just my thing. I am the eldest of six kids, so it’s second nature to care for people.
I’m on the neighbourhood management board too. So an average Saturday goes like this: in the morning I coach the 10-12s football academy (I am also the coach and manager for the under 10s and under 9s, and started a league for them), then in the afternoon I run the Chill Zone, which is where kids aged 5-10 can come and do activities like enjoy a bouncy castle or we go to a fun play area. Then Saturday night there is the teenagers' youth club. As I know a lot of kids aged 12 and upwards, I know what young people want. Youth Worker, Zul Hussain, and the other volunteers are in their 30s and 40s and they’re great, but I feel like the kids are more comfortable coming along and seeing me there too, as I am closer to their age. Yes all this is at the expense of my own social life but honestly, if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it.
Volunteering has made me ready for the future. It’s made me more patient and tolerant. Sometimes the kids throw tantrums or are a bit hyperactive and hard to control but you learn to be calm and patient. I am a Tai Kwando instructor too now, and I’m teaching the kids that now.
I like to think, the whole community is my friend. I like to hope I am making a difference no matter how small. My proudest moment was when this young child who suffers from autism’s mum came to me and said, ‘are you Yakoob? My child is slightly autistic and very shy and finds it hard to make friends, but he’s always on about Yakoob this and Yakoob that!’ That was really heartfelt and I felt really good about that.
Get stuck into volunteering – until you do, you won’t know how good it is. It’s fun, inspiring and enjoyable. And for me, the most rewarding.