A brief history
BIGKID was formed in 2000 by Shaninga Marasha, who - while still in sixth form - started a mentoring programme for the young people at his school who were at risk of exclusion and on their final warning. After 2 years of working with 10 mentors and 10 mentees, 8 out of 10 mentees remained in school and were reintroduced into the main school population. While at University, Shaninga - along with three friends - came together with a shared vision: to change the world one kid at a time.
Initially the group began as a music crew, growing gradually and recruiting volunteers to help it move in a more proactive direction. Their aim was to engage and positively impact young people through their music, which led to the creation of new and exciting material, new artists with a very real, urban and contemporary feel.
In 2005, following two years of performing at events across London and the UK, the group performed in Liverpool. This event changed BIGKID forever. Over the course of three days they participated in “street walks,” where they approached people in the deprived areas of Toxteth, challenging them to make an active and positive decision to change their lives for the better. This sparked a new fire in the group, and inspired their grassroots approach.
While the group was able to make contact with people at events, there were a great number of people who neither knew about - nor wished to - attend these events. Therefore, the group would have to go to them. It was then that BIGKID started going in to high-risk, highly deprived areas and directly interacting with the people there.
2006 produced another landmark occasion, this time at St. Mary’s Primary School, North West London. The group were asked to take part in an assembly to some students as part of the school’s Black History month celebration. The success they experienced there led to the group to look very seriously into the prospect of working in schools.
It was then that the focus shifted from music to workshops and activities that taught important life skills. This was the birth of the BIGKID Foundation.
BIGKID quickly began working closely with a couple of young people from Stockwell, who came up with the idea of offering workshops on leadership to empower young people to make good decisions. It was at this time that we met Pauline Broomhead from the FSI who, on hearing what we did, suggested we form as a charity.
Once formed as a charity we set about delivering our workshops. Though we started by offering workshops London-wide, we realised that in order to make a greater impact we would have to focus on one borough and, since many of our young people were from Brixton, we chose Lambeth.
The programmes were going well, but we found that young people were no longer as interested in music, but would do anything to play a bit of footie. So we adapted our programme to offer football - rather than music - leadership workshops.
Our football programme grew much faster than we expected, and over 2 years we went from working with 20 young people to working with close to 400. Since then we have grown to offer sports engagement, leadership and mentoring programmes. Many of the young people we work with are gang affiliated and have been excluded from school, but through their involvement with BIGKID we have begun to see changes in behaviour.