This fantastic photo from a football match was taken by a young carer from the borough, Mia. During UK Carers Week this week (10-16 June), she explained how she was given an experience she would never forget – thanks to a scheme helping carers like her to fulfil their potential.
With the noise levels escalating, and a sea of red scarves behind her, 14-year-old Mia Lloyd nervously took her position at the side of the pitch as Brentford FC’s official photographer for their Championship football match against Blackburn Rovers back in February.
She took part in the football club’s first Community Takeover which, as we reported earlier this year, saw 10 children from Brentford FC Community Sports Trust’s local projects go behind the scenes and join matchday staff to learn the ropes.
With 700,000 young carers living in the UK, the Trust’s young carers programme aims to provide teenagers like Mia with much-needed respite.
As we reported last year, the project is commissioned by Ealing Council and gives carers between eight and 18 years old somewhere to socialise, learn new skills and gain in confidence. Since it was commissioned, participation has increased from 25 young carers to nearly 200.
‘It has allowed me to express myself’
Mia, who is a young carer for her mum, joined the young carers programme when she was just eight years old, and credits it with igniting her passion for photography.
Her eight-year-old self could scarcely imagine that, six years later, she would be photographing Brentford’s most high-profile players and have her work showcased on the club’s website.
“I really enjoy photography,” said Mia. “It has allowed me to express myself and I was honoured to be able to photograph a team that I have supported since I was little.
“It is only through the Ealing Young Carers Project that I have been able to develop my passion for photography.”
‘I felt pretty big-headed seeing my daughter on the pitch’
And for Mia’s mum, Jacky, the day proved a proud moment as she watched her daughter photograph one of Brentford’s most memorable matches of the season, with the Bees fighting back from 2-0 down to win 5-2 against Blackburn Rovers.
She said: “I have to admit I felt pretty big-headed seeing my daughter on the pitch in front of all those football fans; I never thought she would do something like this, so I am immensely proud to have witnessed that.”
Along with photography, meeting other young carers has proven a lifeline for Mia.
Jacky explained: “Young carers need a break and deserve to be ‘normal’ teenagers like everyone else – I think it is a fantastic project.”
Mia agreed, and said: “Meeting other young carers has been great because they understand what it’s like to be ‘me’. The project has helped build my confidence and I can share experiences with other young carers.”
‘Testament to how far she has come’
Kathryn Sobczak, the Trust’s young carers co-ordinator, has seen first-hand the change in Mia.
She said: “The fact that Mia took part in the Community Takeover and took photographs of professional footballers in front of thousands of people is testament to how far she has come.
“When I first met Mia, she was quiet. But now she has grown in confidence and made many friends.”
What could it offer me?
The project also offers one-to-one mentoring and a wide range of activities, including: After-school homework clubs; lunchtime clubs; fortnightly youth clubs; fortnightly swimming clubs and day trips.
Employment and education opportunities are made available too, including work experience placements and CV writing.
If you know someone who could benefit from the young carers project, you can contact Kathryn at email@example.com or on 020 8326 7044.