How our Grenfell cash makes a splash for London children

David Cohen
·4-min read
<p>In this together: Sarraounia Samuels with children from North Kensington she is teaching to swim. Ms Samuels set up her lessons in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy</p> (Matt Writtle)

In this together: Sarraounia Samuels with children from North Kensington she is teaching to swim. Ms Samuels set up her lessons in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy

(Matt Writtle)

A group that runs football sessions for young people affected by mental health problems and a start-up offering swimming lessons to children living on a west London estate are two of the organisations funded in the third and final round of the Evening Standard’s Grenfell Young People’s Fund.

Minds United Football Club and Swimunity are among 16 charitable groups that collectively have been awarded grants of £623,093, to be paid over three years, taking the total outlay by our fund since 2018 to £1.34 million — spread over 36 groups.

The fund was originally formed to hand out the unspent £574,000 of the £7.4 million donated by readers to the hugely successful Evening Standard Grenfell Tower Appeal in the wake of the 2017 fire — and was supplemented by donations from Artists for Grenfell and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Sarraounia Samuels, 31, who swam competitively and represented Kensington and Chelsea as a teenager in the Youth Games, was pregnant with twins and staying at her mother’s flat opposite Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire. The horror of the night has stayed with her but what affected her most was “a massive sense of powerlessness” at being unable to help the trapped victims.

Last year Ms Samuels decided to put her skills to use to support her North Kensington community. She formed Swimunity together with a friend, also a former competitive swimmer, to provide free crash courses in swimming to children and young women from low income families living on the Lancaster West estate, the location of Grenfell Tower.

Ms Samuels, a qualified swimming instructor, said: “Private swimming lessons can range from £20 to £60 a session, which is unaffordable to most families here, especially those with several children. We ran a free six-week pilot for 30 children in September and we were booked out within 24 hours, so the need is strong. There is also a demand for women-only sessions which we will provide for under-25s. This grant of £44,880 over three years is a game changer. It triples our annual income and allows us to support the well-being of the community. Classes start in the summer.”

For Tarik Kaidi, who set up Minds United in 2019, football has been transformative. Back in 2013, Kaidi was “an organised crime boss operating in drugs” (his description), when a mental health episode led him to be sectioned for 28 days and prompted a U-turn.

Mr Kaidi, 35, said: “When I came out of hospital, having been diagnosed for the first time as bipolar, my mania turned to depression and I went from Mr Big making five grand a week to being homeless. My social worker referred me to a football project which turned out to be a life saver. I became a regular, took my FA level one coaching badge and became a manager. Football gave my life focus and calmed me — I found that I no longer got unmanageable severe highs and lows.” In July 2019, having been clean for six years, he started a football club “that brought together people with lived experience of mental health to play in a supportive environment”.

Minds United has gone from seven participants at its first session to supporting over 60 men and women, including many suffering trauma as a result of the Grenfell fire. His assistant coach is a Grenfell survivor as are some players.

Mr Kaidi has won community awards, including Middlesex FA Grassroots coach of the year 2020, and his work earned him an invitation to meet Prince William at Wembley in 2019 as part of the FA’s Heads Up campaign, which uses football to raise the profile of mental health. “But I had to turn it down,” said Mr Kaidi. “I was scheduled to referee that day at the Surrey FA College Disability League where I was also match co-ordinator, so I said, ‘sorry, loyalty trumps royalty’.”

The best thing about the £30,672 grant, he said, “is that it’s over three years and gives us stability”.

Kelly Rust, director of grants and impact at London Community Foundation, which manages the cash on behalf of the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, said: “The fund has been a powerful example of how the community have been involved in making a difference locally.”

For the full list of those benefiting, visit

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