This year, the Football Foundation is marking Deaf Awareness Week by telling the story of one of our most inspirational beneficiaries.

Under anyone’s definition, 14-year old Faith was born into great adversity. With minimal hearing in her right ear and just 50% audial capabilities in her left, coupled with a rare form of epilepsy that leaves her subject to three different types of seizures, it’s been far from easy for Faith to compete in regular sporting competition.

Indeed, her gymnastics escapades were brought to a premature halt because of the impact of her hearing loss, while many doubted her chances of playing regular football for similar reasons.

But Faith has never been one to let adversity get the better of her.

As part of the new footballing development plan drawn up between Aylsham FC and the Football Foundation, a great deal of focus was put on developing new footballing opportunities for girls at the club. Their redeveloped site, which had received £385,728 worth of investment from the Football Foundation, proved to be the perfect environment for Faith to flourish.

Unperturbed by her disabilities, Faith blew her coaches away, showing excellent vision, a deft touch and fantastic leadership skills and after training for four weeks with the team, was offered the opportunity to become a full member of the squad.

Despite this being just two years ago, her progress since that date has been phenomenal. 

Instantly appointed club captain, Faith has also gone on to represent Norwich City Community Sports Foundation disability side as well as featuring in the People’s Cup Final at St George’s Park in 2018. Her time with Norwich City has seen her play at some of the best facilities in the country, competing against Manchester City and Watford, with a trip to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge also on the cards in the next month.

Gus Bates, Chairman of youth at Aylsham FC, was effusive in his praise for her. 

“Ever since Faith joined, she has just been an absolute breath of fresh air and she really is an inspiration to us all. She’s progressed massively since coming to the club and I cannot speak highly enough of her. It’s been an absolute privilege to have her as part of the club and we’ll continue to do whatever we can to support her through her footballing journey.”

Undoubtedly, this journey is far from over. As well as using the Football Foundation facilities to play football on, Faith has also started using them to further her own coaching credentials. She regularly assists with training Aylsham’s Under-8s and Under-13s teams, with the ultimate aim of pursuing a coaching career that will see her help children with disabilities get into football. So far, she has enrolled onto her junior leaders’ course, which is being funded by the club, and she plans on beginning her badges once she turns 16. 

And almost unbelievably, her talents don’t stop there, with Faith also demonstrating a passion for philanthropy. She is currently nominated for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community of Sheringham, having raised £500 to replace her local lifeboat by making and selling her own bracelets to the local community. 

Her mother, Lindsay, couldn’t be prouder.

“I always imagined that her disabilities would be tiring for her. Anyone with similar conditions with be well within their rights to take a break and rest but she just never stops. I never hear her complain about anything, she just takes everything on the chin and gets on with it. She’s an absolute warrior.”

“The facilities have massively helped her too. The new pitches give her a brilliant platform to play, train and coach all year round in a safe and secure environment and I couldn’t be happier that she can pursue her dreams as a result.”

It’s not just Faith who has benefitted either. As a result of the new natural grass pitches and changing pavilion which were delivered back in 2016, Aylsham FC have been able to significantly expand, increasing from 18 teams to 28 (which includes new ladies and girls teams) as well as catering for a whole host of additional site users which help to make the site sustainable.

The changing pavilion, for example, is used to host Slimming World, a Karate club, speed awareness courses, a keep fit club and a bridge society, delivering positive sessions for a wider range of people within the local community.

Bates added, “We owe a great deal of gratitude to the Premier League, The FA and the Government for helping to support our project. In a fairly short space of time, we’ve been able to make an incredibly positive impact and we expect to make even more progress in the coming years, with more inspiring people like Faith being unearthed.”