Snowsports and inner-city youth are two things not typically associated with one another, with a trip to a ski resort largely the stuff of dreams for most.
But for two Pimlico youngsters, that dream became a reality last week as they got to work at the very heart of the Delancey British National Alpine Ski Championships in Tignes.
Hamza Alkebida and Laquan Bacchus are apprentices with Snow-Camp, a charity whose mission is to engage inner-city young people through snowsports in order to boost their motivation and aspirations for the future.
Providing skills training, qualifications and vocational opportunities, Snow-Camp helps its members turn their lives around, while developing their love for sports they most likely would never have experienced.
Alkebida and Bacchus, 17 and 20 respectively, were two of four apprentices to head out to the French Alps, where they helped organisers with everything from slipping the course to timekeeping.
During their time in Tignes, they also met HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and the boys insist their lives would have been so different without the opportunities Snow-Camp has gifted them.
“I joined the project just to have something to do, and to make sure I stayed off the streets. It was a place to chill and be safe,” said Alkebida.
“As soon as I stepped onto a snowboard, that was it, I was in love.
“Snow-Camp has honestly changed my whole perspective on life. When I was in school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I had no aspirations as such, but now I want to become a full-time instructor.
“Confidence is something else that I have developed. This time last year, I wouldn’t have the confidence to speak to a stranger but now I do it everyday.”
Bacchus added: “After I finished school, I came back to London and went to a couple of colleges, but education wasn’t really for me.
“I was caught up with the wrong people and I didn’t really fit in at college, and I felt like I was being made to do a lot that I didn’t want to do.
“From the first moment I put on a snowboard, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“I’m so grateful to Snow-Camp for giving me a path in life. If I hadn’t found them, I probably would have been hanging out with the wrong people on estates, and doing the wrong things.”
Established in 2003 by Dan Charlish, Snow-Camp has gone on to help more than 7,500 young people, transforming lives up and down the country.
And after witnessing first hand the impact his charity has had, Charlish couldn’t have been prouder of his young apprentices.
“They have been so impressive. We’ve had so much positive feedback from organisers and I’m so proud because this is such a strange situation for them,” he said.
“We’re in an intense, competitive environment and we’re with people who are not the apprentices’ normal community.
“They are definitely fish out of water but they have thrown themselves into it, they’ve been open to anything anyone wants them to do, and they’ve had some fantastic experiences along the way.
“I’m so proud of the way they have represented the charity – they are the guys at the real business end of what Snow-Camp does.
“They show the potential of Snow-Camps and snowsports in general to turn inner-city kids around.”
To follow the Delancey British Alpine Ski Team visit www.teambss.org.uk or follow @teambss on Twitter.
As Principal Sponsor of British Ski and Snowboard, specialist real estate investment and advisory company Delancey is proud to be able to support British athletes – visit www.delancey.com