Everton Football Club supports new veterans' hub for Knowsley
Everton Football Club captain Phil Jagielka met with a group of veterans from Knowsley, Merseyside, on Tuesday to officially launch Knowsley Veterans Hub – a new community programme that will support up to 150 ex-Service personnel from the area.
Funded by a £39,000 grant from The Royal British Legion, Knowsley Veterans Hub (KVH) is a football and exercise based programme that will work to engage former military personnel – who are at risk of isolation – with sport, training and social activity. The programme has received support from Everton in the Community – Everton Football Club's official charity which secures over £2m each year for community outreach activity.
Jagielka, who plays for Everton and the England national team, attended the official programme launch at King George V Playing Fields in Huyton. He met with local veterans to find out more about their time in the Armed Forces and the support that Everton in the Community can offer them.
The 33-year-old centre-half was introduced to KVH Project Coordinator and veteran Dave Curtis who provided him with an insight into his background and how he is using his experiences to help others. After joining the army at 21, Dave served his country for six years before sustaining an injury in Afghanistan, being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and being medically discharged in 2013. When Dave returned home he experienced feelings of anger and paranoia, and missed feeling part of a team. It wasn't until he attended an Everton in the Community coffee morning where he had the chance to mix with like-minded people that he felt that he could "turn his life around".
Dave now leads the KVH programme and will use his natural attributes and interests, as well as his life experiences, to provide support to those who may not necessarily have the confidence to speak up and seek the help they require.
Reflecting on his time with the veterans, Jagielka said:
“I have the upmost respect for the guys I’ve met here today and the job they have done for their country. I really enjoyed spending some time sitting talking to them and finding out a bit more about their backgrounds and their hopes for the future. It is fantastic that Everton in the Community is delivering a programme that can help to recreate that comradery they enjoyed with their colleagues in the forces while providing them with the support and tools they need to move forwards in their lives.
“Dave is an inspiration and a natural fit to lead this new programme. He is using his own experiences and channelling them into something positive to encourage and support his fellow veterans and I’m sure Knowsley Veterans Hub will be a big success in supporting ex service personnel from across Merseyside.”
Mandy Sutton, Advice and Information Team Leader for The Royal British Legion, said: "We are delighted to award funding to this fantastic project which will help many veterans across Merseyside. It can be difficult for many ex-Service men and women to adjust to life on 'Civvy Street' when they leave the Armed Forces so it's great that projects like Knowsley Veterans Hub can offer advice and support while preventing veterans from feeling isolated. We wish Dave and Everton in the Community the best of luck with this inspiring venture."
Once ex-Service personnel return home they can often struggle to readjust. The stress of making the transition from a structured, highly-disciplined lifestyle to civilian life can lead to a myriad of interlinked problems.
The Knowsley Veterans Hub programme will build on the success of Everton in the Community’s award-winning ‘Inside Right’ project and will offer a range of engagement tools, support mechanisms and evidence-based behavioural change methods to improve the lives of veterans and their families. As well as directly supporting veterans, the programme also stands to benefit the local community with participants improving their skills, finding employment, avoiding potential anti-social behaviour and reducing the likelihood that they will suffer from ill-health.
KVH will openly welcome veterans and their families to engage with the project's events, which will include one-to-one information opportunities, advice and guidance sessions, weekly coffee mornings (informal opportunities for participants to meet and facilitate social bonding). The programme will also offer invaluable referral links and signposting to ex-Service-specific organisations and a wide range of physical activity sessions.
There are over 8,500 identified veterans across Knowsley and these figures are continually increasing – as are Knowsley's levels of homelessness, unemployment and substance misuse. The programme will allow participants to regain structure and routine in their lives as well as providing tailored information and support to veterans and their families in the Knowsley area.
Following on from consultations with Knowsley Council and The Royal British Legion, the programme will be delivered at various accessible venues across Knowsley including King George V Sports Centre, Royal British Legion surgeries and Knowsley Council One Stop Shops.
Find out more about Knowsley Veterans Hub