A foundation degree student at Preston North End Community and Education Trust has been assisting with the delivery of the Tackling Loneliness Together programme, which is supporting isolated elderly people through the pandemic, by making friendly phone calls on behalf of the Trust.
Niraj Ganatra is studying a foundation degree in community football coaching and development with PNECET, in conjunction with the EFL Trust and the University of South Wales, and is also a part-time member of staff on the National Citizen Service programme.
The 20-year-old has been making phone calls to members of the Trust’s programmes and Preston North End season ticket holders, checking on their mental wellbeing and discussing all things Preston North End amid the continued absence of supporters at Deepdale due to the pandemic.
Niraj has been making phone calls as part of the Tackling Loneliness Together programme, for which for the Trust was one of 32 EFL clubs to receive funding to support isolated members of the community as a result of the pandemic.
While continuing his studies on the foundation degree programme and providing part-time support on the NCS programme, Niraj has been using his spare time to develop his interpersonal skills and provide a friendly voice for those who are self-isolating or suffering from loneliness as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.
The student, who graduated from the Trust’s further education programme, achieving a Level 3 Diploma in Sport, has been inspired to stay in touch with elderly residents to help them remain engaged during these difficult times.
He said: “It’s just giving them the opportunity to have a chat about something different and to someone they don’t usually get to talk to, and they can get through any worries or problems they have.
“I can feel that they feel a bit excited that someone from PNE is calling because they can know that person works at North End, they feel proud that it is someone from their club that is calling who is genuinely interested in how they are doing.
“It just builds a relationship so they feel they can get to know the club a bit more as well, rather than just supporting it as a fan, they can talk to people from the club.”
The benefits are mutual too; Niraj believes that the calls are helping him to increase his confidence and people skills, with the calls forming the start of fledgling friendships.
“It makes me feel proud that I’m a student at Preston North End and I’m still doing some part-time work with the NCS and various school shifts. It makes me feel that I’m wanted and needed at the club.
“It’s just made me think that they’ve got the opportunity to chat to someone they don’t normally get to, and they feel like they can engage with me a bit more, and it makes me feel like I’m making a difference to someone’s day.
“It’s just made me up my confidence and people skills. I get to have a chat with people and develop myself. With the pandemic, there’s not been as many coaching opportunities this year.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from a call from Niraj or someone else from Preston North End, contact email@example.com or refer yourself or someone else to the Tackling Loneliness Together programme by clicking here.
To enrol on the further education programme, which is now running in partnership with Preston’s College, or the foundation degree programme, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in the online enquiry form here.