'Burnley have given veterans like me a focus in life'

27 Jul 2020

Veterans' Inclusion Programme helping full-time carer Phil help local youngsters and re-engaging with society during pandemic

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For Phil Chamberlain, the Whitehough Outdoor Centre, in Lancashire, was a fond part of his youth. 

About 30 years later, thanks to Burnley he is back there with other ex-Armed Forces members helping to maintain the facility for the next generation while making invaluable friendships. 

Phil was in the Armed Forces but had disassociated himself from his time there and had started to feel isolated from his community.

That was before he started to attend events run by Burnley FC in the Community (BFCitC) and its Veterans' Inclusion Programme two years ago.

"When Gregg Stevenson, the Veterans and Inclusion Officer, suggested we get involved [with the centre], we all said, 'Yes,' because it gave us that release immediately," says Phil.

By being involved in the centre's upkeep during the COVID-19 pandemic it has boosted Phil's personal wellbeing.

"I'm a full-time carer for my wife, so it's given me some focus and it's given me a bit of an outlet," Phil says of the weekly visits to the centre. "It's like today is my day off.

Good to be back

"I came here when I was a kid 30-odd years ago, so I remember this place fondly. We're all really proud of what we're doing. We're achieving something that's going to help the next generation."

When he's not chopping logs, cutting the grass and painting at the 22-acre site in Pendle, Phil also values the interaction with fellow veterans.

"There are a number of veterans who live by themselves, they've not seen anybody for 10, 12 weeks to really chat to," he adds.

Making a difference

"You've always got someone here you can turn to, have a natter with. It's been really good because I've forged some good friendships, ones that I know will last the rest of my life."

BFCitC has delivered a range of support services for veterans during the pandemic, including physical workout routines and quizzes, along with weekly phone calls.

Stevenson, himself a former Royal Engineer Commando, recognises the short and longer-term benefits of this latest project.

"It is very representative of what Burnley FC in the Community and the club stand for: hard work, honesty and integrity," he says.

"A few of the guys are facing particular challenges like PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], mental health or physical disabilities. Like anybody, that was magnified by the current situation.

"So how useful it's been to get out in the outdoors and also give back a little bit to the community." 

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