FIT FANS with Bolton Wanderers opened Gemma’s eyes to health and wellbeing

Prior to attending her first FIT FANS session, Gemma was apprehensive and reluctant to get involved in the programme as she had some misconceptions surrounding the programmes morals and outcomes.

She believed that like other weight loss initiatives, weekly weigh-ins would be made in front of the group, with participants feeling as though they would have to explain themselves in an uncomfortable environment.

However, Gemma exclaims: “I was so very wrong.”

Average weight loss statistics for the FIT FANS programme are impressive and exceed those of many other programmes. On average women lose well over 3kg and men over 5.5kg by the end of the 12 weeks. We also have evidence that lifestyle change, and weight loss are sustained over the following 12 months. More than 90% of men and 85% of women lose weight during the programme with many losing a clinically significant amount.  Our data shows FIT FANS helps people to increase physical activity, and reduce sedentary time, leading to weight loss, a significant reduction in reduction in blood pressure, and improvement in self-reported mental wellbeing measures.

Gemma saw her weight increase after her wedding, but she desired to feel better about herself.  FIT FANS has allowed her to do just that, all with the support of other women just like her.

She said:

“Once we had started and I had met the other ladies, I started to relax and think that I wasn’t the only person feeling the same way and started to feel like we were all in this together.”

The sustainable approach of FIT FANS is unlike any other where participants partake in a blended session of classroom and physical activities.

Gemma explains:

“I learned so much in our classroom part of the sessions, some things were an eye-opener – how much cheese is classed as a portion for example (shocking), other things I knew but weren’t putting into practice. It gave me a real boost to think about what I am putting into my body, about portion sizes, and about how much I move.”

With a boost of willpower and knowledge, Gemma was able to re-evaluate her diet and start to implement some of what the course had taught her. This was beneficial for Gemma’s weight loss but also for her general health and wellbeing.

She said:

“The physical exercise parts were the bits I loved the most. I really enjoy the feeling afterward and how much stronger and fitter I am becoming week after week.”

The 12-week FIT FANS programme with Bolton Wanderers has provided Gemma with the foundations to continuously implement a healthy diet and regular exercise in her day-to-day life.

Degree programme with County in the Community offers Curtis a brighter future.

Curtis had an unstable childhood that projected into his later life too. He grew up within the care system and a turbulent time saw him drop out of school early where he ended up being sent to prison. However, Curtis desired for a better outcome for himself by bettering himself through education.

Whilst in prison, he enrolled with the Open University and was able to volunteer at County in the Community’s We Wear the Same Shirt session. Upon release from prison, Curtis was considering his options to continue his second year of study when he chose to continue his connection with Newport County and enroll on their Foundation degree in partnership with the University of South Wales.

The degree course is one of several degrees offered at EFL Club’s across the country in partnership with the University of South Wales. The degree provides the skills and qualities that are required to work within professional football clubs community departments or other national sports governing bodies in areas of growth such as social inclusion, community coaching and football development. Students are uniquely based within their own local football Clubs where they gain valuable first-hand experience of working in a community sports environment for a minimum of five days per year at the USW Sport Park, a £3.7m state-of-the-art coaching and performance development centre.

Curtis has shown great academic and personal development through his maturity and willingness to do better for himself and his future. In the early stages of the programme, he was achieving 2:2 grades but as the course progressed, he consistently achieved first-class grades.

Consequently, his drive and ambition led him to the Community Football Coaching and Administration Top Up Degree. Curtis explained: “If you’re looking for a career in sports coaching, this course provides you with the platform for this”.

This has been recognised by everyone that comes into contact with Curtis. A USW “Curtis is not only driven to achieve success on his educational pathway, but he is also committed to developing himself on a daily basis in all areas of his life. His passion to succeed at achieving his goals is unmatched, which he tries to inspire in others around him so that they achieve success in their lives too.”

Curtis’ personal journey has not always been linear or one of the positive notations but through the Degree programme he has left his past behind and can now only see a brighter, more positive future where he aspires to achieve a Masters’s degree.

For more information click here.

EFL Trust celebrate the volunteers and impact of young people

This past week #VolunteersWeek was displayed across the network, shining brightly examples of magnificent projects and initiatives which have been undertaken by inspiring young people at Club Community Organisations, as well as EFL Trust Staff themselves.

Additionally, #PowerOfYouth day also took place on Monday 6th June. The day highlighted the instrumental differences young people have made upon communities. Young people have been banding together in collaboration to help in tackling contemporary issues felt closest to them and their communities.

We take a look back on some of the fantastic examples of volunteering and inspiring young people across the network:

Claire Streeter

EFL Trust’s own Claire Streeter raised £10,000 to support people living with Dementia. Claire raised the money, as she determinedly set out on a 106-mile walk over 6 days from Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium to Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Bradford City Community Foundation

NCS Changemakers at Bradford City Community Foundation created an innovative and informative video, with the aim of spreading awareness of unwanted sexual behaviour on British Railways, which gained special recognition for UK Parliament at Westminster.

Burton Albion Community Trust

Volunteers at Burton Albion Community Trust carried out more than 250,000 critical Covid-19 vaccinations at the Pirelli Stadium, winning EFL Community Project of the Season for League 1 along the way.

Peer Action Collective (PAC)

The PAC is a programme which involves giving young people a voice and a chance to make their communities safer, fairer places. As part of PAC, young people in Bradford set out on tackling youth crime and helping to keep people within the streets of Bradford safe at night.

Tigers Trust

Inspiring young NCS Changemakers at Tigers Trust set out on a project to tackle environmental issues within the communities of Hull, resulting in a beach clean up.

Award Winning young people from Bradford gain recognition from Parliament for project on unwanted sexual behaviour

A group of NCS Changemakers with Bradford City Community Foundation launched a project which aimed at spreading awareness of the need to report unwanted sexual behaviour on British Railways.

The project was a part of a competition pitched by Northern Trains Ltd (NTL), that tasked young people to develop a video campaign that would create awareness of unwanted sexual behaviour on trains and how to report this to the transport police.

From multiple entrants, Bradford’s NCS Changemakers came out on top as they created an impactful campaign, featuring an innovative, yet informative video on the need to report unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport and the ways you can report it to the British Transport Police.

The video and the topic it addresses has been transformational in the rail industry, clearly demonstrating the outstanding contribution young people can make to a range of issues with the right support guidance and support, thus making a positive contribution to communities across the North.

Within the industry and Train Operating Companies, this work by young people has gained universal acclaim across the Rail Industry and was shortlisted at the Women in Rail Awards 2022. Bradford City Community Foundation was the only non-railway organisation who were invited to attend these awards.

The project gained recognition from MPs such as Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up and Caroline Nokes MP – Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee . The UK Parliament Education and Engagement Team invited NTL Richard Isaac Community Manager, Lorna McEwan Chief Inspector Manchester District BTP and 20 young people involved in the project from across the North to present to MPs in the Palace of Westminster.

This gave young people the opportunity to share with MPs such as Holly Lynch MP – Shadow Minister (Home Office) and Hilary Benn MP on why this challenging topic was so important. Additionally, highlighting the importance of understanding the issues affecting young people, allowing them to be part of the debate leading to the development of positive actions and solutions.

We talked to Shamza, who was one of the NCS Changemakers to present the campaign at Parliament:

“The NCS/Northern Rail partnership made it possible to make an anti-sexual harassment video to educate people about trains and to be aware of the potential harm that could occur to them. The video we created has made me aware of different ways people can harass you on trains without noticing, such as up-skirting.  It has been a real eye-opener this project for me personally and we hope this video will give people the confidence to take the train and know what to do if any unwanted sexual behaviour happens.”

“Seeing this project come to life was amazing, the Bradford NCS Change makers have put so much hard work in making the final video by working as a team, being part of the project has been such a huge opportunity. The project is tackling and educating people about an issue which females all around the country are experiencing. Sexual harassment is a massive topic, and it makes me proud to be bringing out the message to make everyone feel safe and heard on and off trains.”

Richard Isaac, Regional Community and Sustainability Manager at Northern Rail is thankful to the young people for their work to tackle this challenging issue on trains. He commented;

“Young people across the North took up the challenge to raise awareness that unwanted sexual behaviour (USB) of any kind is unacceptable and must be reported to the British Transport Police. USB is challenging topic to discuss and something many people would rather not talk about. Supported by NCS youth workers, young people took on the challenge of creating something that would tackle this challenging issue head.

What NCS Changemakers have delivered is a tool to raise awareness of USB and the need for reporting created by young people aimed at young people. Our aim at Northern is to use this resource to engage with young people across the North to raise that awareness.”

Dominik Stingas Paczko, Head of NCS at EFL Trust, who attended the event at Parliament said the following:

“It was fantastic to see the amazing work of our NCS participants being recognised and celebrated in Westminster. Their social action project very much highlighted and helped to tackle a very real issue that affects the national railways, and we hope their videos go a long way to help encourage young people back on to public transport as part of the nation’s recovery from Covid. There is growing evidence that giving young people to confidence and ability to use public transport can have a significant positive impact on their futures and we thank Northern for their continued support for our EFL Trust led NCS programmes.”

To find out more about NCS, click here.

Wembley Dreams Come True in Utilita Kids Cup

Over 20,000 children have taken part in the Utiltia Kids and Girls Cups this year, all with the dream of playing at Wembley. For 48 children that dream, one that only a select few professional footballers ever achieve, will come true over the next two weekends    

Take a look at how our six remaining teams made the Utilita Kids Cup Final at Wembley Stadium!

Kids Cup Championship Final

Sheffield United, represented by Nethergreen Junior School, and Luton Town, represented by Sacred Heart Primary School, will battle it out in the Championship Final.

The Blades overcame Preston North End in the Regional Final, drawing 1-1 before seeing off the Lilywhites in a tense penalty shoot-out. Meanwhile, the Hatters edged Millwall in a seven-goal thriller to make it to Wembley, running out 4-3 victors over the Lions.

Kids Cup League One Final

In the League One Final, Portsmouth, represented by Meon Junior School, will take on Sheffield Wednesday, represented by Windmill Hill Primary School, for the winner’s medals.

The Owls earned their place in the Final, finding an extra gear in the second half of the regional Final against Crewe, scoring three goals. And Portsmouth secured passage to Wembley in style, vanquishing Charlton Athletic 7-3 in an emphatic win.

Kids Cup League Two Final

Finally, Exeter City, represented by Stoke Hill Junior School, will go head-to-head with Tranmere Rovers, represented by St George’s Primary School, in the League Two Final.

Tranmere needed spot-kicks to make it to the Final, eventually booking a date at Wembley after Harrogate Town hit the bar in the shoot-out in the Regional Final, whilst a slender 1-0 triumph over Bristol Rovers saw the Grecians through to the showpiece.

PNCET and Guild Lodge partnership has given ex-service user John a new future to embark on with the Trust

John Richardson has progressed from a user of Preston North End’s Community and Education Trust’s partnership with Guild Lodge to giving back to the community and creating a better future for himself.

John was a patient at Guild Lodge, a mental health unit in Goosnargh, Preston when Tom Drake, the Trust’s CEO, visited to deliver weekly sessions to the service users. This meeting was the start of a whole new future for John having been in Guild Lodge for three and a half years.

The partnership between Guild Lodge and PNECET meant Tom quickly noticed John’s nature of engagement and willingness towards other participants. Consequently, John was offered the opportunity to volunteer within the Trust. Having been discharged from Guild Lodge, John began his evolving journey with Preston as he started as a volunteer and now a casual member of staff where he has gained paid employment working across the Community Engagement and Health and Wellbeing programmes.

John has also actively been involved in the Trust’s holiday activities and food programme, soccer schools as well as delivering PL Kicks sessions to younger generations of the community and has also engaged with men’s mental health group, Andy’s Man Club.

He explained:  “When I was at Guild Lodge, Tom Drake [PNECET CEO] came down and introduced himself and gave me some training. He later offered me a job. Now I’m a member of staff and I’m going back into Guild Lodge to help what Tom started.

“It’s helped me mature. It’s something I enjoy, which is a bonus. I’m doing it for myself, getting more confident, and helping children back on to the straight and narrow.”

John’s desire to serve the community that helped him has gained significant recognition as he was awarded Preston’s Community Gateway Association ‘Unsung Hero’ award.

He said: “I’ve been giving back to the community, that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve been helping other people get out of trouble, giving talks to young people and getting them off the wrong path and getting them onto the right path. I’m just enjoying my job.”

Young people on NCS rejuvenate school garden for local a school

Port Vale Foundation Trust’s (PVFT) young people have been making a significant impact upon themselves and within the community, as they carried out a project at their local school with the aim of increasing student socialisation and their mental health, through renovating a school garden.

As part of PVFT’s NCS programme, young people decided to carry out their social action project at Watermill school, where they attended as students. Watermill school is one of three SEN schools within the local area where PVFT deliver their NCS programme, in which the young students involved within the project have special educational needs.

The group worked immensely on creating a more aesthetically pleasing garden for the school and themselves, allowing the it to be a place where students could relieve any stresses and relax.

For the success of the project, the group decided to use their creativity and organisation skills, as they split the group up into smaller sections, dedicated to specific tasks.

For one of the tasks, the young people weeded and re-dug the area, creating a prettier space. Flowers were also planted, where water features were installed, powered by solar. Also, along this area, young people created a positive stone, featuring positive words, images and messages along with the names of the young people involved, which were permanently engrained onto stones. The main idea for this was to leave a lasting legacy that the Watermill Year 11 young people had during their NCS experience.

Other tasks involved creating a ‘bug hotel’ sanctuary for insects, digging out a flower bed and planting new seeds, re-painting a shed, cutting the apple trees and improving the general overall aesthetics of the garden.

Misbah Mahmood was one of the dedicated young people involved within the project, and had this to say about the experience:

“I really enjoyed my NCS experience and I learnt lots of new skills I would never have learnt. NCS has been really fun and I will miss doing the programme each day!”.

The project generated a massive impact upon the school, its garden, its students as well the young people involved, as they also benefitted greatly from the project, developing new skills, new friends and a stronger mentality through their hard endeavour. NCS Changemakers with PVFT will continue to monitor and improve the school garden in the long-term and uphold the legacy of the project created by the young people involved.

Paul Kirk, teacher at Watermill School had this to say about the legacy of the project:

“The NCS programme has had a huge impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of our pupils. We have seen the pupils clearly develop their communication, teamwork, problem solving and leadership skills amongst many others. Our young people now often refer to their NCS skills and experiences as some of the highlights of their school life”.


The hard work and dedication from all the young people involved at the project did not go unnoticed by Watermill School, as the school hosted a special NCS Graduation Day for all the young people the be acknowledged and congratulated on their project.

NCS Project Lead at Port Vale Foundation, Jorgie Wallace, has this to say:

“The young people were amazing on the NCS programme, and they really did exceed all of our expectations. Throughout the 2 weeks, young people all pulled together to work as a team and demonstrated various different skills which they can use going into their future.”

 “As a staff team, we really enjoyed working with the young people, they kept us on our toes and definitely left a lasting legacy with their social action project. The young people are all a real asset to the school, NCS and Port Vale Foundation. The Graduation allowed us to celebrate all the success of the young people and recognise all their hard work on this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Ipswich Town Community Trust provides the light at the end of the tunnel for Chris with Kickstart placement

Chris Moore has recently joined Ipswich Town Community Trust as a Health and Well-being Activator to give back to the same community that helped him after an ongoing battle with his mental health.

For much of the last 10-15 years, Chris has been fighting severe depression and anxiety but even more recently active psychosis. Consequently, he found day-to-day living difficult without even considering the huge impact a new job could have.

Despite this, with the help of his family, close friends, and mental health services in Suffolk, Chris is now at a stage where he can manage the symptoms and voices he incurs every day.

He heard about the opportunity with Ipswich Town and “felt this was a perfect way to give back to the community and services in Suffolk.” Although, mental health is a problem he faces 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Chris is determined to “prove to others that a mental health diagnosis is not the end, that young people with mental health issues can make it through, and that there is help there for everyone.”

As Chris takes a big step in his journey, one that wouldn’t have seemed possible before, he praises the Community Trust’s understanding of his circumstances. He said: “My new role allows me the freedom to get involved with what I’m passionate about helping the community. As well as being hugely supportive of my mental health conditions and workplace adjustments to make me more comfortable.

“I want to just say thank you to my support network of my Friends, Family, My Support worker & mental health care team, and last but not least, my new colleagues within the ITFC Community Trust team. Because if it wasn’t for all of you, I would not be in the place I am today, and I couldn’t help the community that helped me”.

Chris’ passion and desire to ensure he can help as many people as he can is evident in such detailed ideas and plans through his new role.He has already using his experience to help students at the local Suffolk One sixth form college in their future prospect.

He highlights: “I’m aiming to set up a scheme in the new year that combines the use of sport and exercise to battle the symptoms of mental health issues, whilst at the same time teaching members of the community about health and well-being factors relating to their own and others mental health conditions.

As well as this I’m also in the intermediate stage of setting up day trips to the stadium for game days and sport sessions, at the moment I’m involved in talks with management at Ipswich Hospital to get some of the dementia patients and staff day trips to games and sports sessions.”

Although Chris has experienced some very dark moments in his ongoing journey with his mental health, Ipswich Town Community Trust has provided him with the light at the end of the tunnel to give back and support his community.



Going the extra mile: Young people in Sheffield complete 7-mile walk, raising money for a Cancer Charity

A group of determined young people recently embarked upon a 7-mile sponsored walk, raising £185.40 towards Cavendish Cancer Care.

The inspiring young group comprised of NCS Changemakers with Sheffield United Community Foundation, who embarked upon a mission to raise money to support cancer patients and families who have undergone such challenging times.

NCS Changemakers compromise of 25 NCS graduates, who meet up regularly to make a real, positive impact in the community. As part of Changemakers, the young people launch a social action project, with the intention of positively impacting their community.

For their project, the young group felt personally motivated to raise money, as members of the group themselves have known people close to them, who have been affected by cancer.

Thus, the young people decided to embark upon a 7-mile sponsored walk and raise £185.50 for Cavendish Cancer Care. The group also thought the walk would benefit themselves, as it would provide a good break from exam-related stress they were experiencing.

Cavendish Cancer Care had this to say about the project:

“The support that we get from organisations like Sheffield United Community Foundation’s NCS Changemakers makes all the difference to our charity. £185.40 will help to provide 6 sessions of therapy and support for people facing cancer. As a charity, we are heavily reliant on the generosity of others to keep our centre open, and it was great to see these young people taking the time and effort on Saturday to walk between Sheffield and Rotherham in aid of us.”

Additionally, the young people encouraged that it would provide a good opportunity of reflection for all the group, in sharing their own personal experiences of how cancer has affected them.

Fern and Alex were some of the young Changemakers involved and commented on their motivations to undertake the project.


“A close school friend of mine died from cancer last year. He received fantastic care from charities and hospitals. I would wish anyone with cancer to receive the same loving care.”


“I have not lost anyone in my life because of cancer but I think that what Cavendish Cancer Care do as a charity for those who are affected by cancer is brilliant! The sponsored walk was worth every step for the charity, and it was also enjoyable to get to spend time with the other young people.”

To find out more about NCS, please click here.

“When its dark, look for stars” Young people on NCS in Rotherham launch project to spread positivity and mental health awareness

A young group of inspiring NCS Changemakers with Rotherham United Community Sports Trust have launched a project to spread positive thinking, mental health awareness and to raise money for Young Minds, a local mental health charity. The group set up a variety of different initiatives at Rotherham United’s game against Oxford United this month which was their dedicate NCS Matchday

The NCS Matchday celebrated the success of Rotherham’s NCS programme. NCS is the ultimate experience for young people aged 16-17, in which they are given the opportunity to make new friends, develop new skills and create new memories. NCS Changemakers compromise of 25 NCS graduates, who meet up regularly to make a real, positive impact in the community, as part of this, the Changemakers undertake a social action project, which aims to implement their quest for positive change.

For their social action project, the Rotherham teens came together and decided they wanted to raise awareness about mental health and provide information of how people can receive help if they need someone to talk to. The initiative is part of the ‘Impact’ project which is an ongoing project where young people have been designing and selling merchandise, to raise money for localised mental health groups in Rotherham.

The young people recognised that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of young people suffered with bad mental health and ended up taking their own lives. Thus, the group were inspired to turn their passion into action.

We talked to Abbie Pearson, who was one of the NCS Changemakers involved. Abbie comments:

“We wanted to work with a mental health charity as it’s something that everyone has a connection to. Young Minds was important to us as it works specifically with our age group. Following the Coronavirus pandemic it is important for young people to be able to access support. NCS match day was targeting young people, so it seemed important to use this opportunity to spread positivity and share the message of what Young Minds do. As a group we agreed that we just wanted to offer support and put a smile on some people’s faces with our positive messages.”

The group utilised the busy attendance at Rotherham United’s Matchday, as they held a stall in front of the New York Stadium, containing a large amount of positive merchandise from the ongoing ‘Impact’ project. The merchandise held powerful messages such as, ‘When it’s dark, look for stars’ to encourage people to think positively during difficult times.

The Changemakers were also hands-on, as they ventured around the stadium with leaflets to reinforce the strong messages and buckets to raise money for Young Minds.

Julia, from Young Minds Charity had this to say about the project:

“We are always grateful of people fundraising and raising awareness in regards to Mental Health. There are many people out there who need someone to talk to but may not know where to find the help or feel too introverted to ask for it.”

“A club like Rotherham Utd can do wonders and reach a lot of people who might not usually come forward – they might have saved some lives just by being there with contact details. It’s great to see young people get involved and helping people, keep doing what you’re doing!”

Additionally, the young people also created an innovative wheel of fortune, which was designed with tasks to put a smile on people’s faces, give away freebies and encourage socialisation between people, in which the area at the front of the stadium become a hub of happiness for those taking part.

The Changemakers were also motivated to do some random acts of kindness and make young people happy, as they invited young people at random to take part in a half-time penalty challenge against Club Mascot, Miller Bear on the pitch, which for some young people was an opportunity of a lifetime.

NCS Project Manager, at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust, Carla Whitehead had this to say about the legacy of the project:

“All the money raised from the bucket collections are set to go towards Young Minds. Additionally, the money generated from selling the Impact positivity merchandise will also go towards volunteer mental health groups in Rotherham, to ensure they have the money and equipment they need to provide that much needed space and time to health those people who need the outlet.”

“In addition, the positive messages on the merchandise will leave a legacy in itself as the messages are designed to remind people to keep on going and be kind to each other.”

To find out more about NCS, please click here.