Belfast football coached honoured by new initiative for inspirational voluntary work

·3 min read
Brian Kirker has been volunteering with TAMNI, a charity that works with sports clubs and groups to raise awareness of mental health and resilience
Brian Kirker has been volunteering with TAMNI, a charity that works with sports clubs and groups to raise awareness of mental health and resilience

Football coach Brian Kirker is being celebrated this week for his volunteering work as part of a new initiative from The National Lottery and ITV.

Miss Out to Help Out is encouraging the public to miss out on their favourite TV shows and use that time to ‘help out’ in their community.

Brian, from Belfast, has been volunteering with TAMNI (Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues), a charity that works with sports clubs and groups who use sport to raise awareness of mental health and resilience. His ambition was to promote positive wellbeing at his local football club, the 22nd Old Boys and Ladies Club in west Belfast.

“We use football as a way of getting people in our club interested in learning about mental health and how they can improve their own wellbeing,” said Brian.

“I understand first-hand the mental health struggles that come with not being able to play football, and others in my family have been affected by poor mental health.

“Being able to see the younger players coming through, who don’t have much in life and see them enjoying their football and the social inclusion, it’s very satisfying.

“You’re helping out because you want to do it, because you’re passionate about it, and that is just so rewarding. I get a lot out of it.”

Brian’s story and details of his work will be included on the microsite, designed to inspire others to join him and volunteer some of their time too. The website will direct people to volunteering opportunities near to where they live, including virtual volunteering for those currently unable to leave the house.

In the spirt of the initiative, Sports promoter Eddie Hearn ‘Missed Out to Help Out’ this week as he virtually volunteered with Sporting Memories, a charity that uses the power of sport to tackle dementia, depression and loneliness.

Acting as a session supporter, Eddie joined 12 Sporting Memories Club members for an online session designed to use the joy of talking about and remembering sport to spark lively conversation and fond memories. The sessions also include gentle physical activity to further increase wellbeing. The club is just one of the many thousands of community groups across the UK supported by some of the £30million raised by National Lottery players each week for good causes.

“Volunteering with Sporting Memories this week was a really rewarding experience,” said Eddie.

“To witness first-hand the impact you can have on the wellbeing of an individual just by giving a small amount of your time to help out was so nice to see.

“I’d like to encourage everyone who has a bit of time to spare to go to to explore how they can support their local community. It’s amazing what you can do even in the time it takes to watch 12 rounds of boxing and the positive impact that you can have on the lives of others.”

It comes as a new study shows that over three quarters of people (77%) admire volunteers and almost two thirds (64%) of people from Northern Ireland say they value the work of volunteers more highly since the start of the pandemic in March.

Faiza Khan MBE, Director of Engagement and Insight at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We know - from the thousands of projects we fund each year – that people who give up their time to help their communities and make things happen are incredibly important.

“Small acts of kindness are needed now more than ever as we all adapt to profound changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope, through this campaign, more people will be inspired to lend a helping hand in communities across the UK. Thanks for National Lottery, over £800 million has been distributed to date across the UK to help tackle the impact of coronavirus.”