Even before the pandemic, Midlothian in Scotland had high levels of child poverty. In lockdown, Heart of Midlothian F.C. stepped in to help.
Hi, Iâ€™m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.Â
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.Â
Todayâ€¦ a club with big hearts.
People often say that a football club is the â€śbeating heartâ€ť of a community.Â
And in Midlothian in Scotland, the community is in need of help.Â
Even before the pandemic began, child poverty had risen to the highest level in six years. And now, almost a quarter of children are living below the poverty line.Â
With deprivation on the rise, the football club, Heart of Midlothian, stepped in.Â
And their community initiative, â€śBig Heartsâ€ť has been attracting a lot of attention.
On the pitch, Hearts could only dream of beating Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.Â
But off the pitch, thatâ€™s exactly what theyâ€™ve done.Â
By focusing on social responsibility, theyâ€™ve won a top European award â€“ the More Than Football Award.Â
â€śHi, Iâ€™m Craig Wilson, General Manager of Big Hearts Community Trust.
â€śWe help people across our community and we do so in a number of different ways. For example, promoting positive mental health, offering a safe and welcoming environment to help people build meaningful social connections and to create equal opportunities regardless of the challenges people may face and the background that they come from.â€ťÂCraig Wilson
Big Hearts helped eight thousand people during the 2020-21 season â€“ three times more than during the previous year.Â
The key to how they did it? The supporters of the football club all pitched in.Â
Over the course of last season, volunteers made over two thousand phone calls to older people isolated in their homes, delivered 138 thousand meals to homeless people, they made up over four thousand packs, with old photos and a mock-up newspaper to stimulate memories for people with dementia, and delivered over 400 Zoom sessions for fans to talk together during lockdown.
A lot of clubs have similar initiatives â€“ but this has been singled out in particular for its scale, and thatâ€™s thanks to the Hearts fans.
Hereâ€™s Vic Summers â€“ he is one of the Volunteers.
â€śI have been involved with Big Hearts for just over two years now. There are a number of projects going on simultaneously, but the one I chose to get involved with was the memories session. Prior to the pandemic, we would have at least eighty elderly men and women coming together at the ground on a weekly basis to chat about both football and the city of Edinburgh from days gone by. As a volunteer, it was a joy to see how engaged the group was. The pandemic changed that, but that was the opportunity to adapt and I and others started to phone both season ticket holders and others from the community who had no previous links to the club.â€ťVic Summers
Despite their award-winning success, Craig Wilson isnâ€™t stopping.Â
â€śWeâ€™ll continue to do more. To work closely with local charity partners, which is something we are really keen on and have always done and we want to build on our achievements to date. We recognise the important role we have as a community anchor, as a big organisation in our area.â€ťCraig Wilson
When you listen to how much this project has achieved, it seems like club-led fan-involvement in communities could be the norm, rather than the exception.Â
A programme like this would bring fans even closer to their team, and we know that success is built from fans who feel truly engaged with their football club.
And now â€“ the success of Big Hearts means thereâ€™s a blueprint for other teams to follow suit.
Todayâ€™s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Gemma Newby.