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James’ Story – How Newcastle United Foundation Helped James Regain His Confidence

On 12th September last year, James Geddes was diagnosed with Leukaemia.

“It was a huge shock”, says James.

“I didn’t know the cause or anything but obviously I wasn’t healthy. It was really hard.”

After his diagnosis James was treated at Great North Children’s Hospital. It was here that he met Newcastle United Foundation Project Co-ordinator Gareth Williams – whose role at the hospital is funded by Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Working closely with hospital staff, Gareth delivers tailored sporting and education activities and programmes to young patients in cancer wards at GNCH. He also works with the siblings and families of the young patients.

James quickly built up a strong relationship with Gareth, working closely with him throughout his treatment. “He’s been really important, he’s helped me through a lot of the hard times” says James.

“He’s helped me push through the really hard times – he’s so funny! It motivates you, having someone that you can have a joke and a laugh with.”

“I didn’t tell any of my friends that I had Leukaemia at the start. Working with the Foundation encouraged me to tell them and get back into socialising. Just being locked in a bedroom is not good for you and doesn’t help anybody. So getting out and making sure that you’re doing normal things just makes you feel a lot better.

James is now thankfully out of hospital and is beginning the process of building his confidence back up after a difficult few months.  After building such a strong link with the Foundation, it seemed only natural that the charity would be on hand to offer support when James began looking for a job.

“I’ve found it really interesting – I’m looking for a job now and trying to get back to work. I’ve had so much time off it’s been hard to get straight into something.

“At the start I didn’t have any work experience and coming here, it’s made me realise work isn’t that bad!” James jokes.

Beginning with a week on the Princes Trust Get Started in Football programme, he has now transitioned onto the Foundation’s Premier League Works initiative.

Delivered in partnership with the Professional Footballers Association and the Prince’s Trust, PL Works provides young people with support to develop their personal and social skills giving them the confidence and the experience they need to make a positive move into employment.

After trips to companies like Virgin Money, and a series of group activities around the variety of roles available to young people, James began work experience with Crowne Plaza.

Undertaking a number of duties including pool temperature testing, cleaning gym equipment, and assisting with guests, he quickly set about establishing himself as part of the team.

Michelle Beveridge, Director of Operations at Crowne Plaza, was very impressed.

“James has just been incredible.” she says.

“He’s integrated himself really well and he just looks and feels like a part of the team.”

“We’ve supported the Foundation and NE1 Works for some time and it’s so important for us to work with young adults like James and support them in the workplace and their next step in life. It’s great to see them thrive in this environment and it’s amazing to see them once they’ve finished their placement, how motivated and inspired they are to come back and work with us.”

It’s a sentiment that’s shared by James himself, who has clearly enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve had a few facials, that’s probably been the best part!” he laughs.

But the experience has clearly had a significant impact on him.

“I feel like it’s helped my confidence quite a lot. Obviously losing my hair, and going through the Leukaemia knocked it dramatically.

“But now working with new people, working in groups, and getting back into socialising has just been really good.”

It shows. And James isn’t resting on his laurels, with the future looking bright, he has big plans ahead of him.

“I want to be a personal trainer, that’s probably my biggest goal.

“Going through what I’ve been through and coming out the other side, I want to show people that you can do something, rather than just sitting about and dwelling on all the bad things.

“You have to think about all the good things that you’ve had and the fact that I’ve got through it.”

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