THE purpose of charity is to help somebody. The miracle of charity is when it then helps that person helps someone else.
That is the story of Chris Purcell, a 27-year-old from Cleland, Lanarkshire, who has found peace and fulfilment and wants to pass it on to others.
Chris, a trainee community coach with Celtic FC Foundation, has emerged from the depths of awful anxiety to lead a life of purpose and usefulness. “It was terrible when I was younger,” he says.
“My anxiety problems started when I was about nine, I had to stop playing football because of anxiety. I got scared of hurting an opponent with a tackle or even something as crazy as kicking up a bit of ash that could go into their eyes.” The anxiety had a source. It came from living above loud, disruptive and chaotic neighbours.
“I sunk into depression. I thought: “What am I going to do? Where do I go from here?”
“They would throw wild parties with a lot of drink and drugs involved,” he says. “There would be constant loud music, banging, people coming in and out their house. It took six months to affect me and I did not realise then to what extent.” Chris was living alone with his mother and it was having a toll on both of them. “It was difficult for her to deal with my issues and her own problems,” he says. “I was always on edge in the house, always walking on tip toes so that I would not upset the neighbours.”
Anxiety became a growing part of his life. “It was when I left high school at 16 that I saw how bad it was. I had no qualifications. I had no confidence whatsoever. I found it hard at school because I was never in the right frame of mind.”
He regarded leaving school as a release into a world where he could do nothing. “I did that for a couple of months but I sunk into depression. I thought: “What am I going to do? Where do I go from here?’
His life became more difficult with visits to hospital and doctors. ”I went through a bad time,” he says.
“I had a few jobs but the anxiety made it difficult. I got a few jobs and didn’t turn up on the first day because of anxiety.”
Salvation came through Celtic FC Foundation. “When the Foundation opportunity came round, I went in and did the interview and was offered it,” he says. “But I had a wee wobble. A couple of days before I was due to start I phoned my boss at the Foundation and said: “I don’t know if I can do this’. He knew a bit about my background and he talked me round.”
“I am in a place where I never thought I would get to and it is all because of the Foundation. My confidence has absolutely soared.”
Six months later and Chris rejoices that he overcame the fear. “It has been great. The best thing I have done. I am in Ireland coaching and I could never have imagined myself doing that,” he says.
“I am proud of myself. I worried about money or being homeless but I am in a place where I never thought I would get to and it is all because of the Foundation. My confidence has absolutely soared.”
He adds: “I have made a lot of friends at the Foundation and the social side of my life has improved.”
He has taken preliminary coaching qualifications and is now planning to embark on his C licence. “I would love to also do a social work qualification,” he says. “The Foundation is giving me advice on that.”
He adds: “I want to help people into work. I want to help people have a better way of life. This is a wonderful environment. It is not like visiting a health centre, community centre or a doctor’s surgery and thinking: ‘Here we go again…’ “You are coming to Celtic Park and people are here to help you.” The role of Chris has changed. Once he sought help, now he is both capable and willing to give it.
“I want to help people into work. I want to help people have a better way of life. This is a wonderful environment.”
“There was a guy on one of the projects who was an absolute character,” he says. ”He had suffered some mental health problem and we got talking. I told him about my life and he told me about his.
“We became friends. He walked out better than when he came in. I could see a massive improvement in him. That is the first time I thought: ‘I am doing something worthwhile here and I would like to keep doing it’.’’