Carrow Road to welcome refugee and ex-rough sleeper in bid to tackle Christmas loneliness

Norwich City chairman Ed Balls and director Delia Smith will welcome a refugee and former rough slee

Norwich City chairman Ed Balls and director Delia Smith will welcome a refugee and former rough sleeper to Carrow Road. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Delia Smith and Ed Balls will welcome two special guests to Carrow Road on Friday as part of the Great Christmas Get Together campaign to reduce loneliness this Christmas.

Patrick Changa, a refugee from the DRC, and Mel Wallis, who lived rough in the city, will share mince pies before watching the match against Brentford in the Directors' box.

Norwich was recently identified as one of the worst cities in the UK for loneliness.

More than one in two people – 65pc – surveyed said they had felt the effects of loneliness at some point, with 73pc saying they had suffered with it for more than six months.

Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness and the London School of Economics (LSE) also found that nine out of 10 people believe loneliness is now more likely in old age than ever, as people feel the effects of retirement and bereavement.

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But 81pc of those people do not think the wider community cares about older people feeling lonely.

Last week the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission showed how being lonely increases the risk of a premature death by a third and called on everybody to make tackling loneliness a priority this Christmas.

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Welcoming the support of Delia Smith and Ed Balls, Brendan Cox said: 'Every act of kindness, large or small, will help make Britain a less lonely place this Christmas. That's the idea behind mince pie moments, an excuse for all of us to reach out to someone who is lonely, or strike up a conversation with someone in our street. It doesn't take much to change someone's day for the better and we hope mince pie moments might help us take the first step. We don't have to be a nation of strangers, especially at Christmas.'

Patrick Changa fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010. He suffered acute loneliness and was supported by the Red Cross Refugee Service before becoming a volunteer himself.

Mel Wallis now runs the Revelation Café in Norwich to help bring lonely people together. She was previously homeless and suffered long-term alcohol addiction.

They are both keen football fans. Delia Smith said: 'Getting involved with your local football club can be one of the best defences against loneliness.'

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