28 November 2014

YMCA LSW believes every person should be given the opportunity to live an active and fulfilling life, regardless of any physical or mental issues.

That’s why we in Kingston upon Thames are working in partnership with the charity Hestia on their ‘Good Energy Club’; a project helping people with mental health issues to access physical exercise in a friendly and non-judgemental environment.

I met with Ron Dell who is a volunteer at the project, for a chat about physical and mental health, Zumba, and how sometimes, a friendly ‘hello’ and a coffee is all that is needed to make people feel better.

From service user to volunteer

Ron lives in Weybridge but travels to Kingston at least three times a week to take part in the different exercise activities run by Hestia. He is diagnosed bipolar and got involved with Hestia first as a user of their services.

“I started out by going on the walks they arrange. This was when I was recovering from my illness. All I would say to people was ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and a smile was a rarity. Eventually I started feeling more comfortable and also started playing badminton, which is good for focusing and improves your concentration. It helped me to socialise and gave me the ability to mix and talk to others”.

“Because I have been a service user myself I can relate to the mental illness issues the others might have”.  

Today, Ron goes to the activities as a volunteer, supporting the services users if they have questions about the activities which include Zumba, Pilates and Yoga.

“The scheme has also opened my eyes to new activities, like yoga, which is really good for people who feel a bit stressed, because it calms you down and makes you relax”.

A helping hand

Ron, who has always been very active playing football and badminton, hopes that the ‘Good Energy Club’ can make people with mental health issues experience the benefits of physical activities.

“To make it easier for the service users to come along to the activities, I always meet with the group beforehand and after the Class or activity. If it is someone’s first time I can meet them in Kingston and show them the way to the activity.  It’s all about being a friend and showing people that there is someone that cares about them.”

Important social aspect

Just as important as the physical benefits of being active, is the social aspect of the Club.

“Many of the service users find it a challenge to go to activities by themselves, so going together makes it more accessible. They say ‘Well, if you’re going I’ll go too’. Also, it definitely helps to know that the Volunteers are always there”.

“We also meet outside the scheduled activities – for instance, I’m celebrating my birthday in Kingston this week, and we’re all meeting up”.

Zumba Gold at YMCA Hawker

The partnership with YMCA LSW means that the Hestia users get discounted prices on Pilates sessions at YMCA Surbiton and Bollywood and Zumba Gold classes at YMCA Hawker.

Ron started going to the Zumba classes after he tried it at a taster session in Kingston.

“After the session I had a chat with Class Instructor Vicky Frayard and she encouraged me to come along to the classes.

I enjoy coming to the Hawker centre. It is an ideal place to run Hestia activities from, as the people here are very nice and friendly. The class instructors make a difference, and they give you the encouragement you need to keep coming back.

Also, regular Zumba can be a bit fast paced for someone who is not used to going to exercise classes, but the Zumba Gold which is run here at Hawker is for all levels so it is easier to follow”.

Popular walks along the river

One of the more popular exercises among the Hestia users is the walking trips. Starting by the Rose Theatre in Kingston and walking along the tow path towards Teddington, they often make a coffee stop at YMCA Hawker.

It’s so rewarding to do these activities even if it’s only walking and a cup of tea, because to many of the users, it’s a big part of their week.

“For the users, the activities are a highlight in their week because they get out of the house and socialise with other people.  I’d say it’s 50% exercise, 50% socialising”.

The ‘Good Energy Club’ is for adults over 18 who live in the borough of Kingston upon Thames and who feel stressed, anxious, low or have a mental health condition. If you want to take part or become a volunteer, please visit Hestia’s website.

For more info, please contact Lesley at 0777 2920 416 or Natalie at 079 67022 4876.