10-year anniversary of our ‘Champions Show the Way’ schemeBradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its ‘Champions Show the Way’ scheme, which gives people places to gather and connect, be inspired and creative, to support their emotional wellbeing.

Champions Show the Way is a community programme where volunteers run free social groups for people who are recovering from illness, have a long-term condition, or may be otherwise struggling with social isolation. Many people may also want to take up a new activity or develop new friendships to find fresh purpose in their lives after redundancy, a change in relationship or a bereavement.

The programme is aligned to the Care Trust’s partnership work with the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership and the recently launched ‘Looking out for our Neighbours’ campaign, which aims to help prevent loneliness and social isolation in communities. Loneliness and social isolation are known to inflict the same level of physical harm as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, the groups challenge this issue and offers a range of free sociable activities, including walking, creative writing, singing, cinema, and coffee mornings.

To celebrate the milestone anniversary of Champions Show the Way and creating well-connected communities, an event was held at Victoria Hall, Saltaire, earlier this week.  The celebration brought together over 100 current and past volunteers ‘champions’ and people who have benefitted from attending activities. They enjoyed celebratory tea and cake and shared their stories of the positive impact that Champions Show the Way has had over the last decade.

In the last year there have been over 150 community health champions share their expertise on a wide range of topics, 76 regular activities, 1,985 sessions delivered, 1,450 participants, and activities have been accessed over 19,000 times. This incorporates the Care Trust’s focus on making ‘better lives, together’, and goals of connecting communities and supporting recovery and wellbeing.

Forty-six-year-old mother of two, Rehana Kosar struggled with low mood and anxiety after health problems following a kidney transplant.  She decided to sign up for a Champions Show the Way walking group, and has never looked back, crediting the group with giving her a new lease of life, helping her regain her confidence and zest for life after being able to talk, get active and share her experience of how she was feeling with the group.

Rehana said: “I was made to feel very welcome by the group even though I was quiet at first as I didn’t know what to expect and was still lacking confidence and feeling a bit down. I just knew I needed to be around positive people I could talk to that would lift my mood. It’s been nearly a year now since I joined the walking group and I’ve built really good friendships. We recently went to Blackpool and did a lovely walk by the sea, we had a family picture taken of all of us as we feel like we’re family now.”

Rehana concluded: “It’s basically about having that communication and knowing that even though you may be going through something, there are people who understand, you’re not alone and it’s good to talk.”

Champions Show the Way Alongside developing lasting friendships, community health champions who have joined Champions Show the Way, have also found helping and connecting with others in the community equally rewarding.  When Parveez, took early retirement from his work as a bus driver, he became active in community volunteering, rallying local residents to become involved in activities and the operation of Frizinghall Community Centre. He also encouraged community members to walk to improve health and wellbeing and to avoid social isolation.

In 2015 Parveez was diagnosed with cancer. Showing resilience and fighting spirit, Parveez came through and his cancer is now in remission.  Parveez used his experience with serious illness to become a walk leader for Champions Show The Way, to encourage other men to take up exercise to reduce the risk of ill health. Since the group was established in 2016 it has grown in popularity and numbers, with those that have joined benefitting from new friendships and improved health and wellbeing.

Catherine Jowitt, the Care Trust’s Volunteer Lead, said: “Champions Show the Way is such a valuable resource for our communities and it’s brilliant to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Across our range of activities, we always try to focus on building community links, promoting recovery and wellbeing, and preventing social isolation. We are so grateful to each and every one of our volunteer champions who give up their time to make such a positive difference in our local communities.”

Take a look at Champions Show the Way in action

People can be referred to Champions Show the Way by their GP, or by calling the Trust’s support team on 01274 321911.