I’m a volunteer with Healthbox CIC. I come from a corporate background, having worked back office in a bank. My usual day was spent working in a high pressure environment in the office. Meetings, managing teams to deliver, often in phone calls with parts of the team who work in India, China, Hong Kong etc. Due to the global nature of the bank most people in the office spent a lot of the day on the phone with people elsewhere in the UK and Worldwide, starting very early and often finishing very late to fit in with different time zones. This meant the office was never quiet. The first day I spent at Healthbox CIC was a world away from that. I walked into the office and was greeted with warmth and friendliness by everyone in the office and I immediately felt very welcome. Steve – took me on an introductory tour of some of the places he’s working with as part of the ‘The Wellbeing High Street’ project, so I could see for myself some of the work Healthbox CIC is involved in.
Bridge Community Farm – This community farm works with people in the community, and no matter who they are they are all treated the same. The wellbeing co-ordinator was working with someone to show them how to plant leeks. The vegetables that are grown are sold in an organic box scheme. This gives people the opportunity to spend time working outside on the farm, learn new skills and meet new people, spending time with others. The lady who runs this is passionate about the project.
Trinity – This is a church in Ellesmere Port which hosts a variety of events, and on this occasion Healthbox were doing a Pop Up Cookery session. On some days the food bank gives out food to people, and the pop up cookery sessions give people ideas about how people can use some of the food. For example if they are making omelettes, they will ‘add a vegetable’ and as they make things people get the chance to try them and find out if they like them and how to make them. I found this session in particular, eye opening. Although I hear about food banks and that usage has gone up, it’s something that is very difficult to imagine.
Part of The Wellbeing High Street programme includes offering ‘Relaxation’ sessions at Trinity. I attended a couple of these. On the first occasion the lady leading the session initially sounded nervous and did not appear confident or sure of herself. She explained to the group that she suffers from anxiety and that is why she was using cue cards. A couple of the participants had been referred to the programme from mental health, and one lady suffered from anxiety also. It was a small group for the first session, but it went very well. Janet, who lead the session was very inclusive when talking with people, and when she asked for any comments, thoughts, input, she made it clear that people could contribute if they wanted to, but didn’t make anyone feel like they needed to speak, and some people joined in, and some chose just to listen. During the session people looked as if they were involved, and relaxed and comfortable being in the session. Janet explained things in simple terms and didn’t use any jargon, so for people new to this, it was very easy to follow what she said without having to deal with unfamiliar terms. The feedback at the end was very good, and one additional benefit was that as the session progressed, Janet herself lost her nervousness, and came across confidently, so the session benefitted not only the participants, but also the leader. After the session, people stayed on to chat about it. There were lots of smiles and it seemed lots of engagement.
The second relaxation session had a few more participants, and people appeared to be more comfortable this time. One of the attendees from the previous week felt relaxed enough to lie on one of the mats provided for the second guided visualisation session, and again feedback was good. This was the last session booked in, however it proved very popular and some of the participants requested further sessions, and asked if they can bring others with them, so a further session was arranged then and there for the following week.
I also attended an art session. The leader of this session provided books to people and demonstrated some ideas for creating backgrounds on the pages, and explained that we were creating a gratitude book. She also explained some things we may consider when thinking about things we may be grateful for. For example it was a lovely sunny day, and she said she was grateful for the sun, and for someone who had fixed her bike for her etc. Throughout the session she provided ongoing encouragement and support to all involved. I spoke with one of the participants after, who loved the session and found it fun. She’s a lady who suffers from anxiety, yet she was all smiles in both this session and after the relaxation sessions.
Just from these visits and sessions alone, I learned new skills
Guided meditation for relaxation and where I can find this, e.g on You Tube
New art skills
Practice gratitude – it was suggested that we try to think of 3 to 5 things a day that we are grateful for and note them in the book, also to look out for things we may want to include in the book
Met some lovely new people, particularly those from from the community who attended the sessions, especially those who attended more than one. They too met each other and commented that they’d seen each other out and about. These are people who I would never have met in my normal life, but I’ve been really enjoying it.
A big thank you to Helen for her amazing work on the project and other Healthbox CIC services! If you would like to take a step out of your comfort zone and try something now, get in touch and get involved!