Culture Wellbeing

Suffolk Coffee Club

A weekly coffee club which was set up by a group of learners who wanted to stay in touch after completing a course in Bury St Edmunds is still going strong two years on.

After finishing their pre-employment skills course at The Centre in St John’s Street, the group launched the chatter and natter coffee club at the venue’s café Just Traid.

Two years later, the learners are still meeting each week – and they now welcome and mentor other learners on the LaunchPad course run at the venue by Realise Futures, an adult community learning provider in Suffolk.

LaunchPad is a pre-employment skills course designed to help people who are long-term unemployed, have long-term health conditions and/or disadvantages, to get ready for work or to possibly undertake further learning.


Original Article by Micheal Steward. Source: East Anglia Daily Times

Equality Wellbeing

Care hubs for ageing society in China

China is experiencing rapid ageing as life expectancy rises and, due to the one-child policy, birth rates have fallen. As a result there are more people over the age of 60 than under 15. Within the next three decades, China will have the oldest population on the planet: by 2050, 39% of Chinese people will be over 65.

China is getting old before it gets rich. At both national and provincial level, the government has embarked on a massive expansion of care provision to support family care and help people remain in their own homes.

The policy is to grow the homecare and community care market. In 15 cities, different models of long-term care insurance are being prototyped and the results will feed into a final scheme. Just one of these pilots, in Shanghai, covers a population about a third the size of the whole UK.

In the past three or four years the Chinese care sector has seen explosive growth in services from homecare to retirement communities. One example is a network of more than 200 care hubs that has been established across Shanghai.

The hubs provide social activities and connections, rehabilitation, information and advice as well as respite and early stage dementia care. Publicly funded and owned but privately operated, they are playing a key role in supporting older people in their own homes.


Original Article by Paul Burstow: Source: The Guardian

Planet Wellbeing

A bright solution to an energy problem

Traditionally, the average university student will spend a lot of their free time lying in bed, and propping up the union bar. Not so many take it upon themselves to tackle an energy crisis in southern Africa, but Sussex University undergraduate Hlanganiso Matangaidze has done just that.

Along with two of his fellow students, Hlanganiso runs RED (Renewable Energy Development), a company that is providing clean and affordable electricity to rural parts of Zimbabwe, via the use of off-grid, home solar kits. Initially begun in late 2017 as a student project, sponsored by the global entrepreneurship platform Enactus, RED soon developed into an ongoing enterprise.

“After taking our first trip to Zimbabwe to assess the project’s viability, we just kept the ball rolling,” says Hlanganiso. “We got some funding and moved into office space in Brighton. We’ve distributed 12 kits so far, benefitting around 48 people.”

The need for this kind of energy solution is obvious. It’s estimated that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have little or no access to electricity. In Zimbabwe, the access in rural areas is only 16%. Hlanganiso has first-hand experience of what this can mean.

“I was born in Zimbabwe, and know how limiting it is having frequent power outages when you’re not living on the national grid,” he explains. “I emigrated to the UK as a kid, and was lucky enough to receive a good education. Africa has one of the highest primary school dropout rates, partly because many school children can’t do any work after the sun goes down.”

Using solar power kits will not only help to keep the lights on, but there are also crucial benefits to the environment and personal health.

“Kerosene lamps are used a lot, which substantially contribute to CO2 emissions,” says Hlanganiso. “Plus, inhaling those fumes can lead to serious respiratory issues. People also use a lot of firewood for night light, which has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest.”

RED are currently organising their third trip to Zimbabwe, planning to scale up their operations to distribute around 900 kits. Their long-term goal is to expand into other countries in the region, including working with schools in South Africa.

Do the co-founders still find time for their studies?

“Yes, it just takes discipline,” Hlanganiso laughs. “We do uni stuff in the morning, and work on RED in the afternoon. I really enjoy it, and it’s a very positive thing to bring to the planet.”

Find out more.

By Theo Hooper

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Equality Wellbeing

Street Nun

On a Saturday afternoon in early November, about 30 people are watching a documentary inside a shack in the heart of Bushwick, a post-industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn. They are all canners – people who make a living redeeming empty cans and bottles, five cents apiece. Although they all got up before the sun and have worked in the cold for hours, no one looks like they’re about to fall asleep. All eyes on the screen. The short film, streamed from YouTube and projected on a white sheet, is about a workers’ cooperative in Argentina.

The screening was organized by Ana Martínez de Luco, a Catholic nun who says she prefers to work “under the sun, not the Vatican”, and calls herself a street nun.

As the documentary finishes, she addresses the audience: “Do you now have a better idea of what a cooperative is?” People nod. “You’ve got to organize, we risk being kicked out soon, it looks like there’s no room for us,” she says in a tone of voice that barely disguises her anger.

Sure We Can, the redemption center Martínez de Luco co-founded more than a decade ago, must move somewhere else for the fifth time. Their lease in Bushwick – for which they currently pay $5,302 a month – expires at the end of February and the owner wants to sell the lot. According to Martínez de Luco, the asking price is $3m. “That’s the equivalent of 60m cans,” she jokes.

Roughly 11m pieces were redeemed at Sure We Can in 2018, brought here in shopping carts by hundreds of canners – more than 500, according to the center’s data. Surrounded by industrial buildings turned into lofts, Sure We Can is a 12,000 sq ft outpost of poverty in one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods. The workers’ voices make up a cacophony of diversity: Spanish predominates, but you can also hear English and Chinese. Every once in a while out pops a word or two in Polish. Or the cluck of a chicken.

“This here’s my second home,” says a 74-year-old woman from the Dominican Republic who’s known in the community as Morena. Next to her, an elderly woman from Beijing is moving her hips to the sound of Latin music.


Original Article by Francesca Berardi. Source: The Guardian


A recipe for progress

“We heard about one young lad in Buckinghamshire, who was on the verge of just completely dropping out from society. He attended one of our cooking sessions at a youth club, and loved it so much that he’s now working in a café. That’s a positive outcome.”

This is the kind of story that James Shepherd is starting to hear more of. Eighteen months ago, he and two others set up the Let’s Cook Project (LCP), a social enterprise that seeks to equip people with the skills and confidence to cook from scratch. It’s an activity that has a host of benefits for both individuals and society at large, from improving physical and mental health, to reducing social isolation, decreasing food waste, and enhancing community cohesion.

The project operates in two ways. Firstly, they train up representatives from local organisations, who then provide practical cooking lessons within their own communities. But James and his colleagues also engage in some ‘direct delivery’, running cooking sessions themselves at a local level.

“That ensures that we don’t become too detached from the project’s purpose, and the needs of our own users,” he explains. “For example, currently I’m running a group that includes young mothers, who perhaps don’t have the life skills required to take on their new responsibilities.”

The Let’s Cook Project is based in Cambridge, but they work nationally, outsourcing the training work to a network of ‘trusted partners’. From a housing association in Merseyside, to students at the University of Leicester, James says that they go wherever the need is. Since the consumption of convenience foods in the UK has been on the rise for many years, it seems that the likes of LCP are providing a vital service.

“People might lack the skills, the time, or they simply might not enjoy cooking from scratch,” says James. “We try to foster some joy, and see what’s achievable. If we can get people eating one meal a week that involves preparing fresh ingredients, then that’s a battle won. Maybe not the war, but it’s very much going in the right direction.”

Are you a cookery trainer, or any kind of business addressing community health issues? The Let’s Cook Project want to work with you. Get in contact at [email protected] / 07973 871580.

By Theo Hooper

Inspired? Check out more Smiley News, start your own project or get matching!


Burlesque social enterprise

“Troupe mamma”, or leader, Caroline Adkins suffers from health problems including arthritis and osteoporosis.

She says performing improves her well-being, while other troupe members say it boosts their self-esteem.

The group, Bump N Grind, plans to become a social enterprise, a business that reinvests or donates its profits.

They describe themselves as the Highlands’ first burlesque troupe.

At present the group has five members. They are Caroline, who is known on stage as Evelyn Adore, also Emma MacKenzie aka Candy Kitten, Rowan Drever who performs as Lady Ivy, Cody Ross aka Moonstone Cherry and Rhianna Bain who performs as Miss Rhi Von Bee.

Burlesque is a genre of variety show and features music, song and dance routines.

BBC Scotland’s The Nine caught up with Bump N Grind during one of their rehearsals.

Original article by BBC News

Culture Wellbeing

Turning disused buildings into studios

Twenty-seven-year-olds Josh Field and Ollie Tobin, and Roland Fischer-Vousden, 28, are school friends with a passion for the arts.

In 2014, just before completing their undergraduate degrees in London, they realised that they would struggle to realise their dreams of becoming working creatives, because there was nowhere for them to work.

The creation of large-scale art pieces and music often requires space, industrial tools and the freedom to make a lot of noise.

None of these things are possible at urban residential properties, and studio space is very expensive.

Original article by Mary-Ann Russon – Source BBC News

Photo by Joseph DeFrancisco on Unsplash


Sowing the seeds of personal growth

It was perhaps inevitable that Paul Herrington would one day set up the business that he has. For many years he had parallel careers, working as both a psychiatric nurse, and as a professional garden designer (once winning a medal at the Chelsea Flower Show). When he hung up his nursing jacket for good, it seemed only natural to combine his two skill sets and establish a project that promotes the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

So in 2014 he started Grow Places, a social enterprise based in Cambridge that designs, develops and nurtures gardens in care homes, hospitals and other community projects – with a focus on improving the mental and physical health of the participants.

“There are two layers to it,” says Paul. “You can provide some beautiful gardens for people to enjoy and benefit from, but the benefits are more than doubled if those people are also creating and maintaining the garden.

“For many, it’s about feeling less isolated,” he adds. “The gardening process helps people to engage with others.”

There is a large and ever-increasing body of scientific evidence that attests to the therapeutic benefits of gardening and being outdoors, and Paul often witnesses the effects first-hand.

“For people with dementia, gardens can really help to unlock things. They might be able to say something lucid about a plant, like when it should be pruned, or what memories it evokes. Those kind of mental connections are really powerful.”

Generally working as a “one-man band,” Paul Herrington draws upon a varied network of support if he needs to, links established through both his health service and gardening work. With funding from a range of sources – from hospital budgets to the European Social Fund – he likes to stay local, and only takes on projects that have the potential to enable further involvement for the participants.

“If it goes well, I can step back and they can be up and running with it,” he says. “That’s the most enjoyable part for me. Seeing how the participants prosper, making connections with each other and acquiring new skills. The gardens are just a vehicle for that personal development.”

If you want to know more about Grow Places, get in contact via their website or phone 07988 740456.

By Theo Hooper

Inspired? Check out more Smiley News, start your own project or get matching!

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels


Art Therapy

The idea of receiving psychotherapy in a museum might seem unusual. However, art psychotherapists are increasingly looking towards the rich resources of museums and galleries to aid them in their clinical work.

Art therapy, or art psychotherapy, sees people expressing their feelings and experiences through art, as well as (or instead of) through words. It can be used to help people of all ages, living with a wide range of emotional or physical conditions.

NHS art psychotherapists usually work in designated therapy rooms in hospitals or outpatient centres, but for our recent study we wanted to explore how conducting art psychotherapy in a museum could be beneficial to a group with complex mental health difficulties.

Research has found that people “see themselves” in museum objects, and that reflecting on our responses to objects can tell us something about ourselves. For example, an object can evoke powerful emotions, or symbolise an aspect of our current or past experiences. So we wanted to tap into museum objects to help our participants develop greater self-understanding. To our knowledge, this was the first time that museum objects would be used for this kind of art psychotherapy for adults accessing NHS mental health services.

We predicted, based on findings from arts in health and art therapy case studies, that a museum setting could help inspire creativity among group members. There is also evidence that a non-clinical space could help people to feel more connected to each other and their local community, and less “set apart” by their mental health difficulties.

Working for ²gether NHS Foundation Trust, we delivered a programme for seven adults aged 18-25 at two museums in Gloucester over 18 weeks. Each session lasted for 90 minutes and started and finished in a private education room at the museums.

Original article by Alison Coles – Source The Independent

Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels

Culture Wellbeing

Brick by brick

David Aguilar has built himself a robotic prosthetic arm using Lego pieces after being born without a right forearm due to a rare genetic condition.

Aguilar, 19, who studies bioengineering at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Spain, is already using his fourth model of the colorful prosthetic and his dream is to design affordable robotic limbs for those who need them.

Original article by Pilar Suárez – Source Reuters