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ActiveBeing founder passionate about ‘mother nurture’
We’ve all heard of Mother Nature but this week I had the privilege to meet the woman passionate for mother nurture. Charlie Hartley-Hodge is the proud founder of Active Being, a not-for-profit organisation set up to support women (specifically mothers) with mental wellbeing and social connection through projects and physical activity.
Research conducted last year by The Baby Show revealed that 70% of new mothers experienced an impact to their mental health during or after pregnancy. The survey, which screened over 1000 mothers, highlighted 63% of mother’s self-esteem had decreased since becoming a parent. The report highlighted that money worries (31%), isolation and loneliness (18%), and the anxiety around coping (12%) were their top distresses.
A topic close to Charlie’s heart is what drove her to creating an outlet for women living very similar experiences. Active Being has been an organisation for less than a year. With mental health and wellbeing being an ever-increasing concern, in conjunction with The Vench and Wesport Charlie set up support for the mums known to Food Club in Lockleaze.
The Vench is an adventure playground and community centre in Lockleaze, Bristol. Established for 45 years The Vench has been providing young people and their families with a safe place to play, learn and create the change they want to see in the world.
ActiveTalk was the initial programme. Charlie would meet up with mums from the community who recognised they needed mental wellbeing support and head out for a walk with them. ActiveTalk gained a hugely positive response and within minutes of meeting Charlie I knew why. One of the key things that stood out for me was instantly how at ease Charlie made me feel in her presence. Her passion to really make a change in people’s lives who needed it most was overwhelming. The hour I spent walking and chatting to Charlie absolutely flew by. It was so clear to me why Charlie was having such a huge impact on the mums within these local communities.
ActiveTalk not only provides mums with support and coping mechanisms it also highlights the importance of being outdoors and in green spaces to improve wellbeing, to be active and to take some time for themselves. For Charlie the social connection she is able to make with people is so important. To go for a walk and get to know someone, to really listen to them and to ensure they feel heard. Her aim is to empower the women she meets and for them to really want to make a positive change in their life.
Shortly after the positive response to ActiveTalk Charlie also started Active Mums Wellbeing Group. Groups of mums come together at The Vench and do a variety of fun physical activities led by Charlie. Each member of the group receives an ActiveBeing/The Vench t-shirt to wear for the sessions which helps build a sense of group identity and overcomes some of the barriers to participation. In addition to this, each session starts with a discussion about one of the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’. Charlie is Connect5 trained and passionate about ensuring this knowledge and education is shared with others so that they have the skills and confidence to lead balanced lives. For Charlie one of the best parts of the sessions is the genuine laughter and enjoyment the group have, it gives them a real release from the battles that everyday life can bring. It also highlights how physical activity can still be fun and enjoyable!
I asked Charlie what the future was for the programme and how the lockdown has impacted her. She explained:
“The 1:1 ActiveTalk was able to continue being a vital service for women in need of a safe space to be heard and grow on their mental wellbeing journey. The impact of this programme on women’s lives has been positively immeasurable. I have felt privileged to be a part of the shared thinking and talking together with all of the women involved. They really are an inspiration and want to see ActiveBeing available for more women to access.
We are working with Social Prescribing teams in North and South Bristol, as well as with Safe Link to try grow the provision, and provide referrals to those who need positive (skills and research based) early intervention. There are plans to link with providers who support youth mental wellbeing to try and provide a joined up service – supporting the parents as well as the children.
We have some fundraising events planned and further funding bids that we hope will support us in the development and delivery as an organisation. There are new Active Wellbeing groups starting in Lockleaze and Southmead, with plans to trial group sessions in South Bristol. We will ensure women have the provisions that they need; to be active, mentally well and to manage positive change.”
You only have to read a few of the testimonials and comments below to get the smallest glimpse of the impact Charlie’s projects are having. People who have previously felt as though they had hit crisis point and there was no way out for them have found hope and been given coping strategies for when things are at their worst.
“The sessions have changed a lot for me. I gained my confidence back, remembering that I am enough and see things in a positive way. Thank you Charlie”
“Walking and talking has been different somehow. I've had counselling before but the walking gave it a new energy, a new focus and a new way of looking at things.”
“I feel very lucky to have had access to these session. It's a safe, non-judgemental space where I can chat about all the things swimming around in my head.”
Charlie strongly believes that the best thing you can do for your mental health is to be kind to yourself.
Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF) is a Sport England fund that exists to help reduce the negative impact of coronavirus and the widening of the inequalities in sport and physical activity. Wesport have been managing the fund for the West of England area.
Please visit the Active Being website if you are interested in these projects and want to learn more or get involved.
To learn more about the Tackling Inequalities Fund, click here.