(information taken from DDC Press Release 28 September 2022)
People whose lives have been changed by a project aimed at improving wellbeing and job prospects have shared their inspiring stories.
Participants of the ASPIRE project opened up about their experiences to encourage others to sign up and take advantage of the free courses and activities the programme offers.
Dover District Council is one of five partners involved in the EU-funded scheme which has helped more than 70 people in East Kent since it launched in 2020, despite the difficulties posed by Covid.
Run from the Bechange Community Hub in Aylesham – but open to people from across the Dover district – the project helps people to improve their health and wellbeing and build confidence for employment with a range of free workshops, activities and accredited courses.
One of the participants joined ASPIRE in June after a serious illness saw him hospitalised for six weeks and his health severely deteriorate.
“I was healthy, I was about to get my first promotion at work and then overnight all of that changed when I got encephalitis,” he explains.
“My left frontal lobe was damaged by the illness, my short-term memory loss was affected and still is, I got exhausted easily, and I lost my job.”
The 28-year-old was told about ASPIRE by his occupational therapist and he signed up thinking it might be able to help him.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s got me out of the house, it’s giving me motivation and I get so much support. I’m learning new skills, meeting people and building up my confidence.
“I’ve done the cooking course, gardening – things that wouldn’t normally appeal to me – and I’ve been helped by so many people. It’s been great for my wellbeing.
“I’m still recovering from what happened to me, but ASPIRE has motivated me so much that I just want to get back to work.”
Maria Holman also signed up to the ASPIRE course in June after her partner was diagnosed with early signs of dementia.
“I thought I could do with a bit of a break and it might be something that he might be able to get involved with, too,” she said,
“They’ve got so many different courses and I thought I wouldn’t mind giving them a go so I did the cooking course, which was brilliant.
“It’s nice to meet new people and it gives me that little bit of freedom. I also have a one-to-one with a weight loss expert here.
“I’m learning new skills, meeting people and starting to feel good about myself.”
These are just two of many cases which highlight how ASPIRE is helping to change people’s lives.
The project provides hands-on training on how to grow your own vegetables, runs healthy cookery courses, the NHS One You weight loss programme, eco-therapy courses, exercise classes, healthy walks, leisure centre membership, accredited training courses, and coaching on job applications and CV workshops. There’s also a chance to practise for job interviews.
Since last year, the number of people accessing the programme has grown significantly and the team hopes word is spreading so they can help even more.
Laura Campbell, ASPIRE project co-ordinator, explains: “We help participants feel better, healthier and improve their lives.
“It’s about building their confidence and offering a friendly, welcoming place where they can get the support they need, while also learning new skills and gaining knowledge.
“If you or someone you know could benefit from this amazing project, get in touch now!”
The project is aimed at people over 18 who want to improve their health, wellbeing and employment prospects.
All of the courses ASPIRE provides are free to registered participants and support is available for travel costs ensuring that everyone meeting the criteria for the programme, wherever they live in the district, can take part.
To register go to www.bechange.org.uk/about-aspire/ and fill in the contact form.