To get a sense of the work South Hams Lifestyles does I went to the gallery on their website and I was lifted by the warm faces smiling back at me. What also struck me was the number of activities the group organise to improve the health of people with varying and different disabilities.
There are so many disabled role models coming to the fore these days. I am particularly familiar with those in the world of sport. One in particular comes to mind Johnnie Peacock MBE. An amputee, Peacock won gold at the 2012 Summer Paralympics and 2016 Summer Paralympics, representing Great Britain in the T44 men’s 100 metres event. And now a star on Strictly! Jonnie has not only become a role model but this handsome young man with striking features has become a pin-up!
We need to support people to grow and be who they are, not define them by their disability or any other definition.
I’ve noticed that many of the groups Devon Community Foundation support want financial assistance to help their member’s wellbeing and continued independence. This is no truer than at South Hams Lifestyles, where they have an ‘allotment to plate’ philosophy.
Starting with being outdoors harvesting produce from their allotment, through to tutor-led cookery sessions where they prepare quick and easy to cook healthy meals, steering people away from a ready-meal microwave culture.
Members of the group are happier and healthier, their independence is more sustainable, to the point of being keen to be involved in other projects in the wider community, providing them with an increased enthusiasm for life. This also means a lot to families and carers, who have seen an improvement in the health and wellbeing of their loved ones.
South Hams Lifestyles group are thrilled that people have lost weight as a result of their programme of activities and that some now attend further exercise sessions through their local leisure centres. They have been spurred on to continue to live healthier lives, by attending these sessions and through having their eyes opened about the deliciousness of good, healthy food. The group continue to produce and distribute healthy eating recipe leaflets and will continue to offer gentle seated exercise sessions as a spin-off from this project.
The key to the success of this project is to promote healthy living, as they feel that it underpins independent living. Many of their members live with a wide range of disabilities, take prescription medicines and have everyday challenges to overcome, so it is imperative to maintain their energy and health levels to live independently.
And of course, as I explored in some of my previous blogs, there is the additional benefit of forming a community. Simply getting people together on a regular basis is so uplifting.
People living with a disability or long-term health condition can live life at a low ebb, understandably feeling despondent, depressed and/or isolated. This project shows that change is not time-consuming or difficult, but enjoyable! It ticks all the boxes: socially, physically, intellectually and emotionally, not only for the person, but the whole family.
Another fantastic project where the key ingredient is to support people to continue their independence and become valued members of their communities.