Back at the start of May, the weather appeared to be dragging itself incredibly slowly into Spring which was such a shame. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling the need for jumpers and even coats too which seemed to be required far later into the year than usual. This past week May has finally brightened up with more warmth and more sunshine; goodness knows we needed it!
With this being our first year here at Medina Valley Centre, we are seeing and experiencing all that nature has to offer around the site with fresh eyes and no preconceived ideas or expectations. I’m sure you are all aware that April-May is bluebell season here in the UK. My favourite way to enjoy bluebells is in woodland, where the flowers create a beautiful, blue carpet; a magical, breathtaking sight, and almost other-worldly. Here on the Isle of Wight, I believe there are a few good spots to enjoy bluebells; the only place I’ve actually been to is Mottistone Manor, a National Trust property near Brighstone. I recall the Bluebells did not disappoint! I eagerly awaited their appearance here at MVC and, whilst they did put on a show, my photos sadly never seem to do justice to nature! If you’ve seen any beautiful bluebells whilst out and about on the Island or further afield, please do share in the comments. I fear it may be too late, but if you’re on the Island, why not get yourself down to Mottistone Manor and see if you can catch their bluebells before they disappear for another year?! (www.nationaltrust.uk)
We have had a quieter month in the community here at Isorropia Foundation but that’s not to say the organisation wasn’t busy doing other things. We held our first fully funded public Gift Course which was a lovely opportunity to show the wider Island community the amazing work we do day in and day out with our members. There will be more fully funded workshops taking place in the coming months so keep an eye on our social media pages to ensure you don’t miss out. This month also saw our first ‘after-hours’ workshop, a new initiative to ensure we are better supporting our members who have employment or caring responsibilities and those juggling the demands of childcare.
One of the most delightful things I’ve seen since my last blog post was the Mellow Mondays group which is funded and run by Gift to Nature. Members were invited to an outdoors session here at MVC where they could create a hanging basket made entirely from natural materials. The end results are so unique and so pretty, each containing a little strawberry plant which, weather permitting, should thrive and provide an abundance of fruit. How lovely is that…all taking place within our beautiful setting, with the wonderful sound of birds all around and views of the river to boot! Bird identification cards were also provided (see photo at the top of this post), making the session informative as well as productive and fun 🙂
Did any of you manage to listen to the Island Stories podcast earlier this month when our CEO, Vicki Haworth, was featured? I’d highly recommend a listen. You can follow @islandstoriespodcast on Instagram. CLICK HERE to listen to Vicki’s episode.
“We are that bridge between someone seeing their GP and feeling like things are going downhill but not actually quite needing to be on medication…we are there to try and prevent people from becoming more unwell.”Vicki Haworth
The Big Help Out
How did you all spend the Coronation weekend? Did you do anything memorable with the extra bank holiday? King Charles III planned for it to be a day for ‘giving back’ to communities in some way, and it has been reported that 6 million people got involved! The campaign is ongoing, so why not check out www.thebighelpout.org.uk if you’d like to find out more; ‘Lend a hand. Make a change.’
“Your purpose in life is to use your gifts and talents to help others. Your journey in life teaches you how to do that.”Tom Krause
Volunteering is something we in the field of mental health recovery are very passionate about. As a team with lived experience here at Isorropia Foundation, we have numerous examples of how our team and graduate members have benefitted from volunteering at times of challenging circumstances in their lives, and who continue to give back in times of wellness too!
I look forward to next month’s post where I will be marking National Volunteers’ Week by sharing some of the interesting roles that our team have taken on and how they feel it impacted their own lives and the lives of others. This will be such an inspiring read so please do check back in for that.
Benefits of Volunteering
The Big Help Out shared statistics from a study of 7000 adults, highlighting that 73% of volunteers said they felt volunteering gave them more confidence, 73% agreed it gave them new skills/experience and 89% said they enjoyed it! These figures reflect our own experience here at Isorropia Foundation where volunteering benefits both physical and mental wellbeing. It is most definitely a win-win in my opinion. If this is something you are keen to explore, and The Big Help Out hasn’t provided anything suited to your needs/interests, there is also an Island volunteering service which you can check out www.iwvolunteer.org for opportunities specific to the Isle of Wight. Here are just a few ideas to set you on your path to greater fulfilment and better wellbeing:
- “Volunteer Photographer” – Social Heritage Ryde
- “Kitchen Help” – Ventnor Wellbeing Cafe
- “Land maintenance and fencing” – IOW Deer Farm
- “Various Roles” – IOW Donkey Sanctuary
I can’t see any negatives to getting involved with volunteering in your local communities. This ties in beautifully with Key 5 of our Keys to Wellbeing – ‘Connect to Meaning and Purpose’. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this. If you’re a member of Isorropia and would like a chat with one of our Wellbeing Coaches about volunteering and taking that brave step out of your comfort zone, just give the duty line a call. We would love to hear from you.
After six and a half months based in our new office at Medina Valley Centre, the team were all feeling pretty well settled and at home in ‘Glanville’. But, as we like to remind our members on the Wellbeing Programme, ‘change can be a good thing’ and we very much like to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk here. As such, we were delighted to hear that sufficient progress has been made in the main building that we are now able to move out of the ‘outbuilding’ and into our new upstairs office, overlooking the river with even more beautiful views than those we’d grown accustomed to! This was always the intention from our first visit to look around the site back in September 2022 but various different things had to be completed and actioned prior to this move being made. It is a slightly different set-up, with a few smaller offices for us to occupy, as opposed to one large, open-plan space. This is an adjustment and there will always be little hiccups to overcome when things are changing, but the team is strong and they will most definitely find themselves settling in and feeling ‘at home’ again in no time at all, I’m sure.
We can learn so much from nature and our location here at MVC is absolutely perfect for this. You may not be aware, but Medina Valley is one of a few, very select UK locations that have been blessed with the presence of a rare butterfly called the Glanville Fritillary (our office namesake) Medina has a rich history of flora and fauna due to its riverside setting and concerted efforts to protect its habitats. The Glanville Fritillary is one of the many species that visitors to the site should be avidly looking out for, as it would be such a treat to be able to say that you have seen one. My online research provided clear evidence to support this view.
Lifecycle of a Glanville Fritillary
- Eggs are laid on the underside of the foodplant Sea Plantain or Ribwort Plantain
- Emerging caterpillars are yellow/white with black heads
- Whilst living in silken webs the caterpillars undergo colour changes, developing a black body and brown head
- Glanville Fritillary caterpillars will hibernate in August, overwinter until early Spring when they become active once again
- By March/April caterpillars are fully grown at 25mm with a black body, red head, red/brown prolegs, black spines and white speckling
- In thick vegetation, pupation will then take place, with chrysalis attaching to a plant stem and butterfly emerging around 3 weeks later
- Peak flight period for Glanvilles is from 20th May until the first week of June (although they may be seen throughout June and into July)
- Flight period is affected by the onset of Spring (potentially meaning earlier or later sightings) and poor weather in June (bringing the season to an earlier end)
- The most significant population in the UK is on the South Coast of the Isle of Wight
- The Hampshire coastline is now also able to boast a small population
- Sand Point in Somerset is the only other recorded population of Fritillaries in the UK (although they are also found in the Channel Islands and throughout Europe)
- East Wight – Wheelers Bay to Horseshoe Bay
- West Wight – Compton Bay/Shippards Chine, Brook Green, Sud Moor, Chiltern Chine to Marsh Chine
Colonies of Glanville Fritillaries exist primarily on sandstone and clay exposures of undercliffs and chines, and on clifftop grassland above (www.hantsiow-butterflies.org.uk) Obviously, our habitat at MVC is quite different to that, so it is interesting to me that this species is still drawn to the area. However, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Butterfly Conservation state that during bumper years Glanvilles form transient colonies further inland, even reaching the northern coastline! So maybe this is what’s been happening in the past when MVC has hosted these rare creatures. I’m no expert! But I do think butterflies are amazing and incredible, going through so many changes within their life span. So many artists use this cycle to inspire creativity and particularly linking into wellbeing and how we, as people, need to accept that we evolve and change throughout our lives and that this is not a bad thing.
May 15th – 21st is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. This is very close to our hearts, being as Isorropia is a mental health and wellbeing organisation and we have a variety of helpful, thought-provoking posts going out on our social media pages. Do take a look, particularly if you suffer from Anxiety as that is this year’s theme. Don’t forget that we also run ‘Mastering Anxiety’ workshops for our members. If you are a member and would like to book a top-up, please do get in touch or you can book in the usual way via your Bookwhen link. If May has been challenging for you and your anxiety appears to be worsening, this could be the perfect time to reconnect with your fellow members and have a refresh of those tools and tips that we know can be so helpful when we remember to use them.
We at Isorropia Foundation are increasingly proud of the work we do for our Island community and, more than anything else, feel a sense of pride in the individuals who join us on the Wellbeing Programme and work hard to embrace change and show commitment in ‘Adopting an Open and Positive Mindset’ (Key 4). Our organisation is constantly evolving as we look to improve and adapt, ensuring we continue to provide the very best opportunities for our members. We may well have had the occasional bump to navigate along the way to get us where we are today, but this is normal for relatively new organisations as they grow and learn what works and what doesn’t. We do acknowledge wholeheartedly that change is not easy. But it is almost always worth it. We empower our members to overcome any difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives by using the tools they have learnt in the workshops to assert themselves and tackle any problems they face with an effective communication style. When we see our members managing their own wellbeing and pushing themselves further than they ever believed possible it is a wonderful feeling. It really does feel sometimes, as if we are watching people transform before our very eyes!
If any Islanders are reading this and are currently struggling with certain changes, or indeed challenges in their own lives, please do reach out. Our Duty line is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and we can have you signed up for the Wellbeing Programme within 2 weeks. We have no waiting list! Contact us HERE. To see the services that are available in your area CLICK HERE. Please know that you are never alone.
Until next time,
P.S. One small change to mention before I go: I’m actually going through a bit of a transition myself at the moment! For any members who know me as one of Isorropia’s Wellbeing Coaches, please be aware that I shall now be taking on more of a behind-the-scenes role within the organisation (which means I won’t get to see your lovely faces as much as before). Look out for next month’s post for more details of what I’ll be doing instead!
4 responses to “Volunteer | Change | Evolve”
So interesting about the Glanville Fritillary and that it’s flight period is NOW. I shall be keeping my eyes peeled! Thankyou Lucy x
Exciting times, Lucy, thanks for the amazing blog as ever! 🙂 I’ve started volunteering with Vectis Radio and it is very enjoyable and rewarding. It’s made me feel more confident and I’ve met some lovely people so far.
Hi everyone, and welcome back to Inside Isorropia – The Blog.
I have been enjoying all the little pops of colour that have appeared in and around MVC over the past few weeks. Spring flowers are such a blessing; there is nothing quite like bright yellow daffodils to spark joy and optimism after a long, grey winter. I adore hyacinths, too, as they smell absolutely divine, so I was more than happy to venture onto a rather soggy lawn to catch a photo of this pretty pink one.
It is difficult to resist snapping pictures here at Medina, especially on a sunny day; at every turn, there’s something that seems picture-postcard-worthy! What things do you most like to take photographs of? Do you find yourself using your phone to capture images when you’re out and about or do you prefer your time in nature to be device-free?
Celebrating successes, no matter how small they may seem, is a pivotal part of wellbeing. This is a message we continually share with our members and why, as a team with lived experience, we make a special effort to role model this. We know many find receiving compliments or celebrating themselves deeply uncomfortable. This is often due to negative core beliefs that have developed throughout a person’s life. On the Wellbeing Programme there are workshops available which challenge negative beliefs, including ‘Inner Critic’, ‘Mastering Anxiety’ and on The Gift Foundation Course. We also provide opportunities within ‘Wellbeing Planning’ and ‘Gift Follow-Up’ sessions to share member successes and celebrate them within a safe, familiar environment. This is a gentle way to facilitate a change in established, unhealthy thought processes and a development of ease around self-love and the acceptance of praise.
March was jam-packed with activities at MVC, each providing a perfect opportunity to welcome new people and organisations to Isorropia. The first Isorropia Bake Off competition took place at the Easter Wellbeing Fayre with member, Kez, being awarded first prize for her Sugar-Free Cheesecake and Saffron taking second place with an Easter Carrot Cake. Many congratulations to both, and a huge thank you to all the other entrants who provided delicious baked refreshments for the event attendees.
The fun didn’t stop here on site, either. Out in the Island community, the Vectis Radio awards were held, and it was wonderful to see our Community Engagement Lead, Tasha West, being so well supported by friends and family as she was celebrated for her valuable contributions to our Community Umbrella and our monthly newsletter ‘The Navigator’. Congratulations, Tasha, you are amazing! It has also been a very successful month for our wellbeing coaches, with Laura passing her Corporate Wellbeing Coach course with a Distinction and Molly getting a personal best, despite injury, in the Southampton Half Marathon (whoop. whoop!!)
Last but not least, we had our first Team Wellbeing Day of 2023 at the end of March. There was a team-building challenge in which we were tasked with creating something to ensure the safe passage of an egg when dropped from the top of a ladder to the floor! With minimal equipment, including paper straws and string, three teams planned, made, and tested designs with a strict limit of only two eggs per team. A great deal of fun was had by all, and I’m thrilled to report that I was on the winning team along with wellbeing coach Laura Crew, Supporter Relations Lead Tom Ferguson, Volunteer Co-ordinator & Community Manager Vicky Shaw-Yates and our aforementioned volunteer Tasha West. Our prize, first choice from a selection of mini chocolate eggs, yum! Obviously, we opted for the Cadbury’s classic (do any other mini eggs actually need to exist?) Our approach to the task was a combination of a (not-so) snug-fitting paper straw basket, paper straw snippings to pad out the excess space, Sellotape padding, an additional paper straw as an outer buffer, followed by excessive quantities of scrunched-up tape to create a large ball effect. It was finished off with a decorative smiley face. And why not?? 😊 See below for a few photos of the team having a blast. If you’ve ever taken part in any team building exercises/lateral thinking tasks that you think we could attempt to try, pop your ideas in the comments, and we could well be doing it on one of our upcoming Wellbeing Days.
Whilst there is a great deal to be said for teamwork and pulling together, Isorropia places a big focus on Empowerment and encouraging our members to take hold of their own lives and their own futures. As such, I’d like to share some more details about how we do this for our members in a way that ensures they still feel safe and held.
Throughout our Wellbeing Programme members will be reminded that they themselves have the power and, oftentimes, the answers needed to move themselves forwards and out of any difficulties they may be experiencing. The workshop content aims to raise people’s self-awareness, and it is this which allows for personal growth to begin to take place. The psychologist Nathaniel Branden suggests that positive change can happen when a person first develops awareness and then masters acceptance (linkedin.com – ‘Self-awareness is the first step towards personal growth’ 27/05/2021). At Isorropia, we often refer members back to our 3rd Key to Wellbeing ‘Embrace Acceptance and Letting Go’, acknowledging the importance of these wellbeing/life skills.
Wright State University highlights that by learning and knowing as much as possible about ourselves, we can gain a better sense of who we are and create a vision of who we would like to be. This then allows for plans to be put in place for a person to work towards reaching those ideals. We like to call this goal setting, and it is something our members do an awful lot of throughout their Isorropia experience. Even when they are thriving under our community umbrella, the opportunities remain for them to attend Wellbeing Planning sessions, Gift Refresh courses and, for our volunteers, the invitation to attend training sessions, reflective practice, supervisions and team wellbeing days. This all contributes to that ever-growing knowledge of self that is so important to develop and maintain for ongoing wellness.
We emphasise throughout everything we do here at Isorropia the importance of social connection, and this is most often explored via Key 2 – Develop a Healthy and Balanced Lifestyle and Key 5 – Connect to Meaning and Purpose in Life. This is something I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, so check back if you are interested in reading a bit more about our awesome community.
There is much to be said for the personal benefits of being a positive, supportive influence on others – another huge factor in why our members experience so much personal growth during their time with us. As part of our volunteering programme, we encourage those graduates who thrive around this concept to consider becoming mentors for future members.
“Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.”‘All About Love’, Bell Hooks
This quote from American author Bell Hooks was shared on Instagram by @selfcareisforeveryone to mark Black History Month, and I feel it encapsulates all that we could ever hope to achieve with and for our members here at Isorropia. The quote was accompanied by the caption:
“We are all in need of a caring community that truly sees us on our respective self-care journeys, in order to heal.”
This is backed up further by ‘The School of Life London’ who claim that:
“There can be nothing better than discussing things within a warm and sympathetic group of people who know all about troubles, who don’t judge and with whom we can feel less alone.”
I hope that this ‘caring community’ and ‘warm group’ described above is exactly what our members experience when they come to us, often from a place of isolation, so that they may feel assured enough to take those difficult first steps on an unknown path and continue on towards transformation, wellness and fulfilment. This is not to take anything away from the remarkable work our members do for themselves. Empowerment is huge for us as an organisation, and as wellbeing coaches, we are here to help facilitate change. Our members know that they are required to do the work – take the steps and put the ideas into action in their lives – we simply plant the seeds. They have to find the courage and confidence to proceed, and more often than not, they absolutely do!
“Your purpose is not the thing you do. It is the thing that happens in others when you do what you do.”@drcarolineleaf
One of the most rewarding parts of the work we do at Isorropia Foundation centres around the person we see at the end of the Wellbeing Programme, at the point of Graduation. This is when we get a clearer insight into the changes that have occurred for our members, from their own personal perspective and expressed in that member’s own words. We, of course, will have seen this transformation happening over a period of time, but it is a powerful moment for both members and coaches to have that opportunity to reflect back on the whole experience and to acknowledge just how far a person has travelled on their wellness journey. Often there are significant improvements in areas including health, mood, emotional stability, connection and stress. Some members may have reduced their medication, increased their working hours, or signed up for further education. Many members have described the steps they have taken towards recovery here at Isorropia as life-changing.
This is what it is all about! Check out this amazing feedback from one of our recent graduates:
“The skills knowledge and self-awareness I have learnt has truly been somewhat life-changing. Everyone I have met on this journey has been inspiring brave and resilient, and passionate to educate and encourage others to become vulnerable and their true self with no judgement. The Island is a brighter place thanks to Isorropia. I can not wait to see you continue to grow, inspire and create hope for many others on their journey to wellness. Thank you so much for helping me to become me again.”Feedback from an Isorropia Member
This is why we are here, and it is this that drives us forward… to continue making a difference in the lives of those who need it most and who are brave enough to take that initial first step, willing to give our ‘unique’ model for wellness a try. If you’re interested in finding out more about Isorropia Foundation, please do get in touch.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members”
Last, but not least, I’ve been thinking about the question I posed last time around…’What brings you joy?’ Given the time of year, you might want to think of it this way… ’what puts a Spring in your step?’ (humour me, please!)
It has come to light over the past couple of weeks that our team and coaches have quite a range of different activities that they love to do for leisure and self-care. I know I have a pretty long list to pick from when I get the opportunity to unwind and do something for myself. It actually makes it really hard to choose! Sadly, this can lead to procrastination, and (I’m hoping I’m not the only one struggling with this) time often ends up wasted on scrolling through social media. So it has been lovely for me to see the things my colleagues have been doing in their downtime. Check out these photos of the following activities and lovely Isorropia members. Have a think about who might be behind these wonderfully calming, inspiring images. Can you work out which activity belongs to who?
(Names at the bottom of the post if you need some help).*
As always, it would be lovely to hear what it is you do to reset and bring your life back into balance. Why not give some of these activities a try? If you don’t find it easy to prioritise yourself, or like me, struggle to make the best use of your self-care time, maybe book yourself in for a Wellbeing Planning workshop or have a chat with one of our coaches about the activities we have going on in the community right now. *Quick Plug* We are delighted (and incredibly lucky) to be offering our members their very own Fishing Group (exclusively for Isorropia graduate members). This will be starting in May, courtesy of Black Rock Fishing Charters and made possible due to a Sport England grant which aims to support people to be engaged and active – so there is no excuse if you’re feeling curious or inspired to give fishing a try! If you’re an Isorropia graduate member, contact the team on 01983 217791 to find out more details. Non-members can contact Black Rock directly to find out more about the services they offer to the public, visit their website HERE.
Have a lovely few weeks everyone and make the most of the sun when it shines; it really is so good for you 😊
Until next time,
P.S. *Hannah, Molly, Maria, Jamie
One response to “Celebrate | Grow | Reset”
I think I need a reset! 🙌
Hannah – Fishing?
Molly – Horse Riding?
Maria – Mandala Painting?
Jamie – Baking?
I hope everyone enjoys all the Bank Holidays May has this year 🇬🇧 🇬🇧 🇬🇧
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I can hardly believe we are now well into March with Easter already on the horizon. Following that rather unwelcome last bite of winter, we have finally had some sunshine and warmth here on the Island. It is so lovely to see daffodils in abundance and blossoms starting to bud and bloom. I always feel comforted by these sights, with the promise of Spring just around the corner! I hope the sun is shining for you too.
March continues to be busy here at Isorropia Foundation. We look forward to welcoming Tasha and the Wellbeing Fayre team for the very first time here at Medina Valley Centre and, as always, it promises to be a wonderful day for our members. Later this month our Community Engagement Volunteer Tasha is attending the Vectis Radio Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony where she is nominated for an award. We wish her so much luck and are delighted that her hard work and dedication to Isorropia Foundation’s Community is being recognised in this way. It is very much deserved.
Purpose and Potential
You may recall that my last post focused on belonging and community, and today’s post is a continuation of that theme. Community is such a big piece in the Isorropia puzzle and is what sets us apart from other mental health services, so it felt only right to shed more light on it. To recap, it is widely known and accepted that a sense of belonging, being part of a community, and giving something back, are all good for our mental health and wellbeing. The latter is something that we at Isorropia Foundation focus on in Key 5 – ‘Connect to Meaning and Purpose in Life’ (See our ‘Keys to Wellbeing’)
When our CEOs Charlie and Vicki first came to look around MVC they instantly fell in love with it. They met John and Rick, two of the current trustees, and felt a strong sense of connection and shared values of what they felt Medina Valley represented. For more than twelve months they had been researching and exploring potential sites for us to move to and they spent huge amounts of time and energy considering many different options. When a joint visit with the Youth Trust was suggested, they felt hesitant as they thought it would never be able to become a reality. Happily, the outcome of this visit was positive, with Charlie and Vicki feeling an instant sense of peace and calm and knowing it was the most perfect space for people to heal, find connection, and focus on their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. As a result, not one, but two Island organisations now benefit from all this wonderful site has to offer.
Sigmund Freud once described religion as ‘a form of wish fulfilment’ and, although Isorropia Foundation is a whole world away from religion in what we are as an organisation, wish fulfilment is a description that I feel fits well with what we do. One example would be our ‘Overcoming Low Mood’ workshop where we ask our members to think of the person they used to be before they became unwell, or to picture the kind of person they would love to be. Throughout the Wellbeing Programme, we work with members, empowering them with a wealth of tools and techniques to implement in their own lives to “Transform their Wellbeing – Discover their Purpose – Reach their Potential”. In essence, we do all that we can to aid our members in becoming that version of themselves that they so wish to be.
“If meaning is finding what makes your heart sing, then purpose is how you share this with others”Charlie Bell CEO Isorropia Foundation
The School of Life London (www.theschooloflife.com) has recently highlighted the importance of pursuing a career that will be personally fulfilling (The Career Workbook). They point out how upbringing and our past can influence later career choices, highlighting that the right job can give our lives, purpose, and meaning. This is nothing new to us at Isorropia Foundation, but many of the people who come to us have absolutely no idea what their meaning or purpose in life actually is. The School of Life claim that:
“Many of the answers we need to better direct our futures are inside us, but we need help in getting them out, in making sense of them and in assembling them into a plan.”
This is why we are so proud of The Gift Foundation Course here at Isorropia Foundation because it provides that opportunity for our members to gain some focus and guidance in identifying what their passions are, what they want to do with their lives, and how they might go about pursuing those ambitions. Essentially, they are discovering their Ikigai; their meaning and purpose. And that is no small thing!
Ikigai – /ik-ee-guy/ noun
“A reason for being. A combination of values, passions and vocation that give meaning to your life. The reason you get out of bed in the morning”
Prior to The Gift Foundation Course, most of our members will have attended a number of workshops on the Wellbeing Programme. In our ‘Confidence and Self-Esteem’ workshops, we encourage members to consider what ‘Community’ means to them, what they could bring to a community, and what communities outside of Isorropia Foundation they would like to be part of. The aim is to highlight the huge boost that can be felt from identifying a role for yourself within a community, embracing that opportunity, and making it a reality. This, and other exercises on the programme, pave the way towards The Gift Foundation Course, meaning that members are better prepared when they arrive, with some idea already as to what they might want to achieve in their future.
We also empower our Graduate members, who have completed The Gift Foundation Course, to continue exploring these passions, talents, and interests, with a view to creating additional social groups for our community members to access. We believe that the opportunity to create and lead a social group of their own design is pretty motivational and inspiring. Admittedly, there are still some hurdles to negotiate as we continue to find our feet here at MVC, but rest assured…there are plans taking shape and dreams yet to be pursued as we take a collective stride towards realising Isorropia Foundation’s full potential, as well as that of our members.
Are you feeling inspired yet? What group would you launch if you were given the chance?
We pride ourselves on being role models to our members here at Isorropia Foundation and, as such, recently took part in a Team Gift Day. We were asked to consider what brings us joy. Two things stood out to me during our session. One was that despite many of us being lucky enough to have regular ‘me-time’, we didn’t always use this time wisely. All of us could name the things that brought us joy, but few were actually prioritising ‘me-time’ as a time for doing those things. The second point was that many of our ‘joyful’ activities were things that our team had enjoyed way back in childhood, as teenagers, or (for those of us with children) prior to becoming parents. Why is this I wonder?
The Shaping Us Campaign
In my last post, I invited you to dig out a photo of yourselves from your early childhood. This related to the Shaping Us campaign recently launched by the Princess of Wales. This campaign highlights the importance of the first 5 years of a child’s life. In a conversation with Roman Kemp, Catherine described the reasons behind this, stating that it is: “…a critical time to lay the foundations for our future selves”. This is very similar to the way we introduce our first Key to Wellbeing – ‘Create the Foundations of Stability’. It is a simple concept to grasp; if we don’t get the basics right for ourselves (food, water, shelter) then we are going to be hard pushed to achieve any real sense of wellness. This relates back to Maslow’s Hierarchy (see previous post), with Basic Human Needs being essential, ahead of anything else.
Prior to the Shaping Us campaign, Catherine once quoted the African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ It’s an interesting idea that the communities we grow up in play an integral part in who we later become. It’s also surprising how many communities one family can be part of at one time! This certainly struck me when I joined in with the campaign initiative encouraging people to share photos of themselves aged under 5 years. You’ll see here a photo of myself skipping. I would have been around age 4/5 years. It was taken in the garden of the house I was born in; we lived in a rural village in Hampshire. My dad was a member of the Southsea Rowing Club and the Territorial Army. My mum was a prominent figure in the village, having founded the local Playgroup and was part of the Babysitting Circle. My brother was a Cub Scout, later becoming an Army Cadet. I was a gymnast at the local gymnastics club, before joining the Brownies. Perhaps the most important community for us came several years later when we joined Gingerbread (for single-parent families) after my parents divorced, and where joy was found following sadness.
If you managed to find a photo, are you able to identify any communities that you and your families were part of at that time? Do you think they ‘shaped’ you at all and if so, in what ways?
In ‘Shaping Us’ we, as a society, are encouraged to support families and parents in our local communities to enable them the best chance of raising happier children with brighter futures. This is a big part of our work at Isorropia Foundation. As a society, this campaign encourages us to create a supportive, nurturing world around the child and the carer and although not all our members are parents, many are. We also have members who have nieces and nephews or are old enough to have grandchildren. Some of our members are young enough to have younger siblings at home of school age. So we are aware of the families our members return home to after our workshops. We are also very aware of the ripple effect that can result from the work we do. As such, we have an upcoming opportunity for the general public to attend a fully-funded Community Wellbeing Event, ‘The Gift Foundation Course’, and in advertising this we encourage people to sign up, if not for their own mental health and wellbeing, then for the benefits they could pass on to others at home or in their wider social circles.
We are not yet working directly with young children but this is something that we, as an organisation, are passionate about and actively working towards. This month has seen the exciting development of a new role for our Senior Wellbeing Coach, Lisa Fennessey, who is now working collaboratively with the IOW Youth Trust as our Children and Young Persons Transitions Co-ordinator. Lisa will be taking Isorropia Foundation’s message out to a new audience, including 16–18-year-olds. This is in addition to the work Lisa has already undertaken with IOWYT and John Cattle Skate Club for the Skateboarding Project, which combined the benefits of engaging in a sport and discussions around wellbeing.
These are very exciting times and we look forward to seeing where this new direction takes us – hopefully we will soon be empowering members from an even younger age. For the time being, we take comfort from the fact that we are doing the best we can for children in our local community by empowering their parents and other family members to learn as much as they can about wellness and wellbeing maintenance, trusting that the message will filter through.
I thought it would be lovely to sign off this month with a little insight into what our wonderful volunteers have been getting up to. It is so rewarding to see our members thriving under Isorropia’s community umbrella and out in their own communities, following graduation.
We have recently benefitted from the talents of Graduate members who have volunteered to:
- cut hair for free (Di Schwulst) and paint nails (Tasha West) at our Wellbeing Fayres supporting members with self-care and pampering
- provide fun karaoke opportunities both inside Isorropia Foundation and out in the wider Island community at Aspire Ryde’s Creative Hub (John Fisher) providing social connection with the joy of singing
- create homemade draft excluders and heat packs throughout the winter months to help keep our members warm and cosy (Stitching with Nay – Sewing Group members)
Our Chronic Pain group leader, Julie, continues to explore her lifelong passion for all things Viking/Dark Ages through her participation in the Re-enactment group ‘Wolfguard’. Julie is a highly valued member of this active community, having joined over 30 years ago! (see ‘Wolfguard‘ on Facebook for events). We have previously benefited from their wisdom and knowledge through Living History talks at our Wellbeing Fayres.
We have also welcomed a new cohort of Mentors who will be attending workshops alongside new members who feel they need a little more reassurance when first embarking on their wellness journey.
Keep up the great work everyone; you are so valued and your efforts are appreciated beyond measure. We are so very proud of you all.
I shall bid you farewell for now, until next time, as I’m eager to get into the kitchen…a little birdie told me there’s a baking competition planned for our next Wellbeing Fayre! So, if baking is your thing, why not whip something up and let me know how it goes in the comments. I’m always up for trying new ideas (must be that core value – Adopt an Open and Positive Mindset coming through!) Happy Baking everyone…
Catch up again soon,
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Hi everyone and welcome back to ‘Inside Isorropia – The Blog’
We now find ourselves in February and after some very cold and frosty winter mornings down at Medina Valley Centre, we are looking forward to longer days and more sunshine as we head towards Spring. Our team are still very much awed by the beauty of the river and trying to capture that beauty in photographs is becoming a shared hobby for all of us. I have it on good authority that two of our Wellbeing Coaches have recently enrolled on a Photography course, so this could well lead to some healthy competition developing; maybe we should create a photo gallery at MVC to showcase our wonderful setting and our talented team members?! Or I could invite them all to submit a photo – the best of which could be featured in the next blog post. I do love to see creativity being explored and developed and I think it would be lovely to share the results with you all too. What do you think?
The basis of everything we do at Isorropia Foundation lies in our ethos and core values which are neatly packaged into our Five Keys to Wellbeing (See ‘Our Core Values’ page). Much of what we do is about empowering people. We want everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and valued. We hear all too often from members that these things have been missing in their lives, despite often having been through many other services in their mental health journeys. Others may be feeling that they have exhausted all options open to them in their existing social circles. Often we work with those who either a) don’t have an existing support network or b) feel misunderstood or isolated within their own family or circle of friends. This is something we address early on here at Isorropia so as to get our members off to the best possible start with lots of hope and positivity for a brighter-looking future.
Belonging has been of particular interest to Psychologists since the pioneering work of Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, way back in 1943 (See image below). However, studies continue to be done right up to the current day (“Researchers identify a potential neural signature of social belonging” Psypost.org 12/02/23) In this article it was stated that: “Belonging to social groups is one of the basic emotional needs people have. It is crucial for a person’s mental health and wellbeing”. This should come as no surprise to our members because we talk about this frequently throughout our programme of workshops.
Dictionary definitions describe belonging as this:
‘a sense of fitting in and feeling like an important member of a group’vocabulary.com
‘a feeling of being happy or comfortable as part of a particular group and having good relationships with the other members because they welcome you and accept you’dictionary.cambridge.org
Right from the outset, our work with members is group based. We find this environment works incredibly well for people, despite their initial (and understandable) anxieties. Members are made aware that they are all in the same or similar situations; we often refer to this as experiencing ‘the same storm in different boats’. Members often report feeling comforted in knowing that they are amongst others who can easily relate to and identify with what they are going through, including the facilitating staff (see ‘Meet the Team’ to discover more about the lived experience of our Wellbeing Coaches). As recent as the last workshop I facilitated, members have highlighted a strength of the group dynamic being the realisation that they are not alone.
We believe that a sense of belonging continues to grow and develop throughout the Wellbeing Programme through the provision of regular and continued opportunities for member engagement, both in workshops and at our Wellbeing Fayres (previously known as Pamper Days). Following on from this, there are a multitude of activities available to our members in the Community side of Isorropia (Community Umbrella) and this is where friendships really begin to form and connections strengthen. The feeling of belonging that comes from being part of Isorropia plays an enormous role in raising the confidence of our members. They grow in confidence as individuals, but often as a result of feeling the support of other members who journey alongside them. One member described having ‘found my tribe’ which illustrates this point beautifully. Our Community Engagement volunteer, Tasha West calls them ‘The Isorropia Army’.
‘A social group whose members have something in common’dictionary.com
‘People who are considered as a unit because of their common interests or social group’dictionary.cambridge.org
For us at Isorropia Foundation, this unifying factor or ‘commonality’, is that our members have collectively reached a significant point in their wellness journey i.e.) they have graduated from the Wellbeing Programme into Isorropia’s Community Umbrella. It is at this point that members are more likely to have formed strong social connections and are sufficiently equipped to manage their own ongoing mental health and wellbeing.
Being immersed in a group of like-minded people with common interests is empowering and it does amazing things for our wellbeing! It is no surprise then that ‘Relating’ has been identified by actionforhappiness.org as one of the ‘10 Keys to Happier Living’:
“The people around you offer a valuable pool of support so it’s important to put time into strengthening those connections”
I think there is much more to it though than simply having people around you who can offer support. Have you ever been part of a group who have worked together to accomplish something? I know I have and I believe it is this that really makes the difference – there needs to be something special that bonds you together, don’t you think? None of the definitions above celebrates the wonderful feeling that comes from being part of a community. Our members report experiencing a collective feeling of achievement, at having completed something so important and so powerful together and this can be incredibly bonding for them (some of whom may not have completed anything before, as an individual or as a group and may also feel they have nothing at all to be proud of). We pride ourselves on creating a friendly, non-judgmental environment for our members where they feel safe to explore and grow by gradually building the courage to push themselves out of their comfort zones. Members do the hard work; we are simply there as a safety net and that’s what enables such positive results.
Some of the comments and compliments we have received thus far as an organisation allude to the points raised above. For example:
“I’m enjoying being a part of something again. Something only Isorropia can provide…community.”
“Before Isorropia I had become a recluse. Since being an Isorropia Graduate I now attend two social groups. They’re my therapy.”
“I thought the whole programme was brilliant and so useful. I found a sense of connection with others.”
“I feel connected to others and know that I can talk and open up to others.”
“The Pamper Day has allowed me to tap into things I used to love doing. Isorropia and the community gave me the confidence to push myself.”
It isn’t just Isorropia community groups that our members have access to. Once they reach the point of completing The Gift Course they are also invited to join Isorropia’s online community on Facebook, which offers another form of social connection for members. This has been particularly helpful for those who face challenges in attending social groups due to limitations around availability, transport or mobility.
We also encourage and empower our members to connect with the wider Island community whenever they feel ready to do so. If you pop by to read the next instalment of Inside Isorropia you can look forward to learning more about what our Community Umbrella has to offer and the different ways our members can benefit and get involved. I shall also shine a light on some of the wonderful contributions our members have already made within our unique community.
If you are interested in (or you know someone else who could benefit from) what we have to offer, then please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you…
Until next time,
Before I go, did any of you see this recent photo release of the Princess of Wales from when she was a baby? It was released as part of her #ShapingUs campaign designed to start conversations about early childhood. I managed to find a picture of myself, taken in 1984 at a guess, and it got me thinking about the communities myself and my family were part of at that time. So, here’s a little challenge for you – see if you can dig out a photo or two of yourself or your children (aged under 5 years) and have them to hand, ready for the next post…I have a plan!
Wonderful piece Lucy!
I shall start digging today 😀
A really interesting piece and so true in my case. I certainly have felt a sense of belonging from attending the weekly well-being wander which has led me to more confidence in myself. Though always a work in progress, I find huge comfort in not being isolated. The kindness and welcoming approach of both members and well-being coaches alike over the last 15 months has significantly aided my recovery.
A lovely piece on “belonging” it really home to me today as it was the first meeting after “The Gift” and this sense of belonging really came home to me as an only child and at 73 I,ve in away felt isolated never really belonging to anything.It certainly taken a long time but I think you’ll agree only being on The Island 9 months through isorropia I feel a genuine comfort feeling of belonging, thank you all at isorropia.
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First and foremost, ‘welcome one and all’ to Isorropia Foundation’s blog and our first-ever post. My name is Lucy and I’m one of the Wellbeing Coaches here at Isorropia (You can find out more about myself and the rest of the team in the ‘Meet The Team’ section of the website). I’m absolutely thrilled to be at the helm of this exciting new venture and delighted to have you on board!
A blog has been a goal for us as an organisation for some time, but right now we are going through a transitional phase and it seems like the perfect time to launch it. (If you aren’t familiar with Isorropia yet and would like to know more about what we do as a wellbeing organisation, please take a look at the ‘Home’ page, or why not browse the whole site to really get a feel for who we are and what we are all about!) Our aim for the blog is to provide interesting reads on a regular basis, tapping into our local history, geography and community here on the Isle of Wight whilst, at the same time, sharing insight into our goals, values and mission as a wellbeing organisation on the Isle of Wight.
A little bit about me
I have always been very creative, since way back when I was at school. I loved art and writing stories; English Language was my favourite subject. I am still creative now, not only with writing and art, but also in photography and problem-solving, all of which have helped me in my recovery from depression and anxiety, and in getting back into the workplace. I am a big advocate for the role creative pursuits can play in improving our mental health and wellbeing. I find it interesting how language is a fundamental part of development which enables us to live our normal, day-to-day lives, yet it is so often used creatively to help process and express the more emotionally challenging aspects of life.
I only work part-time, so on my days off, if I’ve had time to get creative in the kitchen, I will occasionally treat the office to home-baked cakes! And whilst I’m on the subject of baking, why don’t you grab yourself something yummy to eat (slice of cake or a cookie maybe?) and a nice cup of tea, make yourself comfy and I’ll get started on telling you all about our new home!
Our New Home
After a period of feeling a little over-crowded at our Newport office, it was clear to see that we had outgrown it and were in need of new premises. Following many months of uncertainty around where Isorropia would be moving to, the team were delighted to discover our new home was to be The Medina Valley Centre. Still technically in Newport, but a world away from the noisy traffic on the High Street and the all-too-frequent sirens in and around town.
One gloriously sunny September morning the team headed down to take a look and ‘Wow!’. Quite frankly it was blissful. It was like we’d hit the office jackpot!! Charlie Bell and Vicki Haworth, our CEOs had clearly put an enormous amount of time and effort into finding us the perfect location where Isorropia Foundation could, not only put down roots but also continue to grow.
Medina Valley Centre is situated on the River Medina, down a narrow country lane and, on arrival, it feels instantly like a little haven of peace and tranquillity. I think I speak for the whole team in saying that we were completely awed by the sheer beauty of the surroundings and the abundance of nature in such close proximity to where we would soon be working. It was a powerful moment. We were inspired, excited, curious, and maybe even a little overwhelmed by the enormous potential at MVC, but ultimately, we couldn’t wait to get moved in.
Not a Physical Place
Having researched the definitions of ‘home’, I liked how urbandictionary.com stated: ‘Home doesn’t have to be a house. It can be anywhere or anything.’
“Home is not a physical place. It is the place where your soul feels it belongs, where you can unapologetically be yourself, where you are loved for your authentic self. Home is the place where you don’t have to work hard just to be loved.” (Najwa Zebian)
I recently stumbled across this lovely description of ‘Home’ by Najwa Zebian (Lebanese-Canadian author) from her book ‘Welcome Home: A Guide to Building a Home for Your Soul’ and was struck by how well it fits with our ethos here at Isorropia. For our team and members, including those who choose to become volunteers, we are very much about encouraging each other to show up authentically – to be our authentic selves. One of the more common reasons cited for why we in the team enjoy working for Isorropia so much is exactly that; they feel able to show up and be themselves completely, with no fear of judgement, no pressure to ‘fit in’ or conform. As an organisation, we feel this is huge, not only for our team but for our members too. This is reflected in our person-centred, holistic approach, whereby we empower members to consider and embody their whole selves right from the very outset.
A Mooring Post
A mooring post can be used to describe someone’s stabilising influence or security. It seemed fitting to me that, whilst we have always known we provide a ‘stabilising influence’ for our members, now, in our riverside setting, we have acquired our very own mooring post to secure ourselves to as an organisation.
As a wellbeing organisation part of our role is to empower our members, many of whom are living with physical and mental health conditions and for whom life has thrown up many challenges. Consequently, it is a sad but true fact that a large number of these people don’t have a great deal of stability in their day-to-day lives. Our very first Key to Wellbeing (See ‘About Us’ page) is to ‘Create the Foundations of Stability’ and the ongoing role that we play in this is to be ‘ever-present’ or a ‘constant’ for our members. Our outcomes show that by keeping this at the forefront of what we do, we are able to form trusting relationships with members and, as a result, they feel safe and secure with us, throughout their wellness journey.
There are already many ideas in discussion about how we may utilise our mooring post and get the best from our wonderful new location going forward, so be sure to keep checking in to the blog for updates on future plans.
We have received so much feedback from members expressing that they have found Isorropia’s Wellbeing Programme to be a life-changing experience. As an organisation, we have grown from small seeds as a handful of individuals with a similar passion and drive for positive change, to now a growing and thriving team with big ambitions for how we can continue to reach more and more people and in different ways. This blog is just one of them.
Our rationale for ‘Inside Isorropia – The Blog’ is tied to the idea that we are now also here in a virtual capacity for our members, providing another means for connection to those individuals who aren’t always able to access Isorropia Foundation in person. The blog will also serve to increase awareness in the wider online community about the wonderful things we are doing here at Medina Valley.
The most important message today is that we will continue to be a safe place where individuals can come to learn skills to transform their wellbeing and reach their full potential – the only real change being that we have a different address, a new place to call ‘Home’, prettier views from our windows and the wonderful sound of birdsong ringing in our ears! What’s not to love?!
I look forward to being here to share more from Inside Isorropia again with you all very soon,
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