Since taking up a new post as Outer North Neighbourhood Health Improvement Project Development Worker last Autumn, Hayleigh Fleming has hit the ground running.
The Rosemount native has wasted no time in developing and introducing a range of new community-based projects aimed at taking an holistic approach to health in the community, with a passion for ensuring no one is left out or left behind.
The aim of the Neighbourhood Health Improvement Project (NHIP) is to develop an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing health improvement and, with this in mind, Hayleigh has developed a range of existing and new initiatives from the Outer North base at Shantallow Community Centre.
Hayleigh, who is also in the final year of her Community Development Degree at Jordanstown, said projects which have really taken off include the Physical Activities programme.
“When I arrived there were set action plans in place, but here was one of the areas where there wasn’t as big of a push on physical activity. We have the gym; we have great facilities here. We started a Boot Camp and we had over 120 people from the area signed up, coming weekly for free classes. We found a lot of people were coming in together, such as mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. The people coming loved it and they are still continuing with it. It will start again in September with another big drive for people to come on board.
“On the back of that, we did the Nutrition Classes too and there has been a range of physical activity programmes within the Outer North area.”
Some of those attending the Boot Camps, Hayleigh said, had been on ‘fad diets,’ which resulted in the project exploring nutrition with them. This in turn fed into the One Big Health event, during which people could avail of trusted information and health checks, with different experts and agencies there to give advice. “With the culture we are in, a lot of people coming through the doors are having body confidence issues and it’s about tapping into that and telling them these fad diets are not where you are supposed to be going.”
Local residents were also offered free adults beginners swimming lessons and over 40 people have so far learned to swim at the City Swimming Baths, on William Street, with cards issued to them so people could continue with the activity.
“It’s about building confidence. It’s about getting improvement and offering them other programmes which are available and it is primarily about getting people out of the house,” Hayleigh declared.
Hayleigh’s background and experiences, volunteering with Young Enterprise from the age of 18 and volunteering on youth and community projects with Hillcrest in the Waterside and the Glen area, with CRAFT in Rosemount Factory, and working alongside the Pink Ladies, Off The Streets and Compassionate Communities since, have helped inform and shape the programmes now under way.
“My mum, Natalie Fleming is secretary of the Trades Council and she is co-ordinator of the Work Ready programme and a disability advisor, so I’ve always had that grassroots level passion for community development,” she said.
Other strands to the programme include addressing services for younger and older people across and mental health across the Outer North area, working with existing community groups and the wider public to develop open days and courses. “I managed to secure Mental Health First Aid recently here and we have nearly 30 people who received accreditation for that and ongoing from that there will be a pilot programme with Marie Dunne, who delivers the programme, in September/ October time. We were inundated with people looking to do this, we could have run three of them - that shows how important it is to this town.
“We are looking at the young people - they are the next generation coming forward and it’s about embedding these health programmes into them now to set them up for the future, and with mental health being so prevalent in our town at the moment, it’s important that we, as community workers, are taking a stand and try to do something about it and continue applying for the funding for it.”
The Outer North project recently also launched the ‘Take 5’ campaign in each of the areas it serves. This involved planting five apple trees with supporting campaigns to raise awareness and create a focal point around the five steps to well being: Connect, Be Active, Give, Take Notice and Learning.
Hayleigh, previously, worked with people with Dementia in the Waterside and has developed the Eden Project in Shantallow for people with mild to moderate dementia. “Every week I go out and collect them and bring them in and they have their lunch. It involves stimulating people, getting them around people with the same experience as themselves so they can talk about things. They play bowls, we take them on trips and it is also about getting them out of the house and giving families respite. The group is ongoing; they love it and we are hopeful we will secure funding for this group for the next couple of years. The Eden Project has been so successful down here that I am hoping to run a wee Memory Group up in Rosemount as well.”
And the results, measured against official monitoring criteria, show that the grass roots programmes are paying major dividends and helping transform lives. “It’s about leaving nobody behind. It’s about ensuring every area is getting something out of it and residents of the areas are getting seen to. NHIP is about equality of access, access for all,” Hayleigh concluded.