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Seabirds – Grant Support Report

Thank you to Paddle Round The Pier Charity for supporting Seabirds, your kindness and donation to us will go a long way to helping us achieve our aims.

We have run a pilot session and grown our community swim group and are now ready to launch the ‘Women, Wellbeing and Water’ course in June. As per our application the funds will be used to commission a freelance project coordinator to lead the project who’s responsibilities would include:

  • Creation of a robust operating infrastructure including policies and procedures including, risk assessments, public liability insurance, emergency action plans, volunteer agreements, safeguarding policies etc
  • Liaise with agencies to promote course and accept referrals
  • Monitoring of course outcomes, lead a post implementation review and create action plans for course improvements
  • Lead volunteers, source qualified coaches and lifeguards.
  • Be first point of contact for participants
  • Facilitate talks and build relationships with wider beach community and established agencies and groups.
  • Secure facilities
  • Create session plans

We intend to run a 6 week course focussing on women’s confidence in the water.

For women who wish to improve their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.  There are lots of courses locally run to help people transition from the pool to the sea but many people are intimidated by these courses. Many women struggle to get into a swim suit, let alone a pool or the wide open sea. Yet it is exactly these women that would benefit so much from introducing open water swimming into their lives. This initial programme will be the pilot for further courses.

We understand that there are points in people’s lives where they need support to build resilience and to make improvements to their wellbeing. We believe that outdoor swimming can improve outcomes for women experiencing mental health challenges from first-hand experience.

Modern day living is a challenge, particularly in times of austerity. Services are being cut and many vulnerable women are falling through the net. Brighton & Hove residents have higher levels of mental illhealth than the average for England, across a range of indicators. A third more people have a diagnosis of severe mental illness and nearly 10% more (aged 18 and over) have a diagnosis of depression recorded by their GP. (Brighton and Hove Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy 2014-2017) In England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem1 and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders (Mental Health Foundation)

Many women that would benefit most from sport and physical activity.

They are however the very women who are least likely to participate for cultural, personal, practical, and economic reasons. Helping women to overcome these barriers and supporting them to engage in activity will provide them with many positive outcomes and ensure that access to sport and physical activity is equal for all.

Open water swimming benefits have been researched and written about a great deal over the last few years and is often referred to as Blue Science. In 2009, Prof Michael Depledge and Dr William Bird, from the European Centre for Environment and Health, based out of the University of Exeter Medical School, proposed a notion called the “Blue Gym” – the idea being that the sea can be used as motivation to exercise outdoors to influence health and wellbeing.They found that regular contact with natural environments provided three major health benefits: reduced stress, increased physical activity and created stronger communities. They also found that people who lived 1km from the coast had much better self-reported health than those who lived inland.

Various social factors put women at greater risk of poor mental health than men. However, women’s readiness to talk about their feelings and their strong social networks can help protect their mental health. Seabirds already have an established network of sea swimmers that gain confidence and happiness from being part of a community group. The course would act as a foundation for women to join the already established swimming community group providing them with respite from daily worries, a support network and a regular activity and meet up.

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