Two months have now passed since I started working in cooperation with The Welcome Project to provide Karate classes as a form of activity for people that suffer with mental health issues. It is widely recognised that physical activity has a very positive impact on mental wellbeing and Karate offers a wide range of benefits for all students.
The Welcome Project is a part of the Catalyst charity. Catalyst is an independent charity which has been in operation for over 30 years. It is a non-profit organisation that works with people who are dealing with issues stemming from drug and alcohol misuse and mental health across the Surrey area.
The Welcome Project team work in partnership with other charities and volunteers to provide a variety of activities, support, guidance and opportunities for people who feel isolated, have lost their focus, suffer from anxiety or need a change of direction and live in the areas of Guildford, Waverley or Surrey Heath between the age of 18 and 65.
For further information about Catalyst and the The Welcome Project, please visit their websites at the links below:
At the beginning of the year I contacted Catalyst to ask if my skills could be used in any way to help them. Catalyst diverted me to the Godalming branch of The Welcome Project where I met Debbie, a very friendly, no nonsense character, who offered me an opportunity to teach Karate to their clients.
After clearing all of the required checks for becoming a volunteer within the organisation I began to teach Shin Ai Do Karate at the Wilfrid Noyce Centre on the 10th of March.
I have to say that I was initially very stressed as I do suffer with mild anxiety. My main thought was “what should I expect?” Would I be able to find a common language with the new group? How will I design a suitable programme to meet the students’ needs/expectations? Will anyone be interested?
Having suffered with anxiety throughout my life I taken the approach that I will challenge whatever is causing me to be stressed. If a task worries me I will just get on with it and in most cases this results in me realising that there really was nothing to worry about. So with this challenge I decided to stop worrying and just went for it.
I cannot remember where this quote came from, but I think it is a good reminder to me about my anxiety. “Fear knocked on my door, but when I opened it there was no one there.”
The first class was a stress bomb for me, but when four students turned up I thought “it’s not that bad, some people have come to learn Karate, now I have an opportunity to do something useful.”
Normally when I have a new group of students I introduce myself and then we start training. This time I was so stressed and it appeared to me that the students were experiencing a similar level of stress so I thought that the best option would be to sit down and have a 20min chat about who we are, why we are here etc. I have to say that it was a great relief to me and hopefully for everyone else when we established that we all had similar worries about this first class. As in most cases it turned out that there was no point in me being worried about not finding a connection. I think my only problem was my Polish accent, but so what if I had to repeat some things a few times or rephrase them. I am always looking for opportunities to improve my English!
Now after two months we have a group of 10 students that attend classes on an irregular basis as not everyone can attend all the time, but the classes have become an established part of my week and I think this is true for others as well as they are returning. Hopefully we will grow in numbers in the future and can provide Karate classes to people who want to have a workout, gain discipline and build their self-confidence and self-esteem.
It is great to be part of a project that is supporting people with mental health issues. I hope that through these actions we will bring more awareness to this often unseen condition.