Helping others column with Karen Weaver

Dorothy Hawkins next to the Dancing for Well-Being display at BCC OD.
Dorothy Hawkins next to the Dancing for Well-Being display at BCC OD.
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I really like this quote which I first came across a few years ago on the wall of the Bivouac Cafe near Masham “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”.

We hear so much on the news about the pressures on the NHS and social care services, and the many challenges arising from the fact that we are living longer but often with long-term health conditions.

There is a growing issue of loneliness and most of us don’t get as much exercise as we should. The news generally can seem full of storms and feel very negative, but at HARCVS we regularly see the positive difference people are making in our communities and in the case of one quite new voluntary organisation, literally dancing!

“Dancing for Well-being” was founded by Jackie Terry in 2015, building on her own experience of the benefits of being fit and active, and her ambition to provided adapted dance activities that would be accessible to everyone.

Four groups are now running locally and regular volunteer Dorothy Hawkins explains how she got involved.

She said: “It was while volunteering with a group who run services for people with dementia that I first met Jackie and discovered the wonderful world of Dancing for Well-Being. She was running a session at a memory cafe for people with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, together with some of their carers and support workers.

“The enjoyment people got from taking part in this session was obvious very early on. It was amazing to see those who didn’t normally smile, smile and couples where one was the main carer being able to share some fun and laugh together brought a lump to my throat.

“Jackie mentioned she was starting a new weekly Dancing for Well-Being group in Bilton and was looking for volunteers. 18 months later I still can’t sing the praises of Dancing for Well-Being loudly enough.

“The members have a variety of health problems, such as arthritis, heart conditions, breathing problems, Parkinson’s, dementia and depression, and some have caring responsibilities.

“Not only are people with limited mobility able to do a form of exercise, they are singing along to the music too. There is much laughter and camaraderie, and a feeling of belonging to a group of like-minded people. Many hands have been reached out in friendship and there is a lot of support from the members to each other and to us who help run it.

“We dance to help keep our bodies mobile and the music also exercises our vocal chords and brain and the well-being factor is not only beneficial for our physical health but for our mental health too.

“We see people who come in sometimes downtrodden with pain and stress and they leave smiling. What more could a volunteer ask for than to be part of such a wonderful group, to see how much it gives to people and to see them flourish from an afternoon of Dancing for Well-Being. This volunteer smiles all the way home too.”

Many thanks to Dorothy, both for being and sharing her experience as a volunteer.

As she and Jackie Terry’s fabulous “Dancing for Well-being” groups illustrate so well, “learning to dance in the rain” is good advice we can all follow.

Find out more about Dancing for Wellbeing via www.dancingforwellbeing.org and visit www.harcvs.org.uk for information on the wide range of volunteering opportunities, groups and activities in the Harrogate District.