Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal
In Boyup Brook, WA, the Community Resource Centre wanted to encourage older locals to keep fit and healthy. Despite the large numbers in the area (49% of community members are over the age of 50) there was no exercise group locally catering to the older age bracket, who are at risk from a sedentary lifestyle which affects their health and puts subsequent pressure on local health services.
With four staff, 48 members and a committee of eight, the Boyup Brook Community Resource Centre (BBCRC) already plays a big part in the health and wellbeing of the community, hosting a visiting chiropractor, running a community garden, offering cancer support information and various other exercise classes.
The Centre applied to FRRR for funding to run a Seniors Exercise and Activity (SEA) Program. They felt the program would improve the cardio-fitness and mobility of elderly community members and fill an unmet need in the town, capturing “a segment of the population who will benefit from movement and activity but who don’t necessarily want to go to a more strenuous class.”
In July 2019, with a $4,419 Strengthening Rural Communities grant funded by the John T Reid Charitable Trusts, arrangements were made for the program to start. The Boyup Brook Town Hall was booked to provide a central, accessible and comfortable venue for participants. Equipment was purchased, and the class was advertised in the Boyup Gazette, on noticeboards in the community, the website, social media and also promoted by word of mouth.
Classes ran from August 2019 until June 2020, and were facilitated by CRC Manager Jodi Nield, who holds a Bachelor of Science (Sports Science) and has many years of experience in conducting similar projects. Through her position and involvement in the community, Jodi already had good rapport with local seniors.
Each session was planned to incorporate a variety of group and individual exercises, games and circuit activities that promoted fitness, flexibility, strength and balance. Participants were encouraged to exercise at their own pace with support from the instructor, and encouragement from fellow participants.
Funding also enabled the production of exercise booklets, which were a key component in enabling participants to continue their exercise at home when classes couldn’t be held face to face due to COVID-19 restrictions. Not everyone returned following the break, but the 40 sessions were still able to be conducted during the term of the project, with an average of 12 people attending each session.
“I am most proud of how the program was diverse and inclusive of disability. One participant was a leg amputee, and another an arm amputee. Others had restricted movement in knees, wrists and shoulders. Some had good levels of physical fitness, whereas others had limited fitness, however all were included in the program with alternative activities provided if required.”Jodi Nield
Manager, Boyup Brook Community Resource Centre
This project not only improved the fitness and quality of life of these residents, but also their social connections and emotional wellbeing. Ms Nield noted that many of the participants were heading out for coffee following the sessions, and the whole community will indirectly benefit from a more connected and engaged senior demographic.
In the communities of the Southern Beaches in Tasmania, which are home to around 5,000 residents, Okines Community House supports local residents through a range of programs offering opportunities for connection, learning and support. At the side of the House, a three-square metre converted shed houses the Food Co-op, which has 120 members including 55 active volunteers, and is highly valued in the community.
The Co-op runs a food assistance program for families in need, including a Breakfast Club, and the school and other local organisations purchase food from the Co-op for their programs. It plays an important role in providing access to nutritious, organic, ethically and sustainably sourced food with minimal packaging at affordable prices. The location is very convenient too, but the space is small.
Despite the Co-op volunteers resourcefully using every nook and cranny in the small shed, the lack of space was still very limiting for this growing enterprise, with shoppers cramped and having to wait outside when queuing to pay and nowhere to store orders for pick up.
To allow the venture to grow, Okines Community House sought funding from the Strengthening Rural Communities program. Their application outlined a 2×4 metre extension to the shed that would be used for storage and display, with a local contractor enlisted to build the extension, and in-kind support from OCH and Co-op volunteers in site preparation and cleaning.
With a $10,000 grant funded by John T Reid Charitable Trusts, they set to work in early 2020, and despite the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, finished the extension in July 2020.
Their new space is user friendly – shoppers move around with more ease, and volunteers can work without bumping into one another! This is an expansion of infrastructure that has improved the efficiency and experience of the enterprise for everyone involved.