Who Built the Ark?
Noah’s Ark was established in 2000 to serve the locality of Ovenden, expanding over recent years to cover the whole of Calderdale. It was built by the community, for the community, with the aim of improving users’ mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing. They are now the largest voluntary-sector provider of therapeutic services in Calderdale, working in partnership with Calderdale Council, to provide a safe haven and place of hope for the whole community.
They exist as a place of welcome where clients may find the support to harness their inner resources to overcome the problems they may face; providing counselling, a money advice service and various other resources to support clients. Through their work, they aim to promote self-worth, resilience and freedom from negative coping strategies.
As a charity, working on a low-cost, affordable fee basis, they are able to work with clients who may otherwise be unable to access counselling services. Enabling all clients to have this access, helps them to work in a way which best supports the clients as individuals rather than a ‘one size fits all’ model of therapy. Their ethos and model of work is unique within the Calderdale area.
Active Calderdale and Noah’s Ark have recently started collaborating on a project with the idea of making moving more a key part of the service they offer. Noah’s Ark’s interest is primarily around the emotional and financial resilience of their client group. They are aware that physical activity improves emotional resilience and their own evidence demonstrates that improved financial resilience leads to improved emotional resilience. There is a tangible relationship between physical, emotional and financial health.
They feel that linking a project promoting physical activity would align nicely with their core work and they do not have the capacity to undertake and implement additional offers because of the extensive numbers of clients coming to them for help at this difficult time. It is currently increasing month on month.
Noah’s Ark aims for the project include:
- Integrating work around activity, wellbeing and confidence into their current work around money/debt advice, financial capability and food.
- Embedding physical activity into Noah’s Ark at an organisational level.
- Modifying initial client contact/assessment process to identify interest in improving physical activity for clients of their money advice and counselling services.
- Once a client is identified as wanting to improve levels of physical activity complete a physical wellbeing assessment.
- Provide one to one support to individuals to access a diverse range of physical activity and sport provision in-house and in the community.
- Develop their offer to embed physical activity as a key part of a client's journey to improved emotional health & wellbeing, financial wellbeing and physical well-being.
- Include a Programme of Activities.
- Providing Active at Home booklets to those users showing interest.
Andrew Sykes, Funding Manager at Noah’s Ark, has been pivotal in engaging and making quick changes based on physical activity and opportunities to move more.
The challenge as always with the groups of people whom Noah’s Ark work with is that limited finances mean thinking about physical activity is not high on their list of priorities. If the organisation can embed the discussion of moving more, alongside staff being aware of the benefits, clients can be engaged without needing large-scale interventions.
The vision is to have these active conversations with clients right at the start of any journey with Noah’s Ark. This would be the same for both their counselling and money advice services.
The Impact so Far
Delivery of the project started in mid January 2023 and it has already provided the following positive outcomes:
- The waiting room was updated to allow videos to be shown to users of Active Calderdale's successes and what help is available.
- A part-funded new member of staff was appointed to help to embed the activities and amend policies and practices within their offer.
- By March processes had been changed, questions about physical activity introduced and data gathered, with the aim of understanding the demand for help regarding physical activity and the priorities of their users.
- Delivered staff walking groups for team meetings and a walking group introduced for the BLAB (Budget Like a Boss) sessions which focuses on the benefits of fresh air and the buzz of being outside of the office.
- Walking is being used with BLAB clients as a way of ‘debriefing’ following a course. Pie and peas lunch afterwards provided.
- Walking is being used as a ‘de-stressor’ following difficult client appointments / safeguarding issues. A barrier breaker is also being utilised for those users to access funds to allow them to access physical activity that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to explore.
Practical examples of the impact being made on both staff and clients include the stories of Jodi & Kelly. Kelly a staff member at Noah's Ark, is a single mum on a relatively modest salary and often struggles financially. She was very keen on the Active Calderdale project and loves getting out in the countryside. Kelly was anxious at the start because the only footwear she had were gym trainers (and she didn't want to ruin them by getting them muddy!) and 'fashion' coats that weren't waterproof. Barrier breaker enabled Kelly to access suitable clothing for the weekly walk and she hasn't looked back. She loves her new gear and can't wait for the weekly walks to come round.
Client Jodi, who isn't working at the moment and has previously suffered from mental health issues, loves Noah's Ark and was the first to sign up for the walking group. Similar to Kelly, the clothes Jodi had weren't really suitable for hiking on the moors, however, the barrier breaker fund has meant this is no longer an issue!
Noah’s Ark will continue with the great work they are already implementing and will look to expand to more walking-related activities. As the weather improves, Friday afternoons will start with a money-related walk. They will also continue monitoring their users to evaluate the effects of their active conversations.
There is also a desire to engage with local venues, linked with the Leisure Services at Calderdale Council, to open up opportunities for those living in areas of high deprivation.
Keep an eye on our blog page for further updates on our collaboration with Noah's Ark.