Running a team
Declan has overseen the introduction of many innovative programmes at the Club, which have aimed to get people active again after long periods away from exercise. These include RENEW, an exercise referral programme for young people living with Cancer, Project Gym, which engages young men with haemophilia, and Mind Body Matters, a programme providing exercise support to students struggling with their mental health at Birbeck University. He is incredibly grateful to his colleagues at the Club for the roles that they have played:
“I feel proud of what my team and volunteers do, and humbled to be around such incredible people.”
Declan’s impact on the community, especially the Older Adults programme, has been huge. Growing the community programme membership by 11%, with over 1000 members of the gym being over 60, many of these members attended the gym solely to partake in Declan’s exercise classes. Declan’s caring and thoughtful approach to his work is motivated by his genuine respect for each one of his programmes’ members:
“For me, it’s always important that people feel safe when they come into the Club; that they feel that they are valued as a person, that they are included. They are not just a ‘Club member’ – every name has a story behind it.”
“It is the members that keep inspiring me over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to have an amazing team of staff and all my volunteers, who help across the Positive Health and Older Adults programmes. We wouldn’t be able to do half the work that we do without them. When times are tough, these are the people who keep me going.”
Keeping the community together
As the pandemic struck in 2019, Declan stepped up as the main point of contact for our community members who were shielding, isolated or at risk of loneliness and inactivity. He noticed that a lot of elderly Club members used YouTube but did not have access to any other social media sites, so he started filming Zumba and strength training exercise classes specifically for them and posting these on YouTube. This helped to keep the Older Adults moving and offered them a sense of normality and community during the difficult lockdown period.
Declan’s dedication to the Older Adults’ wellbeing has been incredibly inspiring. He added to his YouTube videos by sending out light-hearted, fun monthly newsletters, which had links to his exercise videos for easy access, and health eating tips; even calling some of the members once a week, who did not have access to the internet.
A lot of the Older Adults told Declan how much they valued seeing a familiar face and hearing his voice:
“I feel it gave them something to look forward to.”
“Some of the older adults felt completely lost without the gym. One gentleman would walk past every day hoping that we were open, even though we were in lockdown. It tugs at your heartstrings – you don’t realise the impact that coming here has on people.”