Today (Thursday 19 November) is Social Enterprise Day, a day to celebrate and raise the profile of social enterprise around the world.
Many social enterprises are currently facing extreme operational and financial challenges at a time when, arguably, their work has never been more important.
Abbeycroft Leisure is a Suffolk based social enterprise, as well as one of the largest, independent leisure trusts in the UK, reinvesting any financial surplus they make, back into the organisation.
They manage 16 leisure facilities, many on behalf of West Suffolk Council and Babergh District Council and one in Cambridgeshire.
As well as managing leisure facilities, they also run community programmes, large-scale activity events and contribute to the wider public health agenda, with initiatives such as GP referral schemes and atrial fibrillation testing at their centres. Operating as a social enterprise, allows them to offer these types of services which provide vital support to the local community.
One such programme is Active Mums Antenatal Care, to support women to make healthy choices in their pregnancy and meet other mums-to-be. It’s a friendly 90-minute session incorporating an antenatal appointment with a midwife, advice on a healthy lifestyle choices, plus 30-minutes of physical exercise.
Anna Farrington from Newmarket explains why Active Mums has played such an important part in her life.
Anna said “I used to be an active person when I was younger, playing football, hockey and I danced. However, as I got older, I became a fan of partying and socialising and my sport and exercise seemed less important. Although I tried on several occasions to get back into exercise, I just never seemed to manage it and I did gain weight.
“I heard about Active Mums when I was pregnant for my son Mikey and although I was a bit sceptical, as a first time mum-to-be, I thought I’d try it. I’m so glad I did, because I enjoyed the programme so much, I continued to attend after he was born, and during my second pregnancy for my daughter Grace.
“Active Mums has been amazing for me. I made some really good friends, I had the support of a midwife and a fitness instructor (Helen Bye) and I always felt as though my health was at the forefront of everything they did.”
“As a new mum, I wasn’t getting that much sleep and my husband had returned to work, so I didn’t want to leave the house very often, because my confidence was low. But I would always make the exception for Active Mums on a Monday, because I knew that other Mums there would be feeling the same as me. It’s a safe place for me and my children to come, knowing that I can have a cup of coffee whilst someone else holds my child so I could get five minutes to talk to other mums and expectant mums.
“My health has dramatically improved since I have been coming to this group. I am more aware of the food I’m eating, my exercise levels, but also my mental health. I am extremely lucky that I didn’t have post natal depression, but I think that’s probably because I had the support of Helen and her team.
“I feel as though I’ve been a better Mum, knowing that I have given both my children the best start in life because I felt informed, and supported in the group, especially when I was struggling with anything such as breast feeding or family issues.”
“I know Abbeycroft haven’t been able to run ‘Active Mums’ since the start of the pandemic, but they are hoping to be able to re-start the programme soon, so I would encourage any expectant mums to give this group a try.”
“I haven’t been the healthiest over the last 15 years, however I am now running three times a week, I walk constantly with the children, and I’m looking after what we all eat as I want to show my kids the healthy way to live.”
“I’ve learnt such good habits from the programme, that since the first lockdown in March, I’ve managed to stay active, healthy and have actually lost three stone in weight, so I still feel in a good place thanks to Abbeycroft”.
Find out more about Abbeycroft Leisure at https://www.acleisure.com/ or Social Enterprise Day at https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/socialenterpriseday/.
[Photo: 2019 Newmarket Leisure Centre Active Mums Group]