Published poet, devoted Catholic and great grandmother Sonia Cummings is one of those people communities depend on. It’s not just that she runs two book clubs, one of them for mental health charity Mind, sings in Hackney Empire Choir, and is actively investigating ways to turn the disused boiler house at Blackstone estate in Hackney into a community space. It’s that she goes out of her way to know what is going on in the borough – from 50+ Digital (silver surfer) events to New Age Games – gets involved, and encourages other people to do the same.
But even people who work hard to help others may need a bit of help sometimes. In late 2021, Sonia, 67, who has diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and mental health problems, went to her GP about her weight.
“I wanted to improve my diet, improve my breathing and get my belly down,” she says.
The doctor put her in touch with Shanaz Begum, health and wellbeing coach in Shoreditch Park and City. Shanaz helps people with deep-rooted issues that are affecting their health to identify and follow through with changes that improve their lives.
Sonia confided that it wasn’t just her weight bothering her – 20 years separated from her husband, she profoundly missed day-to-day companionship.
Shanaz encouraged Sonia to join a walking group and a diabetic cooking class, and took her and others on an induction session to the gym, showing them how to use the equipment.
Sixteen months later, Sonia is a regular at water aerobics classes and sauna sessions, is aiming to walk the Hackney 5k in May for charity and has recruited one of the women from the walking group to both her book club and the choir. She is even pondering rejoining the cooking group, though she’s not a great fan of the food.
“I am a diabetic with a sweet tooth,” she chuckles. Despite that, her views on health and wellbeing coaching are clear.
“It’s very good – it helps you to get out and about, meet people, and look after your body. I knew about the gym before but I wasn’t motivated to do it. Shanaz gave me motivation and a bit of a push.
“If you get the chance of health and wellbeing coaching, welcome it with open arms and put it into action. It can make your life longer and healthier.”