Jessica Perry manages our Health Promotion programmes for schools, and has been part of the NICHS team now for 15 years! Here she tells us about some highlights of her time with NICHS so far.
What is your role at NICHS?
I am the Schools Health Promotion Manager.
When did you first start working at NICHS?
I started at NICHS in 2006 so that makes it 15 years now - time flies when you are having fun. I started out as a Young Stroke Co-ordinator with the Care Services team.
What does your role involve? How does it make a difference?
I work with young people in schools, trying to instil the importance of living a healthy life. This work is important as unfortunately, unhealthy children have a higher chance of growing up to be unhealthy adults, so we need to break this cycle. The main part of my job is to deliver Chester’s Challenge which is a 3-week interactive health promotion programme teaching the healthy lifestyle messages. It is great to work with pupils and see them having fun and learning as they go throughout the weeks. There is never a dull moment, no class or characters are the same. We also deliver Well Talks to Secondary Schools. Over the last few years we have been increasingly asked to talk to these older classes about the topics of stress, sleep and now e-cigarettes and relate it back to how it affects their health and wellbeing.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time at NICHS?
I have great memories of working with the Young Stroke Group, and some wild stories to go along with it. The predecessor to the Taking Control programme, the swimming, gym and horse riding groups I ran in my area never ceased to amaze me. The clients would come in nervous and expectations would be low and to see them regain their confidence and make improvements in mobility and skills was a great experience to be a part of.
Another favourite would be seeing how our Well You Community project was able to empower people to make positive healthy lifestyle choices. We had a person who came and was very quiet and didn’t believe she had the skills or ability to make a change to her life. As the project went on she built up enough confidence to lead one of the sessions, which was a great achievement in itself. Then we finished the project up and met with them for one last time 12 weeks later. My colleagues would agree when I tell you it was like a different person bounced back into the room. She started to tell us how she was eating so much healthier and that gave her the energy to start Pilates and her goal by her 40th birthday was to do a headstand. Which she by the way achieved! She had also got a new job which she loved. To see someone put in the hard work and come so far on their journey is just amazing.
What is your favourite thing about working at NICHS?
I love the NICHS team, every single person is committed and passionate about helping our clients become the best version of themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are out seeing people face to face or quietly working away in the background to ensure that we can deliver quality services that either help prevent NICHS conditions or empower those living with NICHS conditions. It is a team effort.
What has the charity changed from when you started to now?
Over the last 15 years I have seen a lot of change, not only in the great people I work with but also in what we are offering as a charity. NICHS in my opinion has changed from a simply caring and supporting role to one that helps empower people to take control of their own lives. In Health Promotion alone we have seen a growth in our service offering. We have built on the back of our excellent Health Checks and developed and expanded into Schools Programmes, our Work Well Live Well programme with workplacesm and Well Space which works in hostels, plus the work we do out in the community. I am most excited about the research NICHS is currently funding investigating an active learning initiative within a school setting to challenge children to move more and sit less. The best bit is that the team never rests on its laurels and is always striving to ensure that we continue to deliver a quality service.
What would you love to see in the future of NICHS?
I am very excited to see what the future brings for the Schools Programme, as NICHS continues to fund research that will hopefully be used to transform the programme and help us to make a greater positive impact on young people’s lives.