Open Minds Project - Coleg Harlech, North Wales

Open Minds Project

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Open Minds is an innovative lottery funded programme to provide learning opportunities for community members with mental health issues and for people who are at risk of developing mental health issues, and the programme covers the whole of the Coleg Harlech WEA area.

If you would like to know more about Open Minds contact Sarah O'Connell Jones 01248 353254.

Since its launch in June 09 the team have been developing working partnerships with agencies who work with and support community members with mental health issues, examples of work undertaken across north and mid wales can be found from this link and also take a look our newsletters, the latest was written at the conferences in October 2012 and demonstrates how learners, tutors and partners have benefitted from this ground breakting project.

Previous newsletters- March 2012, December 2011 October 2011, March 2011 (pdf)

Tutor, Karen Ball has complied a powerpoint presentation showing examples of work done during the project and her reflections from a tutor's point of view.

There are a number of elements that make Open Minds innovative. The curriculum model uses a thematic approach so learners have an opportunity to learn and explore through a range of subjects areas linked to an agreed theme. Additionally Open Minds can tailor the length and structure of courses to suit the needs of the group putting the learner central to the learning process.

Inspirational stories

Learner Imogen gives something back as a teacher

Open Minds project-Imogen gives praise at conferenceA Young Flintshire woman fought her way back from the depths of depression to gain the qualifications she needed to help others in the same situation.

Her debilitating condition meant that 28-year-old Imogen Garbett, from Cadole, near Mold, would spend weeks locked up her bedroom because she couldn’t face talking to anyone.

But then she enrolled on an Open College Network (OCN) course in volunteering at Flintshire Mind, which was run by Coleg Harlech WEA’s Open Minds project.

From her strong start, Imogen went on to complete a further Open Minds course in peer mentoring at a community venue in Mold, and it was while she was on this course that she became a support worker on an Open Minds cookery course with Flintshire Mind.

Superstar Lyndsey's reversal of fortune

Lyndsey praises the Open Minds projectA young Wrexham woman who was homeless for two years has spoken of how the ground-breaking Open Minds project helped turn her life around.

Lyndsey Phillipps, 24, lived a nomadic existence after a relationship break-up before finding accommodation at Clwyd Alyn Wrexham Foyer.

It was while she was there that she enrolled on an accredited cookery and life skills course which was part of the Open Minds project. Designed and delivered since June 2009 by Coleg Harlech WEA and funded by the lottery, this gives learning opportunities to people who have or are at risk of developing mental health issues.

Diane Roberts, who was the tutor on the Open Minds course Lyndsey took while at Wrexham Foyer, said: “I call her my superstar. “She did an excellent job on the course and then later when she returned as a volunteer support worker".

Pioneering project, Open Minds, in line for top award

open minds award nomination coleg harlech weaA ground-breaking education project to help people mental health problems is in the running for a major award.
Coleg Harlech WEA’s Open Minds project is short-listed in the Inclusive Practice Category of the Gwobrau Colegau Cymru 2012 (Colleges Wales Awards 2012).

According to Project Manager Sarah O’Connell Jones, the scheme is proving a big hit with learners across North Wales.

She said: “Coleg Harlech WEA has a well established history of working with learners who are socially excluded, disenfranchised or who are simply classed as hard to reach.


Ground-breaking project that helps people grow

Ponthafren gardening project with WEA  Open MindsMature students on a pioneering gardening course in Mid-Wales are making history - as well as growing fruit and veg.

The "life-changing" Open Minds project in Newtown has been designed to help people who have or who are at risk of suffering mental health problems.

It's being run in partnership with the mental health charity, the Ponthafren Association, in Longbridge Street.
The green-fingered students are in the process of investigating setting up a social enterprise to sell produce and possibly even offer garden design and landscaping services in the future.

Five of them are also studying for qualifications in horticulture based ‘Progression’ and ‘Employability’ with Diplomas accredited by Agored Cymru.
It's believed they are the first in Wales to study for such demanding diplomas through a mental health centre.

Their achievements impressed two Mid and West Wales AMs, Rebecca Evans and Joyce Watson, who came on a visit.
Rebecca Evans said: "It's fantastic, I don't think a single inch has gone unused and their plans to develop further are very ambitious."
Joyce Watson, a keen gardener herself, added: "I understand how people can learn skills in a relaxed way and how they can literally see the fruits of their labour and how that will give them confidence in itself."


Art for all, says Tess

Open Minds art class at Hafal PorthmadogTherese Urbanska or Tess as she’s known to service users has worked for Coleg Harlech WEA since 2004. She says she loves her role as an Art Tutor out in the community.
The 31-year-old from Rhydydafdy, near Pwllheli, believes passionately that art should be accessible to all.

She said: "“Teaching in the community means we get to see people with varying abilities. I use a lot of collage work to teach art and it’s great as a three-year-old through to an 80-year-old can do it.
“Even someone with a disability or learning difficulty can pick up the glue or a paintbrush and they really enjoy it.
"On a broad scale I believe art classes can promote health and well being. It’s a social thing. It’s not just about the process but feeling part of the group. They learn new skills.”

One of the art classes ran by Therese is held at Hafal, Porthmadog. Hafal is a national organisation which supports people with mental health problems. These classes are part of Coleg Harlech WEA’s Open Minds project , which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Chris Eastwood, the Vice Chair of Hafal, said the art tutorials mean a lot to their service users.
“ We find meaningful daily activity like the art work that goes on very helpful,” he concluded.

Sarah O’Connell Jones , Open Minds manager says “ Tess is a highly valued tutor, She has a very positive attitude and is flexible in her approach so that all learners feel relaxed and are inspired to express themselves artistically”

Open Minds Conference

Coleg Harlech WEA hosted a conference in May 20122for partners and participants on the Open Minds project at the OpTIC Technium Centre, St Asaph.

Open Minds is an innovative lottery funded programme to provide learning opportunities for community members with mental health issues and for people who are at risk of developing mental health issues.

The conference brought together representatives from the 30 partner agencies across north and mid Wales and participants in the project. Several tutors and learners showcased their work in the afternoon which included gardening video, art, cookery and digital photography.

Trefor Owen, Principal, said “This is an important milestone, Coleg Harlech WEA have been very proud to develop and run the Open Minds project. The Association has a long tradition of working with fragile learners and those who have struggled to have their voices heard – and as an organisation we are passionate about supporting people to improve their mental health and wellbeing through education. The additional benefits learners have experienced and demonstrated today also include opportunities for social interaction, inspiration, challenge and problem solving not to mention a bit of fun.”

Antur Waunfawr Employees Certificate Achievement

The S4C presenter and local gardener Russell Jones presented gardening and basic skills qualifications to Antur Waunfawr employees in their Bryn Pistyll workplace on March 1st. The St David’s Day ceremony was arranged by Coleg Harlech WEA Open Minds project and Antur Waunfawr to celebrate the achievements of employees who gained Agored qualifications over the academic year 2009-2010.

For more information

Open Minds At All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network Conference

Sian Hanley and Rhiannon Mon Jones, development workers for Coleg Harlech WEA’s lottery funded Open Minds Project, presented a workshop on Wellbeing and Learning at the annual conference of the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network, which focused on “Maintaining Mental Health and Wellbeing in Adversity”.

Sian and Rhiannon explained that Open Minds covers all of North Wales and North Powys, providing free, fun, tailor-made learning opportunities for community members who want to improve their mental health and engage in learning.

Delegates in the workshop explored how different individuals could benefit from attending FRESH (Food, Relaxation, Exercise, Skills, Health). This course piloted in 2010 helps learners to develop a positive attitude towards health issues and includes health literacy skills.

Photograph:Sian and Rhiannon discussing FRESH with Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB, Chair All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network

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