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Exeter Community Wellbeing – Active Communities

Published: 24 July 2020

ECW Blog 13 Community Physical Activity Organiser Ed Shaw

Exeter Community Wellbeing was created in response to the coronavirus crisis and the need for a co-ordinating service for Exeter’s residents, community groups and volunteer networks. For a while there, the pandemic threatened to shake the foundations of life as we know it. With a massive effort on the part of many, many individuals and groups coming together, we have found new ways to ‘join up’ our city.

One of the key roles in this city wide network has been the Wellbeing Exeter Community Builders. We’ve talked in previous blogs about the role of the Builders and how they help the city respond to residents’ needs. This week, we’d like to introduce you to a couple of newer team members working in our communities.

Active networks

Sport England have come together with the city council, Wellbeing Exeter and Exeter City Community Trust to create a new role to support wellbeing in Exeter. Community Physical Activity Organisers (CPAOs) were recruited before the coronavirus measures came in, starting their jobs in the challenging landscape of a city in lockdown. The role of the CPAOs, otherwise known as Ed Shaw and Andy O’Doherty, is to connect people in communities to others and to opportunities that can support them to become or remain active – whatever that means for the individual.

Ed told us about how he came to be a CPAO, “Having moved to Exeter in 2017 knowing no one, I used volunteering and being active to explore the city and make new friends. I was enjoying getting active and helping others so much that I decided to make it my focus. I took on a Community Builder role for Wellbeing Exeter, which was awesome, but when the opportunity to become a CPAO came along I couldn’t pass it up. Being active helps me to be well and I want to connect others to movement to support their wellbeing.

“In the role I hope to combine my experiences over the last three years to connect with residents and groups across my patch and help Exeter get moving more. Like a lot of people I’ve found that adjusting to working during lockdown has not been easy. However, now that government guidance is changing to allows small group activity to begin again, it felt like a good time to start making further connections. So, whether you’re an individual or represent a group, just starting out or have always been physically active, please get in touch. I’d love to hear what active things you were doing before and during lockdown.”

Andy explained why he’s passionate about supporting physical activity in the community:

“Wellbeing has become a way of life, in truth. It had to be that way for me.

“I’m mapping activities and connecting like-minded people who want to act collectively for their own wellbeing, in a way that works for them and moving toward independence.

“Community, social interaction and in particular physical activity play a huge part in my own story. It has been a journey of learning, re-learning, un-learning even and discovery. I'm now able to take what I've learned and share it with others. In fact it seems daft not to share.

“We're all different, but the tales we tell when we take the risk and talk authentically and open up about wellbeing, emotions, being vulnerable (in other words human beings), all have common themes that we can relate to. My role is to share knowledge about the processes that can lead us to be unwell and the flip-side: the processes that can lead us to become and stay well.

“Physical movement is only one part of a way to wellness (see the 5 Ways to Wellbeing) but it can be transformative. I'm interested in the social side of active groups of friends and organised clubs as much as goals relating to numbers of steps, stretches or personal targets. If you're ready to act and connect, I'm there as an ‘alongsider’ - for a while. Ultimately and in the long term your wellbeing is linked to community, friends and long term connections, as we are a social species. I'm just here to point in the right direction and join the dots, really. The aim of any true community worker is to work toward the point where we're not needed."

There are many opportunities in the city to support health and wellbeing in all forms. If you would like to know more, you can visit the Wellbeing Exeter website or if your enquiry is about physical activity, get in touch with Ed or Andy:

Edward Shaw - or Facebook: @BeActiveExeterSoutheast

Andy O’Doherty: or Facebook: @WellActiveBeings

To request support, as an individual or a community group, get in touch with Exeter Community Wellbeing:

Phone: 01392 265000

Lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

Exeter Community Wellbeing is co-ordinated by a team including Wellbeing Exeter partners, Devon Community Foundation, Exeter Community Initiatives and Exeter City Council. Funding partners include Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Sport England.

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