Case Study Three: Body and Mind Wellbeing Champions Project, Right Here Newham

Using physical activity to recruit and engage young people living in Foyers in mental health awareness activities


New Choices for Youth Trust


  • East Thames Foyer

Aims and objectives of activity:

  • To build awareness around mental health and wellbeing of the body and mind amongst 16-25 year olds who live in the Foyer
  • To provide young people with information about support available to them if they are affected by mental illness
  • To gain accreditation for the young people attending the training in order for them to become Wellbeing Champions
  • To help young people build resilience towards issues which affect them.

Relevance to Right Here’s national aims and objectives

This activity allies itself with the following Right Here ambitions:

  • To improve young people’s wellbeing leading to a reduction in numbers of young people developing mental health problems
  • To achieve greater understanding and acceptance of mental health issues by young people


Right Here Newham had an existing relationship with an East Thames Foyer and it was agreed that the Wellbeing Champions training would make a good additional activity to offer the young people living there. The decision was taken to add a boxing training component to the Wellbeing Champions training to act as an incentive to recruit participants from this traditionally hard to reach group. It also provided participants with a means of using exercise to look after their mental health and wellbeing.


The Wellbeing Champions training has been part of Right Here Newham’s core activity programme for several years. The purpose of the training is:

  • to raise individuals’ awareness of mental health and strategies for looking after their mental wellbeing
  • to train a group of young volunteers who can go out into their communities and deliver mental health awareness raising sessions to other groups of young people.

The Wellbeing Champions Training takes place over 10 weeks, with each weekly session lasting two hours. The training covers a range of topics relating to mental health and wellbeing including:

  • Icebreakers and teambuilding exercises
  • What is mental health and mental illness
  • Resilience
  • Support strategies and mechanisms
  • What to do if someone is in a mental health crisis
  • Group working and communication

Over the last two weeks of the course the young people develop their own workshops or presentations relating to mental health and wellbeing. These are presented to the course facilitators, last approximately 30 minutes and include an ice breaker, presentation, Q&A session and signposting information. All participants are invited to a group meal after the course is finished.

Participants can choose to work towards receiving a LCN Accreditation (Level 2) through the training, although this is not essential to become a Wellbeing Champion. In order to achieve the qualification, participants are required to complete and submit coursework for two modules: Understanding Mental Health and Wellbeing and Developing Group and Teamwork Communication Skills.

Boxing Training

An hour long boxing training session immediately follows on at the end of each week of the Wellbeing Champions training. The boxing training incorporates a range of exercises including circuits, skipping, running and pad work. Three sessions of street self-defence are also included within this programme.

Following the successful completion of the first Body and Mind course in Summer 2013, Right Here Newham is looking to repeat Body and Mind with Foyer residents again in the
near future.


Young people (16-25) living in a large Foyer within the Borough of Newham in London. This area has a large BME community. The programme was designed as a means of early mental health intervention and prevention. However some participants did describe having a history of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.


Body and Mind had six regular attenders aged between 17-24, of which three were male and three female. Four participants went on to do the LCN Accreditation (level 2)

There are on average 6-11 volunteers within the group at any one time, who meet every week with the support of a facilitator. The Research and Evaluation Group actively encourages the participation of young people at all stages of the research process, including planning and design, data collection, analysis, reporting and dissemination activities. Members have taken on more responsibility for the running of the group over time as their skills and confidence have increased. They are now responsible for setting their own meeting agendas and completing their programme of work, with less direct input from the group facilitator.


2013 onwards


  • Body maps asking participants to highlight something they liked, something they learned, something they would improve and something they would “kick out”
  • Body and Mind evaluation forms
  • Verbal feedback
  • End of training evaluation


“At any given time you are on the mental health scale and can move forward and back”

– Young person

“I can throw 10 jabs in 3 seconds”

– Young person

“One of the young women we worked with…we have inspired her to chair the house meetings [at the foyer]”

As a result of their participation, Body and Mind participants and project workers described the following outcomes for participants (evidenced through evaluation forms and staff interviews):

  • Increased awareness and understanding of mental health and mental illness
  • Improved knowledge and application of non contact boxing techniques
  • Increased levels of self confidence
  • Increased awareness of and interest in taking up other Right Here opportunities, such as the Youth Panel
  • Increased awareness of sources of support available locally
  • Increased influencing roles within foyer
  • Additional outcomes described by project staff included:
  • Participants obtaining additional support from their Foyer key workers around specific health needs identified through the training
  • Participants being referred to other sources of support for mental health issues, e.g. counselling
  • Participants exploring future education options with Body and Mind staff.

Learning Points

“It’s more important running it in the foyers than doing it outside the foyers…everyone has their own different types of stresses… with the foyer they are concerned about their future…how can I afford to eat….how do I build a relationship…how do I get back into college…to me it seems like it’s needed
more in the foyer “

– Project staff member

“Having a boxing session straight after wasn’t only a way of enticing and recruiting but at the same time it was a way of looking after your mental health and wellbeing and releasing any anxiety, stress and anger.
So that linked really nicely”

-Project staff member

Success factors of the project include the following aspects:

  • The young age of the boxing trainer (early 20s) worked well with participants as they could relate and engage with him. He was able to act as a role model and made the young men feel comfortable
  • Use of boxing as a recruitment tool
  • Having a good ethnic mix amongst project workers (African, Asian and White) was also felt to act as a facilitator
  • The boxing proved popular with all participants. Young female participants were very interested in the boxing as a means for fitness
  • Utilising participants’ friend networks was a useful method of recruitment
  • Practical tasks linked to theory proved an effective way of disseminating knowledge, e.g. building a tower as part of an exercise on resilience
  • Bringing in key workers from the Foyer for one session meant that any housing issues that arose through the training could be taken forward
  • Using “wellbeing” instead of “mental health” in recruitment materials to make the course more accessible.

Some of the challenges the group have experienced included:

  • Recruitment took more time than originally expected, putting the project behind schedule. In the future more time would be allocated to advertising the course in advance and building familiarity with Right
    Here workers in the Foyer
  • Some participants felt the mental health terminology used in some of the course materials was difficult to understand
  • Some participants felt that the course was a bit rushed in places and would have preferred more time for reflection and writing
  • The accreditation process required a lot of written work, which could act as a barrier when working with hard to reach young people.

What we know

Young people living in Foyers come from a range of backgrounds which makes them vulnerable to developing mental health problems, including those who have experienced living in care, who have a history of offending or who experience significant physical health issues1. To support resilience in the Foyer population it is recommended that young people are given the chance to build positive connections and relationships within the wider community in which they live, including having the opportunity to volunteer for local voluntary organisations2.

Young men face particular barriers to service engagement, including a lack of visible male role models within services. Young men from BME communities may face additional cultural and language barriers, thereby encouraging them to think that volunteering for those organisations is not for them3. Volunteering opportunities that build in an aspect of physical activity, like the boxing training incorporated within Body and Mind, are more likely to be successful in engaging men and facilitating their input and discussion.

Participants (both male and female) may also obtain mental health benefits from the physical activity opportunities provided within Body and Mind4. Raising awareness of the project through the right networks, particularly through peer word of mouth, is also important, particularly when aiming to recruit men5.

What this project adds

Whilst the numbers participating in this first Body and Mind course were small, learning from the course does add useful evidence about how to engage young people living in Foyers in mental health awareness activities, some of which Right Here Newham is utilising to inform the future implementation of its own Body and Mind courses. The use of boxing training as a means of recruiting as well as a mental health promotion activity in its own right supports evidence that physical activities facilitate the recruitment of young men and women into volunteering roles.

Areas for future research

It would be useful to explore the how the Wellbeing Champions trained through Body and Mind have utilised their training in practice, both in direct volunteering activities for Right Here and beyond in their everyday lives.

Examples of similar Right Here activities

  • The Wellbeing Champion training has been run with a number of different cohorts of  young people across Newham, including young people attending the New Vic College
  • Similar roles to the Wellbeing Champions exist in other Right Here projects, such as the Wellbeing Ambassadors in Sheffield
  • Right Here is building on the learning from these projects in a new collaboration with the Foyer Federation, entitled Healthy Conversations
  • All of the projects have used physical activities to recruit young people and to help improve their mental health (e.g. Brightonrock climbing; Fermanagh fishing; Sheffield Walk and Talk)
  • Right Here Fermanagh takes a gender specific approach to most of its activities.


  • 1  Carlin E (2010) Feeling Good: Supporting Resilience in Young People in Foyers in England. London: The Foyer Foundation
  • 2 Carlin E (2010) Feeling Good: Supporting Resilience in Young People in Foyers in England. London: The Foyer Foundation
  • 3 Johal A, Shelupanov A & Norman W (2012) INVISIBLE MEN: engaging more men in social projects. Young Foundation
  • 4 Biddle JH, Ekkekakis P (2005) ‘Physically active lifestyles and wellbeing’. In Huppert F, Baylis N, Keveme B (eds) The science of wellbeing (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
  • 5 Johal A, Shelupanov A & Norman W (2012) INVISIBLE MEN: engaging more men in social projects. Young Foundation