Community champions: my journey to happiness

Practice champions are recruited via GP practices to enable us to co-design local healthcare services.

It’s more than just a tick box exercise – we listen to the things that really matter to people, and to the practice champion.

To do this effectively, we mustn’t work in isolation but build relationships with local community groups, drawing from one another’s knowledge and experience.

CC4C works with Paddington Development Trust (PDT) to reach a wider audience. PDT recruits and trains local people as community champions, to improve health and wellbeing in Queen’s Park, Westbourne and Church Street in Westminster.

Their work is exemplary; there is no better way to explain the impact that they have, than to hear it from an incredible young woman who is now a community champion. 

My journey to happiness

My name is Rehana. I am a community champion from Mozart estate, in Queens Park.

Before I became a community champion I used to stay at home as I was depressed and sad. When I was eight my parents separated and I lived with my mother and siblings. I used to lock myself in the room because I felt like I was responsible for my parents being separated.

I became a champion because I was fed up with being at home. My mood was really low, I was binge-eating and I began to self-harm. Bit by bit I got worse, and felt like attempting suicide.

When I first became a community champion I was shy and quiet, my confidence was extremely low. On the first day I joined the team I was worried about making friends and talking to other people, but all of the champions made me feel welcome.

In my first few weeks of becoming a champion I made friends with April and Mo. They made me feel welcome and introduced me to other champions.

Soon I helped out at my first event, the Mozart street party. While we were there I went to speak Alfrena, a community champion, who made me feel confident enough to talk to all of the champions. After the street party our manager took us out for dinner to celebrate our success and to thank us for all our hard work. That was the first time that I’d been out to a restaurant in 13 years. I felt quite nervous and overwhelmed but had support from everyone and I enjoyed myself. We all had a laugh, it was the nicest day I’d had in a very long time.

While being a community champion I’ve done lots of training: on understanding health improvement, domestic violence, workshops with ‘take time to talk’, and even mental health first aid. All of this training has helped me a lot, it helped me to understand how I can get help for myself if I’m feeling stressed.

My family members suffer with diagnosed mental illness. So now not only am I able to support my own mental health, I’m also able to be a great support to my family.
My dad was diagnosed with dementia over a year ago; I had no understanding of dementia. Then my dad stopped recognising me I found it very emotionally painful. But as a community champion I went on dementia awareness training, and now I have a better relationship with my dad, which I’m really happy about. One of my goals is to help others with dementia.

In the spring we had a gardener to come and teach us how to plant seeds and as a team we made an edible garden in the Beethoven centre. This was the first time I’d ever done gardening and now I’m planting and experimenting with different plants in my garden at home. I find it relaxing and would recommend it to people who are stressed and having a hard time.

Since becoming a community champion I’ve noticed lots of changes within myself. Before this, whenever I needed something from the shop I’d always ask my mum or my sister to come with me, and if I needed something from behind the counter I would get my mum or my sister to ask the shopkeeper. Now I’m totally confident to go to the shop on my own and speak in public.

Being a champion has taught me what is healthy and unhealthy for me, and every day I’m trying to make small changes to make myself healthier.

I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in probably over 10 years. This year, to my surprise the community champions treated me to a birthday lunch, and then we went bowling. I had so much fun and for the first time I felt independent. I went out with my friends and didn’t feel shy and scared of what people might think of me.

Overall I have gained knowledge about services, but best of all I have gained a new family, through my team of community champions.