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Umbrella Yoga: Round up for 2023, and what’s next?

Updated: 5 days ago


Image Credit: Chris Chinnock, Our Creative Connection. featured- Ellie Firth and Waves participants.

In 2023 we led 1144 yoga sessions to over 900 unique attendees. Also, 29 ‘Tea & Chat’ sessions for our community yoga groups. We’ve formed partnerships with 25 other local organisations supporting specific communities and people with additional needs in Kirklees. 


Projects and grants

We continue to be very active in the cycle and network of grants, both locally and nationally. We’ve successfully applied for 25 grants in 2023, but 13 of our applications were turned down. You can’t win them all! We’ve sought feedback and strengthened our applications wherever we can.


We had one particularly tricky month; in September, six of our grant applications were rejected, and three of these were intended to support our core costs (you can read about why this is so important here). After this set back we focused on securing our ‘baseline service’ - what we want to deliver regularly and consistently at all costs. We’ve turned this into a positive because the months that followed were our two busiest ever with over 110 sessions delivered in October and November, each! 


We work by managing several projects simultaneously, with overlapping aims and focus areas.  We’ve been able to collaborate with so many different people with learning disabilities and related challenges, and our progress in this area has been amazing to see. We’re working on Yoga Prompt Cards for these people at the moment, in partnership with Mencap In Kirklees and supported by Sports England. We’ve also been using creative means to gather feedback and hear about the challenges, motivations and expectations of our community of people with LD, as well as the parents and carers.  This is collaboration with Our Creative Connections, Waves Group, Shabang Inclusive Learning, and generously funded by Barnardos in West Yorkshire.


The funding challenges this year gave us the motivation and inspiration to push forwards with our Staff Wellbeing and ESG (Environmental Social Governance) offerings. In 2024 we are focusing on becoming financially independent and sustainable.



People

We are so proud of the fabulous individuals that make up our team! At the start of the year we were delighted that Anna, who also attends one of our community yoga classes, became our Chair.  Her contribution has been invaluable; unrivaled powers of information processing, combined with a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of sound advice. We’ve welcomed Maryam and Gin, both experienced yoga teachers who have already made a huge contribution to the teaching team. Alida continues to teach, and is also our Community Yoga Coordinator. Laura has made fantastic contributions as our Communications Coordinator.   We’ve also welcomed Catherine into the team - our administrator and an expert at keeping our increasingly busy schedule in order.


It’s so important to us that we take care of our own - we’re all freelance workers at the moment, and we have no physical hub where we might bump into each other for those brief catch ups and opportunities to connect.  Rachel (one of our directors & a yoga teacher) takes care of our staff and volunteer inductions and has established a rhythm with staff check-ins. We come together in person when we can - for project meetings (e.g. Prompt Card planning sessions), and to complete our Safeguarding training. Our summer get together and picnic was a highlight (although in true Yorkshire style we bravely battled with wind and rain). And we finished the year off with our first ‘Peer to peer learning day’ in December - focussing on Yoga for Dementia. A great event that enabled us to share knowledge, skills, and more than a few cakes (not to mention the festive drink or two to follow).


A target for 2024 is to provide financial stability and job security to our core team. This depends on us securing core funding through dedicated grant schemes but also by diversifying income streams and securing contracts with business groups for staff wellbeing sessions.  


2023 Achievements & Highlights

When I look back at the things we’ve achieved this year I can’t believe how far we’ve come. When a team of dedicated and inspired people work together, magic really can happen!


In addition to the projects and people activities mentioned above we have…

 

  • Set up our CRM system!  An almighty task. 

  • Started our formal volunteer program - a small but powerful crew. We will build from here. If you’re interested in joining us do get in touch!

  • Designed, printed, worn and sold our merchandise. Good for our wardrobe, and slowly bringing in the cash. If you’d like a hoodie, bag or t-shirt, get in touch!

  • We’ve been in the news! Thank you Huddersfield Hub

  • Fundraising events - 3 successful and enjoyable events have been hosted in 2023 - more planned for 2024.

  • Presentations - invited presentation at the TSL AGM; at the Kirklees Care Association; and at a TSL building community partnerships meeting.


What’s next? Hopes and dreams for 2024

  • Financial stability - diversify income streams through staff wellbeing, sponsorship, partnership work and fundraising.

  • Job security for directors, and for all teachers.

  • Develop our evaluation and monitoring approaches.

  • Keep working on processes / efficiency.

  • Peer-to-peer learning - skill shares within our wonderful team.

  • New partnerships - we’re always open to new opportunities and will arrange free taster sessions wherever we can.





Image Credit: Chris Chinnock, Our Creative Connection. featured- Ellie Firth and Waves participants.

To finish with a few quotes from our wonderful participants:
"Yoga has helped me so much with my mobility and strength and helped me connect with other people and socialize. And it's lovely seeing what is helping other people in the classes  😊 . If it wasn't for umbrella yoga i wouldn't be where i am now. "
"Yoga has been a fantastic outlet for me to get out of the house,  move my body, relax my mind and feel physically and emotionally better and more connected. Thank you so much."
"I am a carer for my son who has autism, learning difficulties and certain behaviours.  There aren't many activities out there for us to do together. Umbrella yoga is great, something we can do together. The people there don't judge when my son makes noises and mimics their laughter, they make us feel very welcome. This yoga session helps my physical health and both mine and my son's mental health by getting out of the house and having other people to talk to. We look forward to this yoga session every week, THANK U"

Featured in this picture are - a wonderful Volunteer -Wendy and fabulous Yoga teacher -Laura.

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