Registered charity Sport Aberdeen took the top spot in the Team Aberdeen category at last night’s HEART Awards (Thursday 3 December), an annual event organised by Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership, recognising people working and volunteering in health and social care in Aberdeen.

The Active Lifestyles programme, run by Sport Aberdeen, won the ‘Team Aberdeen Integrated Working’ award at a virtual ceremony following the postponement of the awards evening in March. 

The programme provides inclusive opportunities for everyone to get active and participate in physical activity regardless of whether they are starting out, recovering from injury, living with a long-term health condition or are older adults.

Sport Aberdeen was nominated for the award by colleagues in the NHS CAARS (community adult assessment and rehabilitation service) team for the way in which the charity works collaboratively with them and service users on a range of co-produced projects. 

Sport Aberdeen have been heavily involved in several joint initiatives and projects over recent years, of note, the co-design and delivery of the Carer’s Stable and Able Group which runs on a weekly basis with support from NHS occupational therapy staff.

Part of Sport Aberdeen’s Active Lifestyles programme, Carers Exercise classes were developed in response to a need for ongoing support for carers and those being cared for, as identified by NHS Grampian colleagues.

Working in partnership with participants, the organisations developed parallel classes which allow both carers and cared for to participate at the same time, mitigating anxieties around leaving loved ones alone and allowing for more people to improve health and wellbeing, reducing risk of a fall and the potential for re-referral back to stretched NHS services.

Andrinne Craig, Sport Aberdeen Healthy Communities Manager said: 

“This award really highlights that by working collaboratively we can change people lives through the many projects, services and programmes that we deliver and is testament to the incredible work that is carried out by the Active Lifestyles team year after year.

“I am thrilled that we have been named ‘Team Aberdeen’ and would like to congratulate all the other nominees and winners from this year’s HEART Awards. I would also like to thank our valued partners at NHS CAARS for nominating us for this award. It really is fantastic to see the sheer amount of partnership working that is carried out in the north-east, and I am proud that Sport Aberdeen can play a key role in this.”

“Sport Aberdeen certainly embody the values of the partnership and are prepared to go that “extra mile” to make collaborative working with them so seamless.” 

Sandra MacLeod, Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership

Speaking at the virtual ceremony, Sandra MacLeod, Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership Chief Officer said:

 “The team at Sport Aberdeen have made every effort to work in partnership with many different teams in Aberdeen but have certainly become an important and consistent partner to AHP’s working within the partnership. This is reflected in the reciprocal referrals that are regularly made between the services and the confidence with which these referrals are made.

“Sport Aberdeen certainly embody the values of the partnership and are prepared to go that “extra mile” to make collaborative working with them so seamless.”    

Award-winning charity Sport Aberdeen has said it is ‘proud’ to be providing complimentary sanitary items throughout the city again, with the aim to help tackle ‘period poverty’.

The free period products are being distributed by Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE), a charity and social enterprise, for Aberdeen City Council to public venues across the city where significant footfall has been identified. Sport Aberdeen’s venues will be restocked within the coming weeks after the local charity took part in the initiative earlier this year.

The Scottish Government made funding available in 2018 to supply products with the hope of eliminating ‘period poverty’ and this week MSPs voted unanimously to end period poverty for women and girls throughout the nation, making Scotland the first country in the world to make free period products available in all schools, universities, colleges and public buildings.

‘Period poverty’ refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. A study released by charity Plan International UK has revealed that almost a third (30%) of girls aged 14-21 have had issues either affording or accessing sanitary wear in lockdown and over half (54%) of these girls have used toilet paper as an alternative to period products. But even that hasn’t always been an option during lockdown, as one in five girls (20%) said their periods have also been harder to manage due to the lack of toilet roll available. 1

“Sport Aberdeen is proud to further support this nationwide move in tackling period poverty by providing free sanitary products at a number of our citywide venues with the potential to expand this offering where there is substantial footfall.”

Sport Aberdeen venues that currently provide free sanitary products:  

A further five city venues will be stocked within the coming weeks.

David Selkirk, Sport Aberdeen Director of Community Leisure Operations, said:

“Sport Aberdeen is proud to further support this nationwide move in tackling period poverty by providing free sanitary products at a number of our citywide venues with the potential to expand this offering where there is substantial footfall.

“Results show an increasingly large number of girls and women often do not participate in sport due to lack of sanitary products, and this problem has clearly been significantly heightened by the current pandemic.

“As a charity we look to support the community wherever possible and remove barriers so that we can encourage more people to take part in physical activity.”

Lisa Duthie, Chief Executive of CFINE, commented:

“We are delighted to see Scotland taking the lead in ending period poverty by providing access to free sanitary products for everyone who needs them.

“We are proud to have been an advocate of tackling period poverty since 2017. CFINE successfully hosted the Access to Free Sanitary Products pilot in 2017 and have been making free period products accessible in partnership with the Scottish Government through FareShare, and Aberdeen City Council ever since.

“A massive thank you to all our Sport Aberdeen, partners, volunteers and staff who has worked on the Access to Free Period Products Project.”

“It’s a confidence boost with the loss of my husband, to do things on my own.”

Valerie Souter

After a lifetime of cycling together, Valerie’s bike was left in the shed when her husband became ill. The Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme has inspired her to discover the joy of cycling solo.

Valerie Souter, 63, has cycled for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Portsoy on the Aberdeenshire coast it was the best way to get around and have fun with her friends. Living and working in Aberdeen as a police officer alongside her husband Sandy, cycling became part of their daily lives together.

She said: “My bike was a vital element for both enjoyment and commuting to work in and around Aberdeen city centre. Parking in the city centre was hard so the only logical way to travel was by bike.”

Cycling together was a big part of their relationship, especially exploring Scotland’s stunning landscapes while on holiday.

Sadly, Valerie and Sandy’s cycling journey came to an end when Sandy was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2017. The physical limitations of the condition were particularly difficult for him as he had always enjoyed such an active lifestyle. Valerie said: “He did what he could to remain as active as possible, but the illness slowly took away everything he loved.”

Sandy died in February, just before the lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus crisis.

“I take comfort in the fact that I spent time with him as I was able to visit him in the hospice while that was still permitted.”

It was seeing large numbers of people out cycling and walking with dogs at the start of the pandemic which encouraged Valerie to look the bike out from the shed again. Although her beloved bike looked OK, Valerie was concerned about the safety of riding a bike which had been stored for three years.

“My husband always gave our bikes a good check over and carried out any maintenance, but my capabilities extended to brushing off the cobwebs and giving my bike a good clean.”

Inspired to act by the launch of the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme, Valerie checked her bike in for a service with Adventure Aberdeen, part of award-winning charity Sport Aberdeen. Funded by the Scottish Government and delivered through Cycling UK and participating retailers, the scheme provides free bike repair and maintenance work up to a value of £50 with the aim of bringing bikes back to life.

Adventure Aberdeen was the first provider in the city to sign up to the scheme, which coincided with the recent launch of the charity’s new in-house bike maintenance service; offering limited free places alongside its full offering to those who may not usually have access to these services.

It wasn’t long before Valerie was back out cycling for the first time in three years, rediscovering her favourite local routes and experiencing the pleasure of cycling as a way to help cope with her loss.

“Life must go on although it’s been rough, tragic and sad. For me cycling is a nice escape.”

As well as providing an escape, cycling near home and testing the capacity of her panniers with shopping trips to the local supermarket, has had other benefits too.

“It’s a confidence boost with the loss of my husband, to do things on my own.”

Looking back, Valerie says that some of her happiest memories are of the holidays she and Sandy took with friends twice a year to Aviemore. The couple would spend their days exploring the beautiful Cairngorm mountains on their bikes, meeting up with friends for a meal and a cosy evening together.

Although she enjoys now riding solo, Valerie is looking forward to creating new memories with some friends who have also rediscovered cycling during lockdown, when conditions allow.

Graeme Dale, Sport Aberdeen Head of Sport and Active Communities said:

“Giving people in Aberdeen access to free cycle maintenance, made possible through funding from the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme, is an extremely positive step towards seeing more people of all ages and abilities take part in physical activity. By encouraging participation in safe cycling, we can play our part in creating a healthier and greener Aberdeen.

“It’s heartening to hear of Valerie’s story and the team at Adventure Aberdeen were thrilled to be able to help in getting her back on her bike and reengaging with an activity she clearly has many fond memories of. It is my hope that we can help more people in the community make the most of this brilliant opportunity.”

Valerie was pleased to receive guidance on how to carry out regular safety checks on the bike from mechanic Joe, who was especially impressed by her beautiful hand-built Italian bike.

A local leisure trust has launched a brand-new series of mountaineering courses for outdoor enthusiasts.

Adventure Aberdeen, part of award-winning charity Sport Aberdeen, has announced three winter mountaineering courses, catering for people of all ability levels from beginner to advanced.

The courses cover all aspects of hillwalking, mountaineering and rock climbing and will take place throughout the picturesque Scottish Highlands in both the Aviemore and Glenshee areas.

‘Introduction to winter skills’ will allow you to take your first steps into the magical world of winter hill walking and mountaineering, gaining invaluable skills; ‘Get ready for winter navigation’, is perfect as a refresher or to take your basic summer navigation skills to the next level; and the ‘Winter navigation improver’ course is suitable for winter walkers, mountaineers and climbers as well as ski tourers looking to brush up on their skills.

Mike Gifford, Adventure Aberdeen Manager, said:

“This is a really exciting time for us, not only is this something fun and a brilliant way to stay active, but our trained instructors can pass on invaluable skills which are essential when out in diverse weather conditions.

“Whether you are new to hillwalking and want to venture out and learn something new or are brushing up on your skills and are ready for a new challenge, our aim is to get more people physically active while discovering the incredible outdoor offerings we have right on our doorstep.

“We want to teach people the fundamentals of safe navigation, route choice and how to avoid hazards in the winter environment and our courses are aimed at people of all levels, with all bases covered.”

The launch of Adventure Aberdeen’s new series of mountaineering courses coincides with VisitScotland’s inaugural Adventure Tourism Week which runs from 16-20 November and aims to bring together marine, activity, wildlife and adventure operators from across Scotland.

For the full course listings and more information click here.

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