Retired midwife strides ahead with new parent walking group

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A Stirling local has won a volunteer award for her inspirational work to set up a walking group for new parents and carers as government lockdown restrictions were lifted to reduce isolation.

Retired midwife, Susan Kennedy won the award for her voluntary work with ‘Walk Forth Bumps and Babies’, a health walk project supported by national walking charity, Paths for All.

The 58-year-old has been recognised as the winner of the Ian Findlay Outstanding Achievement Award at Paths for All’s Volunteer Awards 2021 for her support and determination with the project.

Susan has been involved in local buggy walks for over seven years and with her experience has gone the extra mile to provide continuous support for individuals expecting a baby, as well as new parents and parents or carers of toddlers.

Throughout lockdown the original group was stopped however when restrictions allowed Susan was determined to reinstate the group.

Susan played a crucial role in developing the new group to ensure that parents and carers from all walks of life felt part of a community and had a safe space to share their worries.

Susan said: “A lot of parents were doing postnatal appointments online throughout lockdown and many felt there just wasn’t a way for parents to express their concerns, feelings and to get general advice.

“When you hear individuals talk about the impact the group has had on them and how much better it has made them feel, it’s just amazing and makes everything worthwhile.

“New parents can be so isolated, so I would say just to come along and give it a go. No one has to book; they just have to come along. It can provide a great support system and opportunity to exercise in a busy period of being a parent.

“The group provides a fantastic service and a bit of support to people who really need it. It’s a raw environment when you’re just side by side walking.”

Susan started the walking group and reached out to Paths for All for support, it has since given the group a real sense of purpose.

Susan added: “Everyone has been so thankful that we are able to get back out again socialising – it’s a big thanks to Paths for All. When I’m leading the group and hear the chatting behind me, it really does give me a lift.

“We really thrive for a relaxing environment so if you don’t feel like chatting that day, that’s fine.

We have a really good Facebook group that helps everyone keep in touch and even get support through that.

“At first I was shocked to hear I’d won the award but feel really proud and delighted to be recognised for this work”.

The Ian Findlay Outstanding Volunteer Award was created in honour of Paths for All’s long-standing Chief Officer Ian Findlay who passed away suddenly in March 2021. A committed volunteer himself he was also an advocate for volunteers to be recognised, thanked and celebrated. The annual Paths for All’s Volunteer Award ceremony was a key highlight for him in the organisation’s calendar of events.

Susan is among 11 different winners at the 12th annual Volunteer Awards that highlighted the outstanding work carried out by volunteers across the country.

She was commended at the awards ceremony which was held virtually for the second year and hosted by Fiona Stalker.

The charity supports local authorities and communities to develop inclusive environments for people to be active; whether walking, cycling or wheeling.

Kevin Lafferty, Chief Executive Office at Paths for All, said: “Individuals like Susan highlight the very reason why we host an annual awards ceremony.

“It is vital that we celebrate and shed light on the outstanding work that volunteers carry out in local communities across Scotland on a daily basis.

“Our volunteer’s invaluable contribution is directly working to improve the nation’s physical, mental and social health which has been evident throughout the pandemic, with many going above and beyond their normal duties.

“Hearing the inspirational stories during the award ceremony has highlighted that it is not just enough to say thank you – the work undertaken has provided a life line for many and for that we’re forever grateful.”

Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiative to improve the mental, social and physical health of the country.

The charity awards thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.

To find out more which Health Walks you can join, visit: www.pathsforall.org.uk/healthwalkfinder