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On the wave to feeling swell

Trusted mental health and wellness charity, Waves of Wellness (WOW), is launching a new program, specifically targeted at helping locals who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The free, 8-week WOW Surfing Experience, commencing in Newcastle on 22 October, has been made possible through a $49,633 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

Dropping in time for Mental Health Month, the surf therapy program responds to the needs of vulnerable people facing financial hardship and mental health challenges, brought on by the global pandemic.

Waves of Wellness Chief Executive Officer, Joel Pilgrim, said the evidence based learn-to-surf program is necessary and relevant during the current climate.

“In Australia, one in five people experience mental health challenges, and unfortunately the mental health of many Australians has been exacerbated this year as people struggle to come to terms with challenges created by COVID-19,” Joel said.

“At WOW we are dedicated to squashing the outdated stigma that surrounds mental health by having confronting conversations in neutral and socially-inclusive environments, whilst promoting the fact that it’s OK to not be OK.

“Not only does the WOW Surfing Experience provide a healthy outlet for participants to express themselves and enhance their quality of life, but each week we will tackle a different mental health topic head on, equipping individuals with information and support to help them reach a healthier state-of-mind.

“We have been working closely with the local community, including unemployment agencies and mental health services, to reach people in need of some extra help, and we’ve had an overwhelming response to this month’s program.

“It’s fantastic to see how engaged people are with the program’s concept, and to ensure we can keep helping those in need we’ll host another 8-week program in February 2021”, Joel said.

The COVID-19 dedicated program will also be rolling out in Ballina, Yamba and the Central Coast over the coming summer. The expansion will reach even more people in these regional communities by engaging with local surf schools and utilising the new WOW vehicle, which was purchased earlier this year using a grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Jennifer Leslie, said how important it is to support programs that are accessible and effective in helping individuals in need, particularly during COVID-19.

“As part of our COVID-19 support funding announced in September, we are working rapidly with our charity partners like Waves of Wellness to ensure our communities are being supported when and how they need it during this difficult time,” Jennifer said.

“Our priority is to support practical and innovative programs that directly reach marginalised and vulnerable members of the community who are often overlooked, and help them avoid severe disadvantage. This is exactly what the WOW Surfing Experience offers.”

“The WOW Surfing Experience has proved effective in other disaster and hardship settings, so the Charitable Foundation is proud to support its development to support people through the COVID-19 pandemic and see it grow to reach other regions up and down the coast,” Jennifer concluded.

The WOW Surfing Experience 8-week course commences in Newcastle on October 22, with an additional program offered in February 2021. The Ballina, Yamba and Central Coast programs will launch over the summer of 2020/21.

The program follows COVID-19 safety and hygiene protocols, and is open to anyone needing support during this challenging time. More information on how to register is available here: https://www.foundationwow.org/surf-therapy

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