People and Places | Health Beauty Fashion
Being well starts with a walk
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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Jodie Belyea, founder of the Women’s Spirit Project, knows something as simple as going for a walk and being part of a supportive community increases the confidence and well-being of vulnerable women. “Getting out in nature helps to shift the script and lift our energy,” says Jodie.

With this in mind, WSP is hosting Walk 4 Well-being from October 2-November 28. Women and girls aged 12 and up are encouraged to get out and walk in nature with a friend – in their 5km or 10km zone if still in lockdown – as a strategy for improving physical and mental well-being. Participants become part of WSP’s virtual community and can keep track of their progress via an online fitness app.

WSP is a grassroots community initiative established in early 2018. Having experienced trauma in her own childhood, Jodie understands first hand how vital access to support, mentors and a commitment to fitness, health and well-being are for people to overcome major challenges and trauma. Jodie brings a wealth of experience to WSP built over 25 years working in corporate, community, philanthropic and government sectors delivering projects for young people and adults marginalised because of experiences of trauma.

In 2019, WSP delivered its first program in the Frankston/Mornington Peninsula region to 17 women experiencing a range of life challenges, including mental health issues, family violence and social isolation. Supported by a team of 14 volunteers, the WSP tribe challenged their bodies, minds and souls using a combination of physical, spiritual and well-being activities. The program included a 67km, three-day trek through Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula by the participants, mentors and founding members. Everyone who completed the program attested to the life-changing impact it has had on their feelings of connectedness, resilience, self-esteem and well-being.

Jodie’s vision to empower vulnerable women in our region to transform their lives through accessible fitness, health, and well-being activities is stronger than ever as the need continues to grow for early intervention programs. One of the defining features of the range of programs and events offered by WSP is that they’re offered at low or no cost to women from all walks of life.

The target audience for WSP has broadened due to the pandemic. WSP project manager Birte Moliere explains: “With extended lockdowns, more people in our community are struggling with home schooling, not being able to cope with work and having children at home, or having reduced hours and feeling isolated. There are so many mental health challenges in the broader community. It’s not only who we would have previously classified as vulnerable women; it’s more widespread. Business leaders, community leaders, so many people who you might think are incredibly resilient usually are now due to extended lockdowns finding things harder. We know from research the impacts of lockdown are carried by women, the additional care, home schooling and worry. The walk is a self-care opportunity.”

WSP’s work is made possible through support from a range of government and philanthropic organisations. Walk 4 Well-being’s supporters include Frankston City Council, Family Life, RAW travel, WHISE (Women’s Health in the South East), Monash University, Pressroom Philanthropy, and Frankston Revitalisation Board. The WSP tribe of volunteers bring the events to life; without them it wouldn’t be possible.

Jodie says: “Walk 4 Well-being is about women supporting women. The walk is open to women beyond the Peninsula. We’re intent on connecting, motivating and supporting women to stay well during this time by providing access to free events and activities. Our aim is to create connection to a tribe of like-minded women with the aim to reduce isolation and loneliness.” That’s well worth getting off the couch for. And it’s free. Men are invited to support women in their lives on the walk, but registration is only open to women. For more details, go to the website or Facebook page.

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