Stephanie Dale | connect (people & nature) advocate
I discovered Human-Nature Escapes CIC during their open day at Keele Sustainability Hub, in August 2016, and was immediately drawn to the people and background story behind it.
I love Keele and its green campus and have been part of it for many years. I studied there for both my degree and masters degree and also worked for the university and for companies on the Science & Business Park. So when I found out that there was a new community interest company based there, focusing on using nature as a therapeutic technique, I jumped at the chance to pop along to see what they were doing. Human-Nature Escapes resonated with me because sometimes things happen that can change your direction in life almost in an instant. For me, that was becoming a full time carer for my sister.
Previously, I’d worked in many IT and communication-based roles and had started my own small business, so it was a shock to have to give up my work, my business, my friends and my life as I once knew it, to instead go to an unpaid, full time role, that couldn’t be escaped from at the end of the day. Since becoming a carer, I’ve researched various studies and spoken to many other carers, and there’s a clear and worrying trend; often as carers, we find our own health and wellbeing deteriorating due to the relentless demands placed upon us. It’s often a stressful and unrewarded role, and at times it can become a very lonely place. There’s nothing worse than feeling lonely and cut off from the outside world, but at the same time feeling like you don’t want to, or can’t get out to meet people. It’s been hard, but the Human-Nature project seems to have been that small catalyst that I needed to get me out for a couple of hours a week, and the kind of respite and social interaction that I needed.
Due to this, I’m eager to raise awareness for other people who are supporting the wellbeing of their family or friends, i.e. the carers, to make sure that their own mental health and wellbeing is not forgotten about. We all need some therapeutic support, especially when we’re continually providing the support for more than one person. I think that the Human-Nature project has a unique opportunity in this area, providing nurturing activities that could be well suited to supporting the many carers out there that do such a wonderful job and who often go unrecognised – people who themselves might need a break and a bit of an ‘escape’.
Initially, I joined the project as a volunteer to provide feedback on pilot activities, but soon realised how much I’d previously enjoyed these types of activity. Not only do they support my own wellbeing, the health benefits from being around supportive, understanding and like-minded people remind me that there are others out there going through similar things. I’ve always loved nature and photography, especially capturing macro images, and I love that Human-Nature gives me, and other people, the opportunity to use photography to support their wellbeing in this way. I find that it’s almost impossible to worry about external things, when I’m immersed in nature and busy capturing photos of it!
Despite my caring role, I’ve managed to re-establish connections to the business world, as co-host of #smallbizhour, by connecting people, providing business support and facilitating on-line networking for small businesses on Twitter. I’m also a Video Marketing Consultant with Newcastle-under-Lyme based digital video company, CineRobota, who provide marketing communications to help businesses connect to customers through short films and digital media.
As a people-orientated person, with a passion for connecting people through technology and social media, I’ve offered to help Human-Nature Escapes as the project’s ‘Connect (People & Nature)’ Advocate. I’m keen to help develop their digital marketing strategy, and to ensure that they able to connect to the right people, whether that be other businesses, the wider community or specific individuals who will benefit from their services.