Heart2Heart in three minutes

Got three minutes? Check out this video, featuring volunteers explaining what Heart2Heart is all about

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Autumn Leaves

As the weather is turning, trees are shedding leaves and we all want to be in from the cold, the Heart to Heart team are busy getting on with activity. Peer supporters have been out visiting the hospital gym that cardiac patients use for the exercise element of their rehab programme. It is interesting how keen people are to talk about their condition and their journey back to health. Our peer supporters have had many unplanned but meaningful conversations with people who just want to share and be heard. The content of their talks make it clear that mental health and wellness are intertwined with physical health. This is very apparent from peer beneficiaries comments such as:

“It’s (our meetings) really helped me to be motivated; I would have struggled to make decisions on my own”

“I feel every time I meet you (Peer Supporter) I want to have achieved something new!”

“I can talk everything through and be reassured.”

Personal contact matters especially when it is with someone who has time to really listen and offer support.

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They’re ‘hatched’ and waiting to be matched!

We thought you might like to meet the most recent volunteers to have ’emerged’ from our Heart to Heart 5 day Peer Supporter development programme. Now that the project has ethical approval our trained Peer Supporter volunteers are just waiting to be ‘matched’ with their Peer Beneficiaries. These will be mostly women, from BME backgrounds, aged 50 or over – who have recently had heart disease treated and have been advised to undertake a cardiac rehabilitation programme and make appropriate life-style changes.

Our volunteers can’t wait to meet their peers and do what they can to make a difference. Here’s what they have to say about themselves .. .. ..

I volunteered with the Heart to Heart Project as I consider myself to be a caring person. I enjoy learning new skills and I want to motivate others to see their own potential. I enjoy listening to jazz music and as a second language I speak fluent German.

I am a mature, energetic, “young at heart” lady. I am artistic, helpful, patient and kind. I am versatile and enjoy yoga, art, dressmaking, flower arranging, gardening and socialising. I spend my spare time doing activities in church and visiting the sick. I feel I would make a good peer supporter as I am easy to get on with and I am a good listener.


I volunteered for the Heart to Heart Project because I like helping people. I speak English, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi – so can help people with language barriers.
I am a very good listener and am non-judgmental.



I am a calm, pleasant, patient, hardworking and reliable lady – who’s fun to be around. I worked as a nursing and home care assistant for 12 years. I have volunteered before to look after elderly neighbours, children and family for over 10 years and I have a wide experience of services.I speak English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu, and Mirpuri. I became a Peer Supporter to encourage others and because I have a positive and fighting spirit! I enjoy cooking, sewing, music, meeting people, watching TV and walking.


I hope I can be of benefit to women who have heart disease, through the Heart to Heart Project. I have personal experiences in this field and have attended training. I am sensitive, understanding, reliable, approachable and considerate. I do lots of voluntary work with cardio-clients and support a dance class in the South of Birmingham.


I am a friendly and sociable person. I am Sikh by faith and speak English, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. I would be very happy to support to support anyone – male or female – who needs help because of language barriers. I have helped people with long term illness, through the Expert Patient Programme, and have a good deal of experience in supporting people.


The Heart to Heart Project will enable me to help others. I am trustworthy and have empathy. I enjoy cooking, gardening, walking and listening to music. I’m happy to support a male or female beneficiary. I am sociable, sensitive, flexible, open to new ideas, patient and helpful.


I am non-judgmental and can be trusted to keep information confidential at all times. I’m fun to be around, happy and very sociable.


I am a mature woman of African-Caribbean descent. I volunteered for this project because it will enable me to contribute to the diverse and complex community in which we live. I’m a retired nurse, caring, understanding, a good listener with a non-judgmental attitude. I am honest, trustworthy, jolly and fun loving – with a pleasant personality.




I volunteered for the Heart to Heart Project because I have personal experience of heart problems and would like to support others experiencing the same thing. I am sensitive and sociable, with life experience of bringing up children. I have just become a grandmother to twins! I look forward to meeting and talking to you.


I volunteered for the Heart to Heart Project because I believe “Every journey starts with one small step.” I look forward to meeting you and listening to what you have to say.
I am a calm, friendly, patient, reliable, sensitive and open minded individual. I enjoy watching most sports – I am a fan of Formula One Grand Prix.


LornaLORNA 2
I am a mature and loveable lady who likes to help others. I am a good listener, approachable, very honest, and do active work in the church. I have personally experienced heart problem, since 2012. The Heart to Heart Project has helped me and because of this I feel I can support and listen to others with this problem.
I love cooking, doing puzzles and watching TV. I attend yoga and ti chi classes, which helps me a lot.


MARZIA 2Marzia
I joined the Heart to Heart Project because I like helping people. I speak English, Urdu, Kutchi, Swahili, Gujrati and Hindi. I have a pleasant nature and good listening skills. My hobbies are cooking, watching TV, gardening and reading.




I am a mature, trendy, “young at heart” lady. I enjoy meeting people, socialising, healthy eating, dancing, entertaining, keeping fit and walking. I go to church and I’m a very good listener with lots of patience.


I volunteered with the Heart to Heart Project because I am very passionate about having a healthy heart and helping people with heart problems. I am enthusiastic, approachable and a good listener. My interests are gardening, socialising and listening to music.


I am a mother of 3 and enjoy taking care of them. I am volunteering on the Heart to Heart Project because I want to support and listen to others and help them make positive changes in their lives. I am open minded and enjoy hearing other people’s views.

Posted in Learning new skills, changing habits, Older Black and Minority Ethnic women, Peer Beneficiaries, Peer Supporters, Volunteers | Leave a comment

“I’ve moved that mountain three times now!”

Moving a mountain three times was something a volunteer – Shabnam – really did on our most recent Heart to Heart Peer Supporter training days.

You’re intrigued now aren’t you?

Shabnam had to draw – as accurately as possible – an unseen image being described by her partner, which happened to be a rural mountain scene. After the exercise, when others looked at her picture she was asked: “What’s that?” She replied: “That’s the mountain I had to move three times!”

What she reflected on was that as she got more information and listened more deeply her assumptions were proven wrong and she had to change her view – and this happened three times. So for their role as Peer Supporters and the skills required, the volunteers thought that this exercise had demonstrated to them:

  • the power of ‘active listening’
  • the importance of asking the right questions
  • and the capacity to change what you think you know and understand

So what a great metaphor!

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It’s all in a name?

Careful readers of this blog might have noticed a change in the way we describe the volunteers who’ve been trained to offer support to their peers with heart conditions. We were calling them Peer Advisors but they’ve now become Peer Supporters. Why the change? Well, largely to make sure there was no confusion between the role of our partner cardiac rehabilitation teams and the role of our volunteers. The cardiac rehabilitation teams will provide all of the advice and guidance that patients need, our volunteers’ role is to support patients to put that advice into practise. So to call them Peer Advisors, when they won’t be offering any health-related advice – as our volunteers pointed out – could confuse things. Our volunteers, ever practical, suggested the new name, which we think better captures what they’ll be doing.

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Good news!

Our first volunteers have now completed their training. Yes, very exciting.

This means they’re now ready to be matched with heart patients who could benefit from support during the rehabilitation process and managing lifestyles changes.

If you’d like to meet the volunteers, click here.

A third group of volunteers will start their training in June 2013. Watch this space for more info…

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Some of our Peer Advisors describe themselves in 5 sentences or less!

Just before Easter we asked our first group of volunteers, who are under-taking training to become a Peer Advisor, to write something about themselves that could be read by the patients (our Peer Beneficiaries) who will be considering having a Heart to Heart Peer Advisor to support them through the period of their cardiac rehabilitation programme. The volunteers suggested that their descriptions should be quite short (5 sentences or less), easy to read and give people a sense of who they are and why they’ve chosen to volunteer. As you might imagine many volunteers found describing themselves quite hard to do. We then suggested they work in pairs to describe each other and that really worked, as you’ll see below.

Meet five of our first group of trainee Peer Advisors:

Sue .. .. ..                             

I was drawn to the Heart to Heart Project, firstly because I too am over 50, but mainly because I enjoy taG1 susanking part in voluntary work.

I feel I am approachable, reliable, optimistic but realistic. I am an extremely good listener, caring and motivational to support and promote change. I have a good sense of humour as well as a serious side.

Maisie .. .. ..

G1 maisieI am trustworthy, reliable and friendly person. I am wise and optimistic mainly because I am 69 years old.

I am a people person, which is why I became a volunteer for the Heart to Heart Peer Support.


Shebina .. .. ..
G1 shebinaThe Heart to Heart Project is very special to me! It gives me a chance to give “Time to Listen” and support women who need reassurance during their treatment. I am a non-judgemental, open and warm person. I have personal and professional experience of engaging with women who have heart disease, and enjoy being a support activator that will motivate individuals, and empower them to make choices that will hopefully improve their quality of life.

Liana .. .. ..
G1 lianaI am a warm and patient individual, who enjoys meeting new people, listening, encouraging and motivating others.I became a Peer Supporter because I have a genuine passion for helping in the community, and have a personal interest in learning more about leading healthier lifestyles. Listening to the community is the main role of my job, so this role will enable me to expand contact with people and reach out in other communities.I am open minded, adaptable and very comfortable in new and varying situations. As a peer advisor I hope to offer the beneficiary safe, friendly and honest companionship.

Karen .. .. ..
G1 karenI am really passionate about the Heart to Heart Project, helping women who have suffered heart disease. I feel I am a good listener and I’m determined. Having been given the opportunity to change my own life, I feel able to support others in their lifestyle changes. I’ve had experience working with disadvantaged people within the community, whilst doing my Care in the Community Project at college, a couple of years ago.

Posted in Cardiac rehabilitation services, Older Black and Minority Ethnic women, Peer Advisors | 2 Comments

I didn’t think listening could be such hard work and be so powerful!

I’m delighted to confirm that we now have two groups engaged in the initial five days of mandatory training and support for Heart to Heart’s volunteer Peer Advisors [PAs].

The content and structure of the Peer Advisor training and support programme was devised with reference to input from both our general interest and steering / advisory groups of volunteers and professionals. We’ve also been fortunate in being able to commission one of our volunteers – who is both a qualified, independent personal coach and a ‘Mindfulness’ practitioner – to co-develop and co-facilitate the Peer Advisor [PA] training programme. The training approach is to develop Heart to Heart Peer Advisors who will be able to listen, empathise, motivate and empower. Despite their name – they definitely won’t be offering advice!

8 people volunteered to join Group 1 and provide further feedback and evaluation on the content and structure of the pilot Peer Advisor training programme, which started on 30th January. 6 volunteer PAs remain in Group 1 and have completed their third full day. They are due to complete their programme on 26th March. We used their feedback to amend the programme content and structure slightly for Group 2. 10 people enrolled into Group 2 and began training on 12th February. This group has had two full days of training and is due to complete on 30th April.

We’ve been asking both groups about what they’ve enjoyed most and what they’ve learned on each day. Here’s a flavour of their themed responses:

Meeting all these wonderful people / Getting to know more people in a group & working with others I haven’t met before

Being with a group of people and learning a lot! /Learning new things / The course is very intense and very satisfying

I learned that by asking open questions you can make people think and find the solution to their problems themselves / Using powerful, open questions to empower and allow the beneficiary to take control

Clear understanding of roles and responsibilities / Being clear on boundaries / Understanding how to be ‘professional’

Listening without giving advice / Speaking and listening practice / Being a beneficiary and having someone actually listen to me

Practising the skills I’m learning / Practising the first communication and the the first meeting with a beneficiary

The role plays – how different people respond to different situations / Being able to observe the modelling / Role playing – being able to change partners & interact with different people / How different everyone is – revealed by changing partners to practise with

Understanding more about discrimination,equality and human rights / Learning about the law and direct & indirect discrimination / Knowing more about changes in the law and the Public Sector Equality Duty

What’s next? The PAs in Groups 1 and 2 will have the opportunity to meet and mix with one another on the 14th March. On that day, our local evaluator (who they all met on their Day 1) will spend some time with them – before lunch – to ask about their experience of the Heart to Heart to project to date. This is also our photography day! We hope to photograph each willing Peer Advisor volunteer, which may be easier said than done as we’ve noticed that they tend to disappear or hide whenever a camera appears! We also hope to have a ‘pen portrait’ from each of them, something which we’ve been encouraging them to think about and draft since Day 1 on the course.

Everyone can then have lunch together before returning to their specific training programme in the afternoon, which will complete Day 4 for Group 1 and Day 3 for Group 2.

So, watch this space ………. I may or may not have some photographs in the next blog!

Posted in Discrimination, Equality & Human Rights, Learning new skills, changing habits, Older Black and Minority Ethnic women, Peer Advisors | Leave a comment

Never too late to do something for your heart!

IMG_0033On 4th February, 8 people who’d expressed interest in our Heart to Heart project attended our second cardio-vascular disease awareness session. The first session was piloted back in December. Based on feedback from the volunteers who attended that session, the two cardiac rehabilitation nurse specialist facilitators (who are also project volunteers) and brap’s Outreach Officer and Project Coordinator met to discuss how to amend the content and improve the resources in line with the valuable and constructive feedback received from our volunteers about what they thought others might like more and less of!

So, armed with an updated resource booklet (in colour) for every participant, models of the heart and arteries (you can just about see them on the table in the photo), Kanta and Ravinder talked our volunteers through the types, causes, and treatments for cardiac disease. This was followed by a description of the types of activity a cardiac patient might be asked to engage in after her / his current fitness levels and exercise capacity have been assessed. This assessment is carried out by a physiotherapist who then ‘prescribes’ a cardiac rehabilitation programme tailored to the individual and their specific health needs.

Our volunteers felt that understanding the benefits of following this programme – for cardiac patients – brought home to them exactly why and how having the support of a Heart to Heart Peer Advisor could have an impact on someone’s future health. As a consequence, one person present made the decision to volunteer immediately to become a Peer Advisor.

Our volunteers also said how grateful they were for the opportunity to learn more about heart disease from professionals – in an informal and relaxed way-  and to have simple but important messages to take away to share with their family, friends and community groups. Two quotes from our volunteers capture the essence of these important, simple healthier heart messages:

Heart disease is mainly caused by lifestyle. Once you’ve developed it – there are things you can do to prevent further damage

Exercise reduces the incidence of heart attack  and improves the health of the whole bodyIMG_0030

There’s lots of interest in our third cardio-vascular disease awareness session, which will be delivered on 12th March. I’ll let you know how that went in April.

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Getting together, learning together: Peer Advisor development programme – Group 1

Plans for our first group of Peer Advisor volunteers to undertake their training and development programme are well under way. Subject to confirmation, a group of eight volunteers will start their development programme in 3 week’s time, with two full days of training on Wednesday 30th January and Friday 1st February.

On these first two days together we plan to:

  • support the group to get to know one another
  • provide more detail about the role, responsibilities, knowledge, skills and attributes of a Heart to Heart Peer Advisor
  • intoduce and practise using the skills

This group will then come together again on the 15th February, 14th March, 15th March and 26th March to:

  • extend and deepen their knowledge & practise their skills
  • discuss progress with Peer Beneficiaries (patients)
  • receive support and supervision
  • raise issues
  • reflect, evaluate and discuss together and individually
  • complete paperwork

I’ll tell you how it went in February …….

Posted in Learning new skills, changing habits, Older Black and Minority Ethnic women, Peer Advisors, Volunteers | Tagged | Leave a comment