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Mental health charity wins £5,000 in national competition

9th August 2021

A mental health charity which saw demand for its services surge during Covid-19 can now fund more lifechanging fitness courses after it won thousands of pounds in a national competition run by specialist charity insurance firm Ansvar.

Oakleaf Enterprise in Guildford, which has been supporting people with mental health issues for the past 24 years, was chosen as a winner in Ansvar’s Community Campaign, having been up against hundreds of charities across the UK.

The charity was awarded £5,000 from a total prize pot of £25,000, which will fund the next two rounds of its Kickstart wellbeing programme – a 12-week fitness course designed to boost physical and mental health. Oakleaf Enterprise launched the programme for 12 participants in January with virtual sessions, and it was such a success they decided to seek funding to run further courses, year on year.

Jen Clay, Fundraising and Partnership Manager at Oakleaf Enterprise, said the charity saw a 60 per cent rise in new referrals following the first lockdown in May 2020 compared with the same month in 2019.

She said: “During the winter lockdown our client services manager saw the highest level of low mood and suicidal thoughts ever in the history of her time at Oakleaf. We also saw our clients’ physical health was declining.

“The correlation between physical health and mental health is well known. Just 30 minutes of regular exercise can be, for some people, as effective in reducing mild or moderate depression as antidepressants.

“We decided to launch our Kickstart programme, where each person gets one-to-one support from a personal trainer, nutrition advice and all the exercise equipment they need.

“In the first group, one person who had suffered with addiction managed to use the programme as a way to stay sober, and another lost three stone.

“This funding is so exciting and such wonderful news for us as it means we can fund two more programmes, with the first 12-week course starting in October. It really will make a massive difference to our clients’ lives.”

Alan, a participant who took part in the first Kickstart programme, said: “I started in January, overweight and with a mental illness that prevented me from doing anything about it.

“This course has seen the most significant change in me. I now look at exercise techniques as well as what I fuel my body with completely differently, which has made my mind stronger and helped my self-esteem and confidence. I feel I can face the strange world we live in with a better stride and a smile on my face.”

Jen said there is already a big waiting list for the next two Kickstart programmes, and the fitness courses are part of a wider range of services the charity provides for adults in Surrey struggling with their mental health.

Oakleaf is among three successful UK charities to win funding in Ansvar’s Community Campaign competition. The two other winners are breast cancer charity littlelifts based in Norwich and Yes Futures, which supports disadvantaged young people in London and the South East.

Sarah Cox, Managing Director at Ansvar, said: “Oakleaf Enterprise is a great initiative set-up to help people with mental health issues within the community.

“Our judges felt they are worthy winners as their Kickstart project aims to give service users a health plan that not only helps them get fit physically, but also helps with their mental fitness too.”

For more information regarding Ansvar Insurance, please visit

To find out more about Oakleaf Enterprise, visit