The ‘History, Health and Happiness’ project is the brainchild of Victoria Ryves from Heritage Doncaster. She has just been shortlisted as a Radical Changemaker by the Museum’s Association Museums Change Lives Awards that take place in November.This is the second national nomination for the project in just a matter of months.Victoria said: “I wanted to do something to care for people.“In Doncaster alone, we currently have an estimated 55,000 people experiencing mental health challenges.“Loneliness is a major contributor, and I was shocked to discover it’s as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, increasing the likelihood of mortality by 26 per cent.“I’ve always believed in the power of history to make a positive impact on our well being - I’d seen it first hand during outreach work to engage local people with our museum collections.“History sparks creativity and conversations; it connects people and helps people feel a sense of belonging.“It makes people happy.”Victoria started to develop ideas for a new project to help local people, and with the support of mental health charities - including b:friend, Mind and Age UK - local community groups, and the Arts Council for England, she kickstarted the History, Health and Happiness project in 2019.During lockdown, the project began to take on a new life as more people than ever before struggled with loneliness and social isolation.Victoria and her team had to think on their feet, mailing out thousands of monthly activity packs to families, neighbourhood support groups, and care homes; running digital social clubs, virtual exhibitions and mobile museums; and broadcasting podcast plays - amongst many other initiatives.Victoria said: “The feedback from those taking part has been amazing.“Our HerStory Club is a great example, with 23 per cent of the women involved feeling more confident, and 11 per cent feeling more connected with other people and experiencing a rise in happiness.“Having national recognition is the cherry on the cake, and I hope it will inspire more people to get involved.
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