My Saheli Journey by Maisie Dill

My Saheli journey started in 2008.

I had recently lost my mother, for whom I used to care for. This left me at a loose end, my husband at work, me getting up each day, housework, gardening and shopping. Attending neighbour meetings regularly with my friend was not enough for me, and I needed to do more. One day my friend visited me. She said: “Would you like to come along to the gym with me?” “Where is this gym?” I asked. She replied: ”Around the corner.” I said: “Are you saying there is a gym not too far from here, and I never knew about it?” Oh, yes, there was SAHELI!

The following day I went and met Shebina; she was very welcoming. I got signed up and got my Saheli card. There was no stopping me now. I had somewhere I could go to exercise and meet other people. To my surprise, there were other people there that I already knew.

Almost every day, I attended exercises classes which I enjoyed. Sometimes we would go walking to places like Licky Hills. We went on rambling walks with a trained walk leader. My friend and I learnt to ride a bike with Naseem; it was always fun being out with her. But we have also been given the opportunity to do other things – I can remember Naseem taking us to the Houses of Parliament, we joined in a debate with Nick Clegg.

After a few months, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer to become a fitness instructor. I said “yes” without hesitation. Because of my age, some of my family thought I was crazy others were supportive. But Shebina and Naseem saw potential in me, gave me the opportunity, and I took it.

After six months, I went for my first exam, exercise to music. I loved music. I used to listen to a lot of music, but I had no idea what phrases and beats were. I failed. But I never gave up. I did the exam for a second time, and this time I passed. Next, I did personal training and a chair- based exam. They were never easy, but I pushed myself until I got there. I am still learning.

Being with Saheli, you never stop learning; it’s continuous. And being a part of Saheli has thought me how to look after my own health. Shebina and Naseem are always giving staff the opportunity to learn something new, and sometimes members are also given the same chance as the staff.

I consider myself very lucky to be part of a great team.