Tuesday, 31 December 2019

From Accountant to Creating Super Food With You

Once upon a time I was a qualified accountant working part-time in local government thinking to myself ‘There has to be more to life than this!’ So, I took the huge decision to resign and build a business around what I love – cooking.

There have been 3 stepping-stones to create my business as it is today.

Stepping-Stone 1…

To get some proper cheffing skills I enrolled for an incredibly intense 10 week course at Leiths School of Food and Wine.

After this I created my company Caroline’s Cookery.

Stepping-Stone 2…

Next, I decided to go back to Leith’s. This time, instead of using mountains of butter and bags of sugar, we were focusing on learning about and cooking the food that really nourishes us on their ‘Nutrition in Practice’ course.

Stepping-Stone 3…

Joining with like-minded people in the PHS to look at the bigger picture. Focusing on how we are all incredibly complex and need to look after our mind, body and soul. Offering solutions for people who want to improve different aspects of their lives to build health and happiness.

Along the way I have found out that I love cooking and eating vegetarian food and also do a lot of vegan cooking, as my girls both took the decision to turn vegan at age 16+.

I am also fascinated by the impact the food we eat has on us and I’m building on my knowledge by studying online for a ‘Diploma in Cullinary Medicine’.

Now here comes the super food bit…

My cooking lessons and courses are all about bringing together fresh ingredients to create colourful, nourishing and tasty dishes.

I provide the ingredients and recipes and teach you the techniques to bring everything together and create the dishes. It’s all very hands-on, and a lot of fun, with everyone working together in the kitchen to create super food.

Check out my website www.carolinescookery.co.uk for details of my classes or, if you want something more bespoke, I look forward to hearing from you at enquiries@carolinescookery.co.uk

Monday, 30 December 2019

Victoria Bell, Registered Nutritional Therapist

“…There’s nothing that I can tell you that you can’t Google. Therefore, I’m going to discharge you.” were some of the last words from the mouth of my NHS Dietician as she handed me a diet sheet about the low FODMAP diet. This is a highly restrictive elimination diet, for which NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends patients are supervised.

To be honest, I might have exasperated her a little with my countless questions. What I hadn’t told her though was that between my first and second consultation (a gap of nearly 6 months), I had started my training in Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy. Looking back now, I see that my dietician was in an impossible position. The NHS use their resources where they are needed most – for life threatening and debilitating conditions. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which I was struggling with at that time, is a condition that can be managed with lifestyle, and with so much information at our fingertips, we have the potential to make ourselves feel better.

I’d originally been referred to the Dietician for allergy testing. When the gold standard skin-prick test came back negative on all foods, her work was essentially done and I just had to get used to avoiding an increasing range of foods that seemed to trigger my IBS symptoms.

My diet was pretty unhealthy as a child. I was a fussy eater and vegetarian for great lengths of time but I disliked most fruit and vegetables and loved all things processed, loaded with sugar and fat! Probably my only saving grace was an active lifestyle - playing outdoors, climbing trees and helping my Mum from time to time with her conservation work. However, I was frequently ill and regularly dosed up on anti-inflammatory medication for muscle and joint pain.

During my twenties, the demands of adult life, working hard and playing hard led to me continually ignoring the constant warning signs my body gave out for me to treat it with more care. I had learned how to manage my weight with calorie counting, diet products and for quite a while, avoiding all fat. Despite an impressive collection of health magazines and cookbooks, I really didn’t know how to fuel my body properly.

Everything started to change around 2007 and 2008. In the space of about a year, I lost two close relatives and my Mum had become quite ill. My exciting role in Finance for a fast-growing technology company started to overwhelm me and my health threatened to become a big problem. I refused to take sick leave and would spend my days at work unable to eat anything because of IBS flare ups. Then late in 2008 I started to lose my voice frequently – with one particularly bad bout of laryngitis and sinusitis I was eventually told to work from home until my voice returned… 12 days later.

I carried on like this until I had my first daughter in 2010 and then my second in 2012. My resistance to all the bugs that come with children was so low that I would often need antibiotics. At the time I hadn’t linked my poor immunity with my digestive issues.

Then two events set me off on a quest to really focus on what was going on with my health. The first one was an appointment with my GP which left me dumbfounded when I came away with a prescription to improve my sleep which was disturbed by IBS symptoms at night. It was only when I collected the prescription that I realised it was for antidepressants. There had to be a better way to support my health without medication! As it was, I could no longer tolerate many medications due to my weakened digestive system.

The second ‘light bulb’ moment was when I read an article about food intolerances. It suggested that we may often have cravings for the foods we are intolerant to due to a complex attempt by our bodies to maintain balance. This one idea set me off on a little research project – could I be lactose intolerant? I found an inexpensive private test that could be done locally. According to this particular test, I was intolerant to milk, soy, eggs and a type of preservative found in factory made bread. But avoiding all those things didn’t solve my problem and I went back to the doctor to get my Allergy Clinic referral.

Whilst I followed the advice of my dietician, I was also considering whether I really wanted to go back to my previous career. Finance can be a great choice for returning-to-work parents but my particular role didn’t really make for a good work-life balance with small children.

Plus, I recognised that something was missing since my close-knit small technology company had become more corporate – I missed having time to connect with members of my team and being there for them through their difficult times. I needed to feel that I could make a difference to people’s lives and to help them feel better.

Over the years I noticed the way in which whole, natural foods made me feel great and how processed and less healthy foods seemed to be linked to my symptoms. I had become a health geek– reading everything I found about nutrition and the body. I also really enjoyed going to food shows, and I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in this world.

So, after a great deal of consideration I made the decision to turn away from the more secure prospect of returning to finance, to retrain as a naturopathic nutritional therapist at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. It meant at least another three years not only without an income, but with the cost of the course fees, and all the expenses of travelling in and out of London for my lectures. It also meant three years of missing numerous weekends with my children, organising people to help when my children both went off to different parties at the same time, and even spending days in college for birthdays and Mother’s Day.

But during those three years, despite the intensity of the exams, assignments, long days, studying and revising through illness, almost exhaustion at times, I was in my element. I love learning and with health and nutrition there is so much to learn. There are also new developments to keep on top of all the time. And I found my tribe – a like-minded group of friends, all passionate about health and helping people. We found a common purpose and supported each other throughout all of our studies. We continue to support each other to this day.

Following qualification, I started setting up my practice in January 2019. It’s a simple model so far, I focus on seeing private clients one to one for nutritional therapy sessions. It’s important for me during these initial years to build up experience – each client is unique and with each consultation I build up more material that I can reuse in the future. Longer term I do have other directions I want to take the business in, for example corporate wellbeing, but I realised quickly the need to build strong foundations first and the rest can follow later.

My clients come to see me for a variety of health issues and goals for at least two consultations. I love learning about each client – they all have interesting stories to tell and the underlying causes behind their symptoms can be multi-faceted. My specialist area is Digestive Health which covers a large range of conditions. Often symptoms that occur elsewhere in the body can relate to problems rooted in the gut. It often amazes my clients how much better they can feel simply by supporting their digestion. Another area I am looking to specialise in is joint health with a focus on hypermobility. The musculoskeletal system is dependent on good nutrition which in turn requires good digestion and absorption. Everything in the body is interconnected!

During my training, my preparation for setting up clinic involved a single lecture and covered many of the practical and compulsory aspects to practicing. I came out of college naively believing that if I just ticked the list of all those steps, all those clients that were out there waiting for the answer to their problems would simply find me and get booked in to see me. Boy was I wrong!

With a finance background, including an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting, I’d been trained in all aspects of setting up a business so this was going to be child’s play, wasn’t it? I had no idea about digital marketing, social media, how to network, branding, design, and all manner of other skills we all need as entrepreneurs. Embarrassingly too, I worked for a technology company for 5 years yet I am completely clueless about many aspects of technology, but I am learning and investing in other people’s skills.

I’ve learned the hard way that many people don’t really understand what nutritional therapists do. It’s always interesting when people meet me for the first time, their assumptions can be far from the reality! Many aren’t sure what the difference is between a health coach and a nutritional therapist. Some think I’m just going to make them feel incredibly guilty about all their food choices like a modern-day Gillian McKeith! I’ve had to work on how I describe my profession, and the language I use to describe the problems I help to solve for my clients. I talk about the pain points I solve and about the small, manageable, sustainable changes they can make to their lifestyle. I also make it clear that it’s a collaborative, personalised process and the client makes changes at their pace in the order that they choose. This puts people at ease because they then understand that it’s not a rigid, prescriptive plan that is imposed on them and how much progress they make is not a matter of passing or failing.

Networking and connection with people from all professions has been invaluable to me. To spend time amongst people and to support each other is so important when you otherwise work alone. Through networks I have learned new skills, filled some gaps by meeting people who offer services I need and I have learned to be comfortable meeting new people. I never thought when I stood up to read my first minute that within months I would be delivering talks to rooms of people without getting the jitters!

Looking forward to the next year, I hope that my message will start to reach more of the people who need to hear it. That if they are able to invest in their health by seeing a nutritional therapist, they can make manageable and sustainable changes that can help to change the course of their health in the future to one that comes with more ease, quality of life and freedom to enjoy it.

As health practitioners, we all have services to offer that people desperately need so they can find better solutions than pills and avoidable medical procedures. It can be challenging to reach those people and to help them see that there is a better alternative but I am hopeful that the tide is turning and that together we can help to give people a better future.

For more information about Victoria Bell, visit www.victoriabellnutrition.co.uk or follow her on Facebook and Instagram @victoriabellnutrition.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

So Important to take responsibility for ourselves

A huge fan of the great David Attenborough, I had a dream to be a documentary filmmaker as, like him, I believe we have a social responsibility to our planet and all life on it.

He tackles the natural world and I am fascinated by the human condition.

My love of the arts gave me an idea to intertwine puppetry arts with real issues, since puppetry has the power to reflect the human condition and is also an engaging way to communicate key messages or historic events.

Puppetry and animation, in particular, enables us to connect on an emotional level, expand our imagination and offer concise insightful information, by creating scenarios and cultural environments that might be harder to produce with real people.

This idea developed into two independent films;
  • Master of Puppets (a film about a puppet troupe from Myanmar trying to evolve the artform to address more current affairs), which screened on all routes with Singapore Airlines in 2012 and,
  • In 2014 Magic In Our Hands (again following a puppetry artist, this time from a community in India, who was using the artform to raise awareness on issues of sustainable consumption and management of electronic waste) available on Amazon Prime.

Despite this small success, I realised my dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker wasn’t a viable business. More recently, I remodelled Hart In Media to support brands and businesses with their communication needs, focusing on brand values, corporate culture and social responsibility.

It upsets me when our ego’s or desire for personal gain or company profit impact people or the planet in a detrimental way, so I believe that organisations who align their vision with Global Sustainability Goals are the ones who will have the greatest impact of long-term sustainability and loyal stakeholders.

We all face challenging times at some point in our lives and this, I believe, is part of being human. If we can all connect at a deeper more empathic level, we might be able to solve some of the bigger challenges we face as a global community.

Social responsibility is about a company’s commitment to carrying out their business in an ethical way yet I fully understand that to stay in business, a company must be profitable. This leads many of us to make decisions based on profit rather than purpose and so it can be easy to turn a blind eye.

I believe a company that measures its success on purpose instead of only profit will have measured results in all areas; such as, better brand recognition, greater ability to attract and retain staff, employee wellbeing, and future sustainability which can help the environment and save money too. But these results cannot be measured in the short-term, so for me, it’s about educating leaders and stakeholders to make conscious and informed choices in purchasing and other business or consumer actions. The outcome, I believe, will be long-term sustainability and loyal stakeholders.

This realisation has led me to launch a coaching service to support clients and individuals, whose stories are emotionally and psychologically painful and which have blocked them from living from their highest wisdom. For example, I’ve worked with survivors of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, the LGBTQ community, children living with Type 1 diabetes, those living with Parkinson’s disease as well as topical environmental themes, such as electronic waste.

Having spent over 10 years working on my own personal growth and spiritual development, I’ve been told that I’m a good listener and really able to hear what message is being conveyed, offered in a safe non-judgemental space. My innate ability to delve deeper than most make me easy to talk to and for participants to reveal things about themselves that they might not have spoken about with others.

For most of my adult life, I have struggled with abandonment issues, difficulties in relationships and low self esteem, and so discovering a new technique called Emotional Acceptance, taught to me by my personal coach, has had an astounding impact.

I haven’t got all my shit together but it’s important to me to speak up about issues we all face and get involved in the community. I used to hold my tongue for fear of rejection or judgement and think “what’s the point, who will listen?”, but now I don’t want to feel suppressed. It’s important to share thoughts, views and insights because helping and supporting one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person, and this has a mushroom effect.

I think that we are in a transition stage as human beings, times are unsettling, and many won’t know how to cope with a new shift in paradigm. It could even be argued that human beings are the next species to face extinction so, rather than wait for someone, somewhere to somehow fix the problem, I think it’s more important now than ever to take responsibility for ourselves and our environment.

Blog post by : Victoria Hart

Unmissable Retreat in Budapest this Autumn

Collaboration between Victoria Hart, Viktoria Duda and myself an upcoming retreat located in Budapest from the 31st October to 4th November.

What is the retreat all about?

If you hadn't noticed there is a lot of unrest and uncertainty in the world right now. What is happening is, we are transitioning (albeit slowly) from an unsustainable profit driven, capitalistic and materialistic world into something else.

"Something else" might be a bit vague which of course it is, because along with this transition is the understanding that we don't actually know what we're transitioning too and what the destination looks like (or if there even is one), we've never been in this position before.

Maybe now is also the right time to look at what we're doing... get ourselves prepared for whatever might happen, so we are flexible, resilient and ready for whatever might come our way.

The Retreat is about getting prepared for your Transition. What is the future going to look like for you? For a few it might not look much different, for many of us though, we will be forced to change, through no fault of our own. Take a look at Thompson's Holidays, retail companies like Tesco, M&S and even John Lewis... household names struggling and reducing jobs.

Getting prepared for less certain times is our responsibility and on this retreat we will open a new toolbox that enables you to unfold yourself and transition to a future that works for you, even in an uncertain world.

What can you expect?

This Retreat provides a framework for you to 'fill in' with your own next life steps, and what works for you. It's a bit like having an empty Facebook account, there is a loose framework, where you build what goes in it and what what works for you.

This might be who you connect with, what you do in your day, new ideas, books to read, time for reflection, quite simply this retreat enables us to discuss ideas and our combined experiences so you can begin to develop what is going to work for you going forward and into the future.

No lectures... no listening to people droning on for hours. Just interactive and engaging group conversations exploring different ideas and concepts.

This will include : Health and Wellness, Mindset, Emotions, Finances, Relationships, Spirituality and what we ourselves feel our purpose for being here might be...

Retreat Outline Programme can be found here...

Why Budapest?

It is a beautiful city, so many people have this place on their bucket list... a place they have intended to visit for years. Now you can explore this city and combine that with exploring your own self too.

Through collaboration and connections with Budapest we are also able to keep the costs to an absolute minimum to remove this as an obstacle for people.

Who should attend this retreat?

Literally this is for everyone. There is no requirement to have been on retreats before or be deemed 'spiritual' in any way.

The facilitators are there as guideposts and to direct conversation and discussion in groups. A chance to take some time out from our busy lives and explore what we are doing. Are we happy, or are we actually just bumbling along with life being buffeted around by those we have allowed into our lives?

Through conversation you will be given some tools you may choose to use, a book list from which you can gain further insights into the areas we discuss and an ongoing private Facebook group where we can share thoughts and our experiences as we grow.

Final words...

If you would like the time to reflect on your life with some great people on their journey, whilst taking in the beautiful city of Budapest, all at an unrepeatable low cost... then...

Treat yourself... you won't regret it... this long weekend in Budapest might be the best decision you ever made.

Visit the Website, fill in the Contact Page (retreat enquiry), let's book you in...

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

A new kind of education system...

I have been having lots of conversations with people about education, training and learning recently. It's surprising how complex the exchange of information and knowledge has become. 

We are all familiar with "Governing bodies" who are responsible for keeping a register of people "Authorised" to provide a service as they are "Accredited". Of course we want to know that the person who is undertaking an operation on us, or providing advice about how to construct a building knows what they are talking about. Regulation is required to provide assurance and confidence in the person we are about to entrust ourselves to, as far as we can.

However, there are so many things which we need advice, guidance and signposting on which don't fit into this category of 'must have' regulation. Such as web sites for example, teaching social media, copy-writing, how to record a video, blogging, camping, filling in your tax return... the list is endless.

Regulation doesn't necessarily mean better either... it does probably mean more expensive though.

We all have knowledge, we all have experience, granted it is one perspective very often, however it is no less relevant than anyone else's point of view.

For example: If you are someone who makes lots of decisions, it's likely that not all will be good ones, but if you quickly assess the outcome, take out those that aren't working and drive forward with those that do... and you consistently do this... then you would be a great person to bounce ideas off.

No accreditation for the above... as there is no accreditation worth its salt for being good on social media... if you are good then it is because people like what you are doing.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

New Education System

This is not a replacement for what we have... what we are talking about here, is a concept based on the premise of :-

  • Learning is a life long experience
  • We all have the ability to share knowledge we have accumulated through our experience
  • If we have this knowledge it stands to reason others will also want this knowledge
  • We can not always find structured / regulated courses that teach what we want to know, very often the demand would be low, sporadic and not in one location
  • Costs can be low
  • Learning could happen in a classroom, online, individually or in groups, or just recorded so people can watch whenever they like
  • The foundation principle is the transfer or receipt of knowledge and helping others, rather than making a ton of money

If we take the "regulation" out, if we take the "profit motive" out, and the recipient of the payment is the one doing the work, not the platform making the knowledge available, everyone wins...

This has already been put in place as part of the Link4Growth platform and is called Link4Skills and there will be learning sessions appearing in the not too distant future... 

If you would like to participate then please let me know what you would like to do... could be absolutely anything at all really, even a free introduction to what you do! 

I will be using a questionnaire on Thursday 3rd October at the Link4Business  to find out what people would like to be trained on... so if you would like to participate in that then please come along... 1stVisit is the promo code if it is your first visit to a Link4Business event... or you can join via the website to attend for this one and other events for free.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Link4Business launches in Bushey

Par 3 Cafe & Lounge, Bushey Country Club
On the 5th September Link4Business launched in Bushey

During July / August the Par 3 cafe was brought to our attention as a potential venue for Link4Business. The cafe has been a fairly recent refurbishment of what was the Bushey Golf Club, that Audrey Mitchell (HertsPrems) mentioned to us.

Having been down to visit with Hazel Ovington, Desi Stefanova, and Silpi Babu it was agreed that rather than the cafe itself, the lounge area at the back would be more suitable.

The date was set and everyone went to work to encourage as many people as possible to attend. With 40 booked in and many new visitors, it was definitely expected to be a busy evening.

Hazel Ovington had spent the whole month inviting people along to this event and coupled with the support team above on the night the event went like clockwork...

As there were so many present and with many new people we restricted the introductions to 30 seconds (some went over) and just the one main talk which was about the history of Link4Growth and the past 8 years... just a short summary I promise you...

The regular team of Hazel and Desi are now building for the next event at the beginning of October. The venue is incredibly supportive and will also join Link4Business in the near future... Now to grow the other events in the area...

Next up is Link4Business at the Southern Cross, Watford. A brand new venue and 2nd Launch for SWHerts this month... building for that one now!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Cooking skills and Healthy home cooked food

You can't beat home cooked food. Not only prepared with fresh ingredients but infused with the love of the person doing the cooking too.

With things being financially tight these days it makes more and more sense to learn how to cook the basics and a great opportunity at the same time to experiment with 'in season' vegetables and pulses.

Caroline Byrne has been working with husbands, young adults going to university, and people undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Life Skill awards to teach basic cooking skills. It is amazing what can be conjured up with low cost ingredients like tomatoes, onion, courgettes, pasta and a bit of cheese for example.

Cooking at home can make big savings in the weekly budget, and can be just as tasty, and way more healthy than ready meals.

The pictures show how one class of young cookery students have created some amazing chinese food on one of Caroline's sessions.

The thing about cooking is that you not only get to create a work of art... you can eat it too!

If you'd like to talk about food and Nutrition or enquire about courses 

Caroline's Cookery

If you are interested in introducing more veg into your diet then click the link below

More Veg In Your Life

Aligning company culture with values

In a world beginning to prize people who are "principled with values" it is no wonder that Integrity is becoming a much sought after quality.

As Brene Brown quotes "Integrity is putting courage before comfort, doing what is right rather than what is fun, easy or fast, and practising your principles and values rather than just professing them".

This month Victoria Hart blogs about aligning businesses with core principles and values; often these are installed (at least initially) by the owner or the team that began the business.

Often, through the pressure of work, the vagaries of the business, profit motives, or people changes, the business can get misaligned. This can lead to loss of business, staff issues, problems with clients and / or suppliers.

In her recent blog post Victoria shares how business owners / managers can take an in-depth look at themselves providing fresh insights and perspectives on the business environment and the people in the business.

Read Victoria's blog post here...

One year on

Norah McLoughlin
We can learn a tremendous amount from grief.

Below Norah McLoughlin shares how grief can expose us to the rawness of extreme emotions that we can't run away from...

"This is a very personal post as it is a year today since my dad left the planet. He took his last breath at ten to six in the evening and slipped away from us in the way that he had lived, quietly and without much fuss but leaving a profound impact.
When you are in your fifties, a lot of your group have lost one, or both, parents or have parents who are ill. You are certainly not unique in your loss but, at first, you feel like you are the only one. To paraphrase the great teacher, Juliet Vorster, grief is a dance. Sometimes it is a raging, angry pogo and, at other times, a gentle waltz."

Friday, 28 June 2019

The PHS (People's Health Service) Launches...

The 24th June 2019 saw the launch of the PHS - the People's Health Service in North Watford at the Feel Hot Yoga and Wellbeing cafe on the Imperial Trading Estate.

The PHS is an idea based on observations about Health in the UK...

  • The NHS is highly stressed as it is, but with an ageing population the NHS is likely to experience much higher demand in the coming years.
  • How could we reduce the numbers of people that need to access the NHS?
  • What if we could leap on the huge trend of people taking better care of themselves?

"Apple and Samsung (to name two companies) are investing $ billions in devices that support people in taking more responsibility for their own health"

In a recent survey, over 50% of people claimed that it was their doctor that was responsible for their health. With only 7-8 minutes per GP appointment at the GP and financial constraints too it is no wonder all the signs are that the population is becoming more and more unhealthy.

With so much pressure on the NHS and growing numbers of people with obesity, diabetes and debilitating conditions there is clearly a need for something to happen.

The invisible health team

Through Networking over the past 10 years it is clear that there is a wide and diverse range of people that offer complementary health and wellness services and products. Health is a topic that always features in conversations and there is huge interest in preventative care.

The challenge for both people at large, and these complementary therapists and practitioners is how do they find each other?  ... and... how can we find out what is available in our locality?

For individual practitioners working alone, to get traction can be both time consuming and tedious with no promise of any results at the end of it.

So what if there was a way of

  1. Bringing a diverse range of Health Practitioners together
  2. Offering important, invaluable, and unbiased information not available easily elsewhere
  3. Providing access to complementary services and products 
"all aimed at keeping people well"

  • Reducing the burden (potentially) on the NHS
  • Keep people on their feet, living longer, more fulfilling and happier lives

How would you do that?

The PHS is an Umbrella idea that provides a simple framework at a national level. This is just a way of bringing all local initiatives together under a national brand / label. This is not a business, a charity or government initiative. It is simply a way of bringing people keen on this idea together so that we are able to share how things are developing across the country.

The SWHertsPHS is a local implementation of the PHS initiative. So there is already a core team of 7 practitioners / supporters who are growing and developing the SWHertsPHS.

  • No fees to join in and participate
  • Self perpetuating... people led and people driven... inclusive anyone in wellness can be part of it, from growing vegetables, nutrition, reflexology, crystal healing through to meditation, mindfulness, fitness and mental health and everything in between
  • Can be implemented anywhere
The plan is to host PHS Sessions to bring together practitioners and those seeking information, products, services and conversations during the day and evening in different locations throughout South West Herts. All sessions will be free to attend for the public.

As the idea grows and spreads then the expectation is to broaden the venues available and the number of events being run.

For Health & Wellness Practitioners

This provides the following benefits :

  • Gain more visibility and traction by working as a collaborative team
  • Opportunity to provide information, signposting and refer to others
  • Provide access to a diverse range of products and services to maintain / improve health and wellness
  • Support and complement the NHS out in the community

For people in the community

This offers the following advantages :

  • Access to information from single location that is not easily available elsewhere
  • A chance to meet a diverse range of Health & Wellness specialists without obligation
  • Try out different products and services aimed at keeping us healthy, well and happy

Final words

This is an amazing opportunity for us to build something really rather special just like the NHS all those years ago. As more knowledge becomes available about how our bodies work, and we accept that we're all unique,  the PHS will provide an important service in finding what works for each of us on our own Health and Wellness journey.

Let's make it happen!

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Camping in style with the Outdoor Group

A while back in February 2019 Tony Joyce tabled the Link4Camp idea. This then developed and was made available to the Link4Growth community; the date then fixed for the 14th-16th June... which was last weekend.

The setting just outside Watlington in Oxfordshire on a delightful camp site boasting fabulous (clean) amenities with plenty of space to easily accommodate.

This wasn't the rustic survival style camping I was used to from my cubs and scouts days though. We were just required to bring ourselves, tents if we wanted to (otherwise Tony provided all of those),  sleeping bags (covers, mattresses, pillows), ablutions kit and appropriate clothing for 48 hour period... oh and drinks as you wanted.

Basically this was... a hotel in tents. Tony and his company (the Outdoor Group) provided a cooked breakfast (fruit and cereals too), all the ingredients to make your own packed lunch, and a cooked evening meal (roast beef on Saturday evening). It has to be said Tony makes camping a pleasurable experience without the "lugging water", working out the menu, buying the ingredients, cooking (on a tiny burner) and struggling to even get a decent cup of tea and coffee (available throughout the day).

Tony also accommodates for all different types of food preferences, vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten free etc. at all meals.

Plenty to do around the Camping area too. Walking, Canoeing, different places to visit and plenty of space to make your own entertainment. We assembled around the Fire Pit in the evenings to chat and drink, laugh and tell stories... on Friday all in the company of a beautiful huge moon, clear skies, great sunset and the fresh air of nature.

Myself, Silpi and Elena went on a 4 hour walk Saturday, taking in some of the scenery on country trails, and then Sunday a shorter walk that began just a stones throw from the site itself.

At £30 all in 'per night' this is incredibly good value and Tony set this up so that he could provide individuals and families with a holiday option even if they were strapped for cash. Tony also provides camps for groups (such as Mind and New Hope - homeless) as his contribution back into the community.

So much did we enjoy this experience... I think it was a first for everyone except myself... we have asked Tony if he could organise another for us? ... maybe in the latter half of September.

This is an ideal opportunity to bring people together in a totally different setting and really get to know others that we wouldn't normally meet or spend time with.

Hopefully if we manage another other Link4Camp... Link4Growth members from around the country will also join in the fun!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

SWHerts PHS launch date agreed...

If you haven't heard of the SWHerts-PHS (People's Health Service) you may do soon!

The 1st PHS public Drop-in will be on the 24th June at 10:30am. The SWHerts-PHS has partnered with the Feel Wellbeing cafe in north Watford as the first venue to host these events!

The PHS is an initiative to complement the NHS and assist people in taking more responsibility for their own Health & Wellness. The PHS seeks to achieve this by bringing together a wide range of local Alternative and Complementary therapists, that will open up access to a diverse variety of services and products aimed at staying healthy and well.

It is intended that regular (weekly, or maybe more often) Health & Wellness Drop-ins will enable people wanting to take more care of their own health to obtain valuable and useful information. These Drop-ins give people the chance to meet practitioners and explore alternative products and services that may help to maintain health and subvert more serious intervention.

Peter Taylor the Mayor of Watford has confirmed his attendance at this inaugural event as have many local therapists.

If you are reading this and offer any kind of wellness service or product then please do visit the website "for Practitioners" here for more information.

The drop-in events are also a great opportunity for practitioners to learn about other complementary Health & Wellness services / products in the area, so please do come along and join in.

Email : silpibabut@gmail.com
Contact us form : [Enter details here]

Monday, 3 June 2019

L4G 5 Question Challenge

Back in April the seed was sown for a special series of videos. These videos would help people to learn the wide variety of reasons why people come along to Link4Growth events in the first place, and then subsequently, what they discover having peered inside.

In our midst is the multi-talented Victoria Hart, who runs her own media agency called Hart-In-Media. Please follow the links for more information.

Victoria engaged her brother Andy and together (with the stars being interviewed), in very tight circumstances it has to be said, the first two videos rolled off the production line.  There are more planned for the 12th June, and an evening 'shooting' will come next for those who work in the daytime.

Many thanks to Victoria, Andy, Ruth and Silpi for all of their contributions without which neither of these video, or any others for that matter, would have been possible.

If you are curious about Link4Growth, it's mission and goals, or interested in how you might get involved then please check out the website... and or if you live locally then visit our own SWHerts Facebook page...

Link4Growth is all about conversations and connection, talking is really important and with 9 million people in the UK being identified as lonely, the importance of conversation and connection cannot be underestimated.

Enjoy the videos below :-

If you'd like to know more then contact us via the Community Hub Contact Us form

email : sme7.chrisogle@gmail.com

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Link4Growth... your support network...

We only have to look around us these days to see that there are a lot of people struggling in today's society. 

Whether it be money, food, a roof over our heads, work, anxiety, stress, trying to make ends meet, running a small business, the list is exhaustive... no one is exempt either... our children are stressing at school with huge pressure and expectation, young men are committing suicide in increasing numbers, benefits and welfare being cut back to the bone.

Although we human beings are now (today) the most connected generation(s) ever, loneliness is at epidemic levels, and disconnection higher that at any time in our previous history...

What can we do about this?

Where can someone go to talk to others? ... maybe share some of what is happening for them? ... get signposted? ... Where people won't judge? ... where there are no criterion for participation?

There are places out there where people can connect. Getting together community groups (run by the council), churches, activity led groups (camera, art, writing, book club, sport) and I am sure plenty of others that I haven't mentioned covering all manner of hobbies. Let's also not forget there are many Meetup Groups available covering a wide range of Topics.

But what if you are not looking for any of the above... Instead just looking to go along to meet a few people, something with no pressure, no expectation, where you can dip in and out as you please? Or perhaps where you can just be yourself and meet other local people and just simply have a conversation about anything. Everything starts with a conversation... where it might lead none of us know!

Real examples:

A business failed, leaving uncomfortable levels of debt, the business premises doubled up as home, so now homeless too. No chance for support and benefits. In need of new connections, new opportunities and a positive outlook with real support to get back on two feet.

Exiting from serious depression, unhappy in work, and away from family and friends. Trapped in a cycle of feeling alone and inability to trust others. In need of reliable connections and friends and a solid foundation to upgrade social skills and grow.

Looking for a new group of people that could represent an extended family. A chance to go out and improve the colour of life, have fun, enjoy different experiences and make new connections to grow a fledgling business.

What made the difference?

Link4Growth [link is to FB Page] provides some 15 opportunities locally in SWHerts to meet each month. These range from Community coffees, walks in nature, business events, learning and education sessions, and signposting to the wide variety of other community organisations / events going on locally.

Link4Growth [link is to Website] provides a rich foundation and Access-Point through deep local connections, and experience, that acts as a springboard empowering people to "discover their own path" and "what works for them" ... we could all do with that in a world where less and less is now certain.

More information : Visit FB Page for SWHerts
Email : chris.ogle@uk.link4growth.org 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Shooting videos to share hidden Gem in SWHerts

Victoria Hart - Hart in Media
9th May saw the shooting of two new videos in what will be a series of experiential stories from the Link4Growth community.

Link4Growth was set up back in April 2011 and settled quickly into an organisation focused on 'rebuilding community' through bringing people together and having conversations. No cost to attend events, no agenda, just a space where people could meet others that live close by, free from any requirement to satisfy the needs or expectations of others... in other words just come along and be ourselves, with no judgement.

8 years on and with a lot of water under the bridge, what has changed? In what has been said above? ... nothing. But the organisation has developed to become an Association that is owned by those in the Link4Growth community with a loose structure that enables anyone that support the values,  principles and behavioural guidelines to take responsibility and implement the ideas where they are. [... blog post with more info here]

Why these videos then?

  1. Even though Link4Growth has existed for 8 years already it is still one of the best kept secrets in our communities. These videos will help to spread the message to more people who might benefit from what Link4Growth has to offer
  2. Who can benefit from the Link4Growth Association? This selection of videos will share how people have discovered Link4Growth, what initially appealed to them, and what they have subsequently enjoyed from their participation
  3. Share the diversity of people that are engaged with Link4Growth and for those viewing to recognise that in Link4Growth they would be amongst like minds

What other benefits?

  • Those that have decided to talk on video have an opportunity to do something that they might not have been exposed to before.
  • To open our minds to what is involved with video making and the potential for our own endeavours.
  • To encourage others around the country to join in and create these insights into how Link4Growth is changing lives.

Final words

For many Link4Growth is an unexpected treasure they stumble upon. Often people hear something a bit different, and decide to just give it a try. Whatever the reason, people are warmly welcomed with a big smile, compassion, kindness and a genuine desire to help... [... what will be your reason?]

Link4Growth has been described as a space where you begin the "Journey to Yourself"... a process of finding your own way in a challenging world amongst a supportive, nurturing and accepting community... the rest is up to you!

Credits : Victoria Hart of Hart in Media for making these videos possible

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

SWHertsSkills ramps up for more practical workshops

Over the past months you will have perhaps read about (or seen, or even attended) some of the practical workshops that we have been hosting as part of SWHertsSkills. Let me first say that these aren't the only workshops going on... there is an excellent "arty evening" at the Kitchen Croxley and many others too...

However... we are ramping up. Under the excellent supervision of Ruth Lee we are expanding into some new areas...

Liquid Soap is going to make its Debut

You may have seen the various soaps (cold moulded) that we have been making... different colours, different scents and different moulds too (not shown). These are excellent soaps, make great gifts and are incredibly moisturising too.

However, lots of people prefer Liquid Soaps... you know... the ones that come in those plastic dispensing bottles. Liquid soap comes in lots of options... hand soap, shower gel / soap, shampoo even...

Debi King (enormously talented local lady) has already trail blazed with Liquid soaps making some over the past weekend... we look forward to integrating her learning into the sessions being put together.

Bottle Crafting

We have now obtained two bottle cutters. This is an exciting extension to the activities we are already hosting through SWHertsSkills

The cut bottles can be used for all manner of things from storing kitchen utensils on a work surface to a desk tidy... plant holders... or even making candles in...

No need to throw those bottles out now... let's reuse them and upcycle to make wonderful gifts, or for use around the home... no need to buy more new things when we have the raw ingredients already...

On the left hand side you can see bottles can be used as containers for smaller candles or... we can actually make the candle in the bottle itself...

Lots more ideas though... excited to explore the possibilities and putting together an album of what can be achieved...

WhatsApp Groups

We have already started a WhatsApp group for "CandleMaking" if you would like to keep up to date with events and what's happening with candle making locally then search for the "CandleMaking" group and ask to join!

We are running 3 candle making sessions in April... but there may well be 4 per month going forward.

SWHerts Link4Growth Team working hard

Having been away for the first 3 weeks of March it was plans had been put in place for people to take on new roles and assist with events...

So Link4Growth SWHerts was not only taken care of during March but we now have a rock solid team of people all supporting what we are doing with their own special talents.

OMG's : Harsha Moore is now into the 4th month of the current OMG group. Harsha is a local Kundalini Yoga instructor (and a discrimination solicitor)... and brings such a depth of awareness to all she does... such a pillar of strength for all of us

Link4Business : Silpi Babu is now working on developing our Business Development Network with our group on LinkedIn, supported by Steve Z. You can connect with both of them over there... and please if you are on LinkedIn join our SWHerts Group.

SWHertsSkills : Ruth Lee has arrived! ... Ruth has so many skills it is overwhelming... however she is building her own virtual craftmaking school... watch this space as it evolves into a multi faceted service with different people sharing their knowledge and expertise operating from multiple locations.

Community Building : This is being shared by all of us... Myself, all of the above plus David SawyerVictoria Hart, Nicola Hainsworth, Donna Charles and many others sharing events and supporting what is being created.

TalkTV : Watch this space as Victoria Hart (Hart in Media) and myself begin to share stories and exciting new ideas we can all be involved in locally...

Growth Programmes : I will be focusing on developing Study Groups both online and offline to support those who are passionate about becoming the best version of themselves, great human beings and working with their passions to achieve the holy grail of happiness... so looking forward to these!


We have a number of other activities during the month of April, May and beyond including Discussion groups, Walk & Talk in Cassiobury Park on Sunday afternoons... Sunday Breakfast and evening drinks... so please do come along and join us...

Many hands make light work... 

If you'd like to join us and be part of Team SWHerts then just come along to the events and get invovled... Link4Growth is a supportive and nurturing organisation that is changing lives...

Monday, 8 April 2019

Celestine Prophecy - Workshops

The Celestine Prophecy unleashed

We are now preparing for the physical study  groups for the Celestine Prophecy experiential guide. These will be run on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month, and on the 5th Sunday where there is one from 7:00-9:30pm

Pre-requisites for acceptance on to the programme is that you must have read the Celestine Prophecy.  Plus confirmation that you can attend at least 12 of the dates below.

These study groups are for those who are passionate about their own growth and working on themselves. During these weeks we will be taking a hard look at our-self and facing some real internal challenges, so not for the faint hearted. There will be a maximum of 7 people plus the facilitator who is there to participate fully as part of the group and undertake the housekeeping.

Please do not attend this workshop if you cannot make the dates, are short on self discipline, or feel you will be unable to commit fully to working on yourself. This group will be there to support one another through some real challenges, so each participant is there for each other as well as themselves. Expect some amazing outcomes.

There will be homework for each session to prepare for the next, so please ensure you can put an additional 2.5 hours of work above and beyond the sessions below every 2 weeks.

We will have a secret facebook group to keep us all connected during the programme.

The location where it will be hosted will be : 11 Dellfield Court, 94 Hempstead Road, Watford, Herts. WD17 4JY

The cost will be £5 per week ... £70 in total

The weeks are as follows :-

1. May 12th   Session 1 - 1st Insight - Getting to know one another
2. May 26th  Session 2 - 1st Insight - Expplore the flow of coincidences in our lives
3. June 9th  Session 3 - 2nd Insight - Historial roots and personal preoccupations
4. June 23rd  Session 4 - 2nd Insight - Constructing your personal timeline of events
5. July 14th  Session 5 - 2nd Insight - Discuss events on your personal timeline
6. July 28th  Session 6 - 3rd Insight - Understanding the 3rd insight & working with energy
7. August 11th  Session 7 - 4th Insight - Competing for energy
8. August 23rd  Session 8 - 4th Insight - Practicing awareness of the competition for energy
9. Sept 8th  Session 9 - 5th Insight - Exchange ideas about the 5th Insight & building energy
10. Sept 22nd  Session 10 - 6th Insight - Parental reviews and your control drama discussion
11. Sept 29th  Session 11 - 7th Insight - Discuss the 7th Insight - engaging the flow & practice
12. October 13tth  Session 12 - 8th Insight - Discuss themes of 8th Insight and conscious groups
13. October 27th  Session 13 - 9th Insight - To discuss the 9th Insight
14. Bonus session November 10th - Review / Recap... How have you changed since May 12th?

This will be a fascinating journey... I do hope you can join us...

email : ipsl.chrisogle@gmail.com  to reserve your place...

A Link4Growth Yoga story

Back in early 2017, I finally nailed my Yoga curiosity. Uma Patil a, local to Watford, Hatha Yoga instructor came along to Link4Growth. Uma explained her passion for Yoga and wanted to begin teaching but was unsure where to start.

We got talking and it wasn't long before the idea of Yoga Curious came to Uma. This was aimed at reaching out to people who were curious about Yoga but who had never actually done it.

So we agreed that I would attend Uma's class on a Saturday, help to promote it and then work with Uma on her strategy, social media, website content, blogging and connecting her through my network.

Uma was extremely patient and not only introduced the poses but also corrected us with slight adjustments as necessary. A tip I learned a long time ago is that when learning something new, try and learn so that you can show someone else how to do it too. This helps us to learn more deeply because you'll find out if you know something or not when you go to teach another what you have learnt.

2 years on I am approaching 200 Yoga sessions, partly because I have been able to put into practice what Uma has taught me over the 18 months or so I attended the classes and is now part of my daily ritual.

I feel very privileged and blessed to have had the opportunity to learn Yoga through Uma's dedication and passion and now really feel what she said right at the start of my Yoga journey. Yoga can benefit everyone... for some... a gentle exercise, others for increasing flexibility and improving balance... and for others still part of that bringing together mind, body and spirit in a flowing meditation.

Unfortunately (for us) Uma takes her special presence back with her to India at the end of this month... but... partly in recognition of Uma's vision of spreading Yoga to as many folk as possible and partly because I now have a good repertoire of poses and some experience. In the summer I will be going through my Yoga practice (sequence) in Cassiobury Park most week days.

Anyone who would like to come along and join me to continue the legacy that has been left by Uma is welcome to do so... donate as you feel. This is a chance to do some Yoga with others in natural surroundings and enjoy the practice. I am not a Yoga teacher, nor do I choose to be one. This is just sharing what Uma has passed on through me.

I will create a WhatsApp group for those that would like to be kept up to date about the sessions, and a mini website for those that would like more information. I will also make a Video with Victoria Hart so that others can use the routine at home if not near to Watford.

Thank you Uma for your time here, and for what you have created... the Yoga will go on!

Last point... there is nothing stopping us doing what we want. We can give ourselves permission, we can start with little or no money, and very often we just need to be enthusiastic and love what we're doing. What we do need is passion, a desire to share knowledge and skills and then take action.

This is the basis of the Link4Skills platform within Link4Growth ... we can all learn and we can all 'pass on'  what we know...

If you are interested  to know more contact me : ipsl.chrisogle@gmail.com

Friday, 5 April 2019

Skyla helping us take responsibility for our own health

As part of the PHS (People's Health Service) initiative in SWHerts a new device is set to change the way we can check and monitor our own health.

The aims of the PHS are to enable people to be able to access information about keeping well, and make it easier to connect with those offering alternative and complementary therapies. Rather than just treat people when they fall sick, the aim is to provide a service that helps us to make minor adjustments to stay Healthy and lead longer, happier and more fulfilling lives.

Part of this wellness is to be able to monitor easily and effectively the key functions of the body. Two that appear to cause most anxiety are diabetes and cholesterol; linked to a range of more serious conditions if not regularly checked.

Advances in "point of care diagnostic equipment" has been nothing short of miraculous of recent times. HBA1C which is a difficult test to perfect was until fairly recently the domain of Laboratories within hospitals, with days or even weeks passing before results were confirmed.

One such diagnostic machine is the new Skyla Hi machine shown below... this provides a simple methodology to obtain reliable health checks in the community without the need to book appointments with the GP or hospitals.

The NHS has a huge shortage of capacity as you will know and the underfunding means that regular monitoring of Diabetes (HBA1C) and Cholesterol levels is unavailable.

For those wishing to take personal responsibility for their health, access to these "Point of care" diagnostic devices along with the huge variety of health and wellness services offered through the PHS will be a huge leap forward.

For more information and to register your interest in the PHS please visit this website...

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Team L4G SWHerts growing nicely

Many in SWHerts have heard of Link4Growth either through attending one of the many free events each month or through word of mouth. No surprise really as Link4Growth has been around in these parts since 2011.

Link4Growth has been through a few changes in those 8 years... in fact many would say it is hardly recognisable from those early years... in a good way I might add. Some have been surprised at the resilience of an organisation that isn't for profit... has never asked for funding, grants or sponsorship, and has made it thus far purely on the continued support of its members; those that think the Association's objectives are much needed in today's world.

If you haven't checked out some of the details about Link4Growth of late then please do take a look at the blog on the website... you can find that here.

Directly or indirectly Link4Growth SWHerts District now supports some 20+ events every month. These range from community coffees (anyone can attend - no cost) through diverse events such as discussion evenings, candle making, soap making, business events, peer support mentoring groups, men's sharing circles... and even Walk and Talk events in Cassiobury Park.

As you can imagine this now requires a team of people to deliver each month, where we all contribute and play our part... although to be honest it is no trouble as they are always fun and connecting with other local people provides a rich vein of support and nurturance to us all.

This month I am away for the first 3 weeks pretty much so the team has stepped up massively in the first quarter to learn more about how the organisation works and it is with deep gratitude that I am able to dart off to Budapest for a 7 day, 70 hour meditation marathon knowing that the team is more than capable of delivering this wide range of activities for the people in SWHerts.

Special mention to a few people... Harsha Moore, Ruth Lee, Victoria Hart, Steve Z., Silpi, Nicola Hainsworth and David Sawyer... the magnificent 7... for direct support of events... and many thanks also to Nish Thenuwara for keeping all the technology behind the scenes going too!

For an extensive list of events do check the Link4Growth District - SWHerts Facebook events page where most of what is happening is listed... Why not try an event out this month... you'll avoid bumping into me as well!