The role of our This Girl Can Sussex Champions is to inspire, motivate and shout about the campaign, to other women and girls within their local community. This might be by sharing their story in the form of blogs or videos, supporting a This Girl Can event or running their own physical activity sessions for women.
Our current champions are from different backgrounds and have an interest in a variety of sports and activities. Find out more about their journeys below.
Meet Semeena, who wants to diversify the running world and inspire women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to run whether it’s a hobby, to stay fit or support your mental wellbeing!
Read Semeena’s story…
I qualified as a Run Leader in May 2017, after joining and completing a ‘Learn to Run’ programme in 2016. I fell in love with running and it turned into a form of therapy for me during a really difficult time in my life. I wanted to share this passion with others so just after my Graduation Parkrun 5K, I asked a small group of my cousins if they’d like to start running. I downloaded a 0-5K programme online and taught them everything I knew. Within 10 weeks, they ran 5K. After this, I went onto become a Run Leader then later a Run Coach with England Athletics.
We’re living in an era when we have to not only understand equality and diversity but practice it by ensuring it’s at the centre of how we do things. As a Running Coach, I believe in leading by example by creating a diverse and equal running culture. I now volunteer with a local running club, Crawley Run Crew (CRC) and started my own Ladies-Only Boot Camp. I want to challenge the stereotypes in the South Asian community by using my training and qualifications to encourage women from all faiths and backgrounds to feel confident and comfortable about exercise.
In 2020, at the start of the lockdown period I also Co-Founded the Sudhan Welfare Society (SWS) an organisation looking after the welfare and wellbeing of the Sudhan Kashmiri community. Alongside CRC and Crawley Wellbeing, once lockdown is lifted, I’ll be delivering our first walking programme for the elders in the local Kashmiri community.
Maisie & Clio
Meet Maisie and Clio, who turned their backs on fad diets after discovering the empowerment of weight lifting.
Read Maisie & Clio’s story…
We started the gym at 16 after following cardio-based workouts and fad diets for too long. Now at 20 years old, we are weight/powerlifters. We now aim to build the strongest version of ourselves, mentally and physically.
In August 2020, we created a joint fitness account to share our passion with others. In the beginning, we were hesitant to put ourselves out there onto a social media platform, but with the feeling of empowerment we got from doing what we love, and the lack of female presence in the weight section of the gym, we knew we had an obligation to inspire young women.
We are prepared to take on the stigma surrounding women lifting weights and want to encourage and support other women and girls to overcome their own barriers to getting active.
Meet Laurie, yoga therapist who wants to use yoga to help women living with mental and physical health conditions, and domestic abuse survivors.
Read Laurie’s story…
I am the Community Coordinator and yoga therapist for the Brighton Yoga Foundation, a small charity delivering community yoga free of charge. We are currently delivering classes with grants received from Active Sussex and This Girl Can.
I am a runner and overall active person who has experienced the mental health benefits of exercise for a long time, but particularly in the last 12-months. My work for with the Brighton Yoga Foundation is to engage with population groups who perhaps would not normally access yoga. We serve those in recovery, survivors of domestic abuse, women living with long term mental and physical health conditions or those living in isolation.
I would like to develop my work in this area and champion getting more women active using my own voice as well as my voice working within a charity.
Meet Karen, who is passionate about getting moving to boost her mood and help manage her health condition.
Read Karen’s story…
I’m 58 years old and I have had MS for 20 years. This is a picture of me on my Alinker walking bike which is my mobility aid. I use it instead of a seated rollator.
My whole life I have been passionate about health, inclusion, accessibility, and exercise, particularly for women and girls. I believe women from any background can connect through sport and physical activity – even if you don’t speak the same language.
Do whatever you need to do to get moving. Whether it’s wearing period or pee proof pants, compression socks or bandages. Whether you use adapted assistive devices, or do it sitting down. Just keep moving and have fun!
Meet Deb, an Occupational Therapist who is passionate about supporting people who face barriers to participating in sport.
Read Deb’s story…
I am an occupational therapist; I work for the NHS and I also have a unique role working for Sport for Confidence where I provide inclusive sporting opportunities for people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, dementia, autism, physical impairment or disability, and many other complex health needs. I am passionate about helping people to live their life to the fullest and I am a great believer in the benefits physical activity has on physical and mental wellbeing. Personally, I love sport. My main interests are beach volleyball, sea swimming and mountain biking. All these activities really help improve my wellbeing and playing beach volleyball has introduced me to a huge community of like-minded people who have become my friends. I want to encourage other women to be more active, especially those who are peri-menopausal or are going through the menopause (like myself), as being physically active has really helped me manage my symptoms, improve my confidence, and boost my physical and mental wellbeing.
Meet Loretta, who has faced the barriers to getting active that motherhood can throw at you, and has finally found the love of getting moving just for her.
Read Loretta’s story…
I grew up in a working class family and activities outside of school time were not often available due to cost and travel etc. I loved football but at that time it was not a sport for girls! One supportive PE teacher at my secondary school attempted to offer a lunch time club for girls, but when no one other than my friend and myself turned up it didn’t go ahead.
When I became a mum at 23, I rarely found time for myself as being a mum became my key role. After I split with my husband I became a single mum to four children aged 8 – 13, one of whom has a disability. Time and finances were in short supply!
I decided to train as an athletics coach in 2005 to enable my children and their home educated friends to have PE lessons. My son, Callum, who has some disabilities and barriers to participation made me realise that not everyone has the option to access and enjoy sport. We started Defiant Sports with a mission to help anyone with a barrier to participation to get involved with sport.
Despite being a coach I still rarely found time to exercise just for me. However, last year, during the first lockdown I decided to do the Couch to 5k, finally getting to participate instead of coach! I really enjoyed it and found the benefit both physical and mental, with a bit of headspace just for me.
I want to help other women and girls overcome the barriers they face, to ensure everyone can access sport, regardless of age, ability or gender.
Meet Helen, who refuses to let her health conditions stop her from getting active.
Read Helen’s story…
I started exercising at 45, I was seriously overweight, with a combination of health issues that meant many exercise classes were out of my reach. The majority of trainers wouldn’t touch me as I was deemed high risk, and wasn’t given any help or advice by my GP. The odds were stacked against me, but I managed to find a personal trainer who helped me get started and from there it was pure mindset and determination.
My lungs are damaged from a pulmonary embolism, along with other parts of my body and it took a huge amount of training to achieve the smallest of gains. I had all the usual hang ups that middle aged women do about going to classes, or the gym plus a few other things to worry about. It’s taken me 7 years but I am now a personal trainer and a Level 4 Pulmonary Rehabilitation Trainer.
I started my own fitness business at 52 and ran my first half marathon 2 years ago! It’s never too late to get fit and healthy – I spent 15 years worrying that I would actually do more damage to my body, but in fact it has been the total reverse effect.
The first advert for This Girl Can was my inspiration. I still watch the advertisement when in need of a reminder of how far I have come.
Meet Jodie, fitness trainer and mum who discovered how exercise could support her mental health through difficult times.
Read Jodie’s story…
I never had the typical fitness body and after having my children via c section and my body never going back to pre-baby shape, I experienced lack of confidence due to how “we should look by society”. Since I have matured I see things so differently now and ignore those pressures. I feel this have allowed me to have more empathy with women I train and I have a great passion to work with liked-minded women who want to grow in confidence regardless of what shape or size they are.
After my divorce I found exercise supported my mental health as I went through difficult times. So with my own personal and work experiences over the years, I have a great passion to work with women to look after our overall wellbeing both mentally and physically through becoming more active.
I have been in the fitness industry since 2002 and have worked in several initiatives to get young women into physical activity, but more recently I’ve been looking to develop my knowledge in how exercise can support women going through the menopause.
Meet Charlotte, who is working to boost opportunities for women and girls in cricket.
Read Charlotte’s story…
I am currently the Women & Girls Development Officer for the Sussex Cricket Foundation, where I have been in this role for over 15 years. I first started playing cricket when I was 6 years old, playing for the boys’ team, Shoreham CC and was selected for Sussex at the age of 10.
After 18 years of playing for the Sussex Women’s Cricket team, where I won five County Championships as a player, I became the head coach between 2012 – 2016, with the side winning the County Championship in 2013 and the National T20 cup in 2016.
My role for the Sussex Cricket Foundation is to develop women and girls cricket across Sussex from community, school to club level. When I first started this role we had 2 clubs with either a women or girls section, now we have over 40 clubs who play different formats and have many age groups from U10 through to Women playing cricket in Sussex.
I really want to let women and girls in Sussex know that there is plenty of cricket activity happening in the County they can get involved in, whether that is joining a local cricket club, playing Women or girls softball or hardball cricket, or just in the community. Things have certainly changed when I first started playing cricket, there never used to be women and girls cricket, I had to play for a boys team. I also know how sport can have an impact and help someone with their mental health, as I have had depression for many years, been through many difficult times with it, but being involved in sport has helped me.
Meet Sarah, a personal trainer who works to break down barriers for women and support them in growing long-term confidence.
Read Sarah’s story…
I am a mother of 3 amazing children and a personal trainer. I believe there has never been a more pressing time to impregnate the priority of physical and mental self-care in women in our communities.
My role as a personal trainer combines the conventional physical exercise element, typical of any other personal trainer remit, alongside guidance on nutrition and life coaching to cleanse the mind and re-establish life changing behaviour patterns and build confidence. This is KEY to the success criteria of my work. It prevents the journey and investment from being a “fad” to something far more enriching and life changing. The work I do changes people’s lives for the better long term and that’s what makes me unique.
Meet Emma, who is determined to level out the playing field for girls in sport.
Read Emma’s story…
I’ve been really lucky to have had a great experience of sport and physical activity throughout my life which was embedded by my family and my school experience. Sport and physical activity is so important for girls and women, not only for physical health but for our mental wellbeing, but I know from working in this area that not all girls and women have that positive experience. Now being a mum to twin girls, it’s given me even more drive to make sure that females get equal opportunities and that there is a level playing field for all to take part. I want to share my experience of being a working mum of twin girls and how I try to keep active, while juggling everything and trying to be a positive role model to them. I actively tell my daughters that girls and women can do everything that boys and men can do like playing football, cricket or cycling. Even in 2021 there still isn’t an equal playing field and that’s why campaigns like This Girl Can are so important!
Meet Tracy, a passionate PE teacher who is determined bring more representation for girls and women in non-white communities.
Read Tracy’s story…
It feels like yesterday when I remember getting changed for PE in primary school and thinking, I wish I could do this all the time and be just like Mrs Thompson (my PE teacher). Fast forward to careers discussions in year 10 and I confirmed my dream to become a PE teacher. I was blessed to have a fantastic PE department that I admired and looked up to. I was always supported with my dreams and never felt at a disadvantage due to my colour or gender. Unfortunately, the inequalities surrounding racism and sexism became apparent more in my adult life.
Thankfully, the fantastic support and grounding I received in my younger years has helped me remain focused and champion through regardless, proving to any that have questioned my abilities, that this girl can, and always will!
Sussex has many non-white communities within it and I urge that this platform is represented by us. There are many voices who want to be heard and passions and dreams that want to be achieved in sport and physical activity. Sometimes you need to see representation to really believe ‘it’s for you, too’.
Meet Sarah, a PE teacher who fell in love with running as a way of switching off from looking at screens.
Read Sarah’s story…
I have been teaching PE at my local school for 18 years. I would love to encourage more girls and women within the Uckfield community to get active. I’ve always loved sport and played lots of team sport, but two years ago I took up running after my mum’s best friend was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I wanted to help raise funds for the MNDA and, through training for the event, fell in love with running, whether it was running on my own, or with my dog/daughter/friends/colleagues. It gave me time away from text messages and computer screens to just clear my head.
Lockdown increased the opportunities to run when my other sporting options were paused. I’ve enjoyed running in my local community, passing pupils from both primary and secondary schools, as well as their families. I hope in some way that I am serving as a role model to some of them. Lots of my students will say at school “I saw you out running at the weekend Miss!”, and that makes me smile!
Meet Charlotte, a Primary school teacher who is passionate about motivating girls to enjoy sport and activity.
Read Charlotte’s story…
I am an enthusiastic Primary school teacher and Physical Education lead at a school in Arundel. I have been taking my health and fitness seriously since the beginning of January – I love the feeling of getting fit and being active. I like to motivate and promote sport and physical activity opportunities to my Year 3 class, the whole school, family, friends and my local community.
I enjoy inspiring and motivating other women young and old by sharing my journey on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and I am also in control of my school’s social media and local football club where I will be able to promote the This Girl Can campaign further into the local community.
As my role as a PE lead, I deliver sessions and add them to my school virtual classroom. I would love to set up one for this campaign and grow my audience further whilst being a good role model to all.
Meet Marie, an ex-headteacher who started her health and fitness journey to be a role model to youngsters, and found a new level of confidence along the way.
Read Marie’s story…
As an ex-headteacher I promoted physical health and wellbeing but about four years ago I realised I needed to put my money where my mouth was. I was overweight and inactive and therefore not the best role model for the young people I was trying to encourage. I began healthy eating and lost a bit of weight. I then took up walking and hiking. At that point I struggled to walk ten minutes without getting out of breath. This was life-changing both physically and mentally.
Five months later I walked a marathon. I shared this journey with the school community via social media and found more and more parents and children were keen to have a go. I then wrote a personal challenge program for the school to support and encourage children and families to get active together. This became an Active Sussex case study.
When I took up running I ran in the morning in the dark because I was embarrassed and lacked confidence – I didn’t look like a runner and wasn’t very fast. I joined a virtual women’s running group and the support and confidence they gave me was amazing. We build each other up. That has been an important part of my fitness journey and I would love to do this for other women.
Meet Charlotte, a PE and Dance teacher, who wants to be a positive role model for young women.
Read Charlotte’s story…
I am a PE and Dance teacher at Chichester High School, West Sussex. I am 2nd in Department and KS3 lead and also lead the Netball for our amazing 6th form sport academy. I was lucky enough to have incredible role models within sport growing up and I want to be that person for someone else as well as create the same opportunities I had for the children I teach.
Sport not only offers physical benefits but social and emotional benefits that our girls so desperately need! Having confidence in yourself changes ambition and attitude to all areas of life and sport is the perfect platform to build it.
Meet Katie, a Primary School PE lead who is passionate about ensuring plenty of opportunities for girls to enjoy being active.
Read Katie’s story…
As a Primary School PE lead, my role is to encourage and promote activity for all. My aim is for all pupils to leave primary school having found a love of leading a healthy, active lifestyle. I am passionate about ensuring girls have opportunities to be active and most importantly, have the confidence to be active.
I believe that it’s important to put this in place from an early age: supporting, encouraging, and showing girls that they can. I have had great success at my school with improving the participation of girls within sport and physical activity as well as the participation of family members too.
In my personal life, I enjoy following an active and healthy lifestyle. I enjoy running, rowing and strength based weight exercise. I believe it’s important to be a positive role model to others and I love inspiring others to move more and feel great!
Interested in getting involved in the This Girl Can Sussex Network?
Read our TGC Sussex Network Pack to find out more. Please note that due to an overwhelming response, we will be taking a staggered approach to bringing on board new Champions throughout the year. EOI are currently on hold.