Promoting Sport & Physical Activity

Sports equipment

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.

Semeena Khan

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.

Laurie Cooper

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.

Karen Nicholls

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!

Deb Bullen

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.

Loretta Lock

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.

Helen Handrihan

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.

Jodie Rix

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.

Charlotte Burton

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.

Sarah Hallworth

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.

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. Once you have submitted an expression of interest, we will be in touch with more information and next steps.