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The Ardross-man

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ScotCPS

Michael & David

I am very proud of Michael McAllister and David Black. They are both registered blind and have successfully completed their Instructor training and exams and now run classes for other blind people – Michael at the Barony St. John Centre in Ardrossan and David at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Falkirk.

Since qualifying, they have both featured in newspaper articles, radio shows and TV programmes and helped raise the charity’s (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) profile along the way.

Perhaps it’s best that you hear what they both have to say in their own words;

Michael, registered blind

“My name is Michael and I am registered blind. I have recently passed my exam to become a qualified Personal Safety Instructor with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. In broad terms, this means I will be able to train others in how to stay safe as well as show them the skills necessary to defend themselves were they to be threatened with physical violence.

Six months ago, prior to my first meeting with Principal Trainer, Alan Bell and his staff, I was an entirely different person. Frightened to walk alone at night and jumping at any perceived threat or raised voice, I walked with a hunched posture, eyes to the ground and listening for any sign of threat.  On a social level, I felt limited and emasculated by my disability.

Now, six months on, I find myself standing tall as a qualified instructor, surrounded by colleagues who helped build me up to be the confident person I am today.  When I am in public spaces, I move with confidence, safe in the knowledge that were I to be confronted by an aggressor, my training would kick in and I would know when and how to defend myself.

Classes are friendly and informal with participants being taught in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.  Instructors are well versed in working with people with a visual impairment and are happy to teach at a pace that suits you, ensuring that you are confident in having learned one skill before moving on to the next.

I cannot recommend The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety highly enough.  If you think you would benefit from learning about personal safety, please get in touch with them.  They would love to hear from you.”

 

Michael, despite being visually impaired, went on to create this poster for me, drawing a caricature of himself and how he felt before and after our training. The wording and layout are all his own design with no input from ourselves.

 

Sharon, Michael’s mum

“My son, Michael, is registered blind and gets around with the aid of a symbol cane.  Throughout his life, he has had a severe anxiety of being threatened or attacked when walking outside his home.

When you or I hear shouting or sounds of unrest, we can look around to evaluate the situation.  Michael does not have this option and can only imagine the worst.

Six months ago, Michael and I attended a one-day taster course, run by The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.  The class was a preliminary part of their drive to reach out to the visually impaired community in Scotland and teach them about personal safety skills, including self defence.  The staff were great with Michael and taught him a few moves.  He left that day, brimming with confidence.

Michael has been training with the centre for six months now and has recently passed his exam to become a fully qualified personal safety instructor.  In that six months, I saw him grow more confident with every passing weekHis self esteem has never been higher and he walks with confidence now, no longer showing signs of anxiety.

This change in him was no more evident than one dark night when he and I were walking the dog and heard aggressive shouting nearby.  Explaining to him that what we were hearing was a gang of youths, I was surprised to feel Michael put his arm around mine and guide me in the opposite direction.  With a calm voice, he explained that we should choose a different route.  No more is he the scared person, asking to return home at the first sign of unrest.

As a mum, I couldn’t be more proud of Michael’s accomplishments and can’t thank The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety enough for the confidence they’ve instilled in him.

 

David, Registered Blind

“My name is David and I have been registered blind for nearly twenty years now. As a blind person, like many blind people, I have actually felt unsafe.

When I lost my vision, depression and other things took over and it took me a while to come to terms with it. I was scared to leave the house – all the usual stuff. Getting a job at The Forth Valley Sensory Centre helped me but getting there was a problem because I had to leave the house to get there.

You are taught safe routes and safe ways to get to places but still, unfortunately as a blind person, I have suffered verbal and physical abuse.

So instead of hiding at home and not doing anything, about nine years ago I took up Jujitsu and other martial arts to defend myself but I always had the question “Is this going to help me?” “Am I going to be able to defend myself?” “Is this actually going to hep me as a blind person?”.

Then about a year ago, I got in contact with Alan Bell through the Sensory Centre and he put me through a training course with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety – and through that course they have taught me safe and easy ways to defend myself as a blind person – as a vulnerable person. My confidence has rocketed. And now I have actually passed an Instructor training course and I am going to be running personal safety courses at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre for other sensory impaired people – both blind and deaf.

I will make something of this opportunity but if it was not for Alan and the training he has given me, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

 

These guys take my breath away – they truly are awesome.

Here’s some of the press cuttings they have garnered;

I know this is not about the Barony St. John buildings – but I had to tell you about these guys. 🙂

Wallace’s Warriors

Because of our plans to incorporate a William Wallace visitor centre into the redeveloped Barony St. John church buildings, we were asked to participate in the Ardrossan Castle Gala Day parade yesterday – as William Wallace and his band of Warriors!!

The catch was that I would be dressed as Wallace complete with a massive big William Wallace head…..and we would be doing a Gaelic hakka!

Now, for those of you who don’t know, a hakka is what the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team do at the start of all their games. It’s a traditional Maori war dance made to scare the enemies off – so our dance had to be similar but in Gaelic – and performed while marching in an parade. What could be easier? 🙂

The day itself went really well as the photos below show.

        

Our “Warriors” consisted of instructors and supporters of my charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) as well as police officers, members of the Tai Chi club who use the Barony St John Centre and some blind people who come to our personal safety lessons.

It was a really good representation of our charity and a brilliant community event to be involved with.

Volunteer Awards 2017

First of all, please let me apologise for taking so long to write another blog post – I’ve been doing a lot of work for my charity.

Now most people assume that I get paid for this work but the harsh reality is, I do not.

I bought the Barony St. John buildings for my charity in December 2014 so we could provide a base for ourselves and offer courses and training from the premises. It took all of 2015 and part of 2016 to get this dream to become a reality but now we run one-to-one sessions with victims of violence, group sessions with vulnerable people including courses for the blind and visually impaired, LGBTI groups, BME groups, etc. and on top of all this, the hall is rented out to various other groups to hold their events and activities in – so we have Muay Thai,  Tai Chi, Yoga, Circuit training, dance classes and kids Krav Maga classes.

But to be this busy someone has to take the bookings, clean the hall and the toilets, take the rental money, bank the money, stock the fridge, stock the tea/coffee, etc. etc. – and that person is me (as well as instructing in a lot of the classes).

It was therefore a great surprise to hear that a few of the people I work with had put my name forward for The Ayrshire Community Trust (TACT)’s Volunteer Awards – and I was lucky enough to be nominated for three awards last week and to win one.

Usually, award ceremonies are won on votes so if I ran a club with fifty kids coming along and they all voted for me, I’d win. That’s why I don’t give much credence to them – they are popularity awards!

But these Volunteer Awards are assessed by a panel of judges who then decide on the winners – a far fairer and therefore far more prestigious award to be nominated for.

The panel consisted of Mark Gallagher (Lead Officer with North Ayrshire Alcohol & Drug Partnership),  David MacRitchie (Senior Manager with Criminal Justice Services and Chief Social Work Officer), Geoff Coleman (Public Support Manager with NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Mental Health Services), Marlene McMillan (Lead Pubic Health Practitioner with NHS Ayrshire & Arran), Rhona Arthur (Senior Manager with North Ayrshire Council’s Economy & Communities), Janet Strang (Chairperson of Cunninghamme Housing Association) Superintendent Tim Ross (Police Scotland) and Provost Ian Clarkson (North Ayrshire Council).

As you can see, this is a quality panel of judges so what followed was a great honour for me;

This is me picking up my nomination for the Health & Social Care Volunteer Award from Geoff Coleman –

 

 

 

 

I was also lucky enough to be nominated for the  Long Standing Volunteer Award which I received from Marlene McMillan –

 

 

 

 

 

And this is me getting my nomination for the Tremendous Trustee Volunteer Award from Janet Strang –

Although I wasn’t announced as the overall winner in the other categories, i did win the Tremendous Trustee Volunteer Award which was presented to me by Provost Ian Clarkson.

Like I said previously, I consider this a great honour as it comes from such a high calibre of judges – all I can say is “Thank you”.

 

As you can see, a great night was had by all and I was lucky enough to have two of the registered blind people I work with, Norma and Gillian, present as well as my parents.

         

  

 

 

Blind Date

Our fundraising Fashion Show was intended to help raise funds for some much needed renovation and repair work to the Barony St. John buildings but it turned into something much, much more than that.

Over the last year my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS), has worked alongside various charities and businesses representing registered blind people as I developed a Big Lottery sponsored personal safety course specifically for the blind and visually impaired. One of these businesses was PrioritEyes, a North Ayrshire business that provides specialist rehabilitation and support for people who have low or no vision – and it was from PrioritEyes that I got some of the “modelling” team for our Fashion Show.

 

The gathered audience of almost fifty people cheered and clapped as the models, many using long canes to guide them down the catwalk, strutted their stuff. But when I saw Gillian and the rest of the PrioritEyes models come onto the catwalk, I got a lump in my throat.

The woman sat next to me burst into tears and clapped wildly.

It was a very emotional experience and I was so proud to be involved in it.

Gillian Morrow lost her sight about a year ago but then she also found out that she had breast cancer. The subsequent chemotherapy resulted in her losing all her hair but she is a real trooper. Gillian’s own words best describe her feelings;

“I have had a gruelling time with the cancer treatment and at one point I had to move out of my family home to a flat as I couldn’t cope with how it was affecting my family. Although my husband and children are extremely supportive, this Fashion Show was invaluable for me. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but after being bed bound, I was in a wheelchair for some time and I only got my long cane mobility training on Wednesday, so this was the first time I have been able to participate in anything since December. I can’t describe what a positive effect this day has had on me. It’s a massive “one-off” experience that has made me feel like my old self again.”

 

The visually impaired models, some as young as 11yrs old did us all proud and registered blind founder of PrioritEyes, Norma Bailey, said; “It was fantastic that so many people with low or no vision were involved in this event. Dressing in terrific outfits, walking the catwalk with our long canes and hearing the cheers of the audience, made it an amazing experience for us all and a wonderful day to remember.”  

The Fashion Show raised £615.45 and raffle prizes for the event were donated by various local businesses including M&Co, The Kandy Bar Bakery, Garfields, P&M Property Services, The Saltcot Wetherspoons, Cassandara’s Café, Saltcoats Tescos, Stevenston Morrisons, B&M, The Red Squirrel, A. Lothian Butchers and Belhaven Pubs & Restaurants.

I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in making this day happen from the businesses who donated raffle prizes to M&Co for allowing us to run the event in their store, our trustees and volunteers who helped organise the day, all the people who came to watch and support the event and especially the models. Thank you all for making this such a memorable day.

For more information on the Fashion Show and what the fundraising day has managed to finance, check out my charity’s Facebook page on http://www.Facebook.com/ScotCPS but in the meantime, here are a few more photos from the event. 😀

 

  

            

 

ScotCPS – look how far we’ve come

Back in early 2015, Sirens Cinematic made this video about us based on our plans at the time.

Phase 1 was completed by 2016 with most of Phase 2 now nearing completion in 2017.

Let’s see what our feasibility study says we should do now. 😀

The Bell’ters – 20th Anniversary

I find it hard to believe, but I’ve been teaching personal safety and self defence for 20 years now.

Back in 1997, myself and my brother, David Bell, went on a course in London and qualified as instructors with The National Federation for Personal Safety. David brought his experience of bar stewarding (bouncing) and I brought my military and Close Protection (bodyguarding) experience.

We soon developed our own style of self defence training based on hard hitting techniques, realistic scenarios and absolutely no flowery moves.

We provided personal safety courses and workshops as a not-for-profit social enterprise called “Security And Safety” with our main client base being Women’s Aid groups and Domestic Violence forums throughout the United Kingdom as well as Rape Crisis Scotland and Victim Support Scotland.

To enhance the not-for-profit nature of our business, we set about becoming a charity and achieved this in 2013. Under our new name, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, we moved to our new premises in the former Barony St. John church hall building on Princes Street in Ardrossan and last year saw the official opening of the Centre by Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. (See my Official Opening – the return of William Wallace post.)

So, to mark 20 years in the personal safety business, we held a small photo ceremony during one of our bi-annual Instructor Training Days in the Barony St. John Centre.

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A tally of the number of people we have trained over the years comes to nearly 4,300 people, many of whom have been victims of violence.

We’ve trained all over the UK from Wick to London and we’ve also ran specific courses for children in various schools and nurseries throughout Scotland. But I have to say, my proudest achievement is developing a personal safety course specifically for the blind and visually impaired, which we have just completed.

And although we are clear that we provide personal safety and self defence training, what we actually provide is self confidence and self esteem.

Here’s to the next 20 years. 😀

Blind Faith

For the past year now, myself and other instructors in my charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety – take a peak at our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ScotCPS/ or our website https://www.ScotCPS.org.uk) have been developing a Personal Safety course specifically for the Blind and Visually Impaired which includes self defence training.

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This weekend should see the culmination of that training as we put two blind people through our Instructor exam and test day – including a Pressure Test where they will be attacked by two “attackers” over a five minute period.

Michael has been making his way over to our Centre, in the former church hall of Barony St. John in Ardrossan for this training and, you know me by now, I like my omens……..I was walking him back to his train when I noticed the name of the train operator –

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Fate? omen? Or just a coincidence? You decide.

A. Bell

The Ardross-man 😀

Inspirational heroes

The whole point of buying Barony St. John’s church in Ardrossan was to give a home to my charity and make a community connection.

SCPS Logo colour

Since it’s conception in 2013, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety has been lucky enough to have some inspirational people agree to be our Patrons –

karen-darkeKaren Darke is our Patron representing people with disabilities. She is a Paralympic cycling champion having won Silver in the 2012 London Paralympics road time trial H1-2 and Gold in the Rio 2016 Paralympics in the H1-3 time-trial.

Karen is also a two-time World Champion in Para-Triathlon and an avid adventurer having already hand-cycled across the Indian Himalayas, Cuba, Japan and the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains of Central Asia. She has also sea kayaked the 1200 mile length of the Canada – Alaska coastline, spent a month traversing 600 kilometre Greenland ice cap and climbed the giant rock face of El Capitan in the USA’s Yosemite National Park – all accomplished despite being paralysed from the chest down.

Making reference to our charity, Karen commented; “I think the work which The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is doing in the development of ‘Personal Safety for People with Disabilities’ courses is fantastic and I am delighted to be asked to be their Patron.

halah-al-hamrani-cropHalah Al-Hamrani is our Patron representing people from black and minority ethnic groups. She is Saudi Arabia’s first female kickboxing and boxing trainer, fighting not only the stigma that women are the weaker sex and not suited for such a male dominant sport but also fighting gender inequality as a whole.

Halah trained in karate, boxing, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai before setting up FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Boxing on Instagram in 2013 and then opened the first female boxing gym in Saudi Arabia in April 2016.

Halah continues to show the world that women from any background, any culture, any country, can succeed and commented;

I am delighted to support The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety and be a Patron for their ‘Personal Safety for Black and Minority Ethnic’ courses.  I am glad that I am looked at as an inspirational Muslim woman, breaking the mold and proving that gender inequality can be challenged.

stephanie-inglisStephanie Inglis is our Patron representing women. She is also an athlete mentor with Champions in Schools, Game on Scotland and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

As a Judo champion, Stephanie won her first Gold medal at the age of eight and since then has won several more including Gold in the English Open in 2013, Silver in the Samoa World Cup in 2013, Bronze in the Australia World Cup in 2014, and most recently Silver in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Commenting on her connection with the charity, Stephanie said; “I support the work which The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety does in the provision of personal safety, conflict resolution and practical self defence training, particularly their ‘Personal Safety for Women’ courses, and I am pleased to be asked to be their Patron.

It was while taking a break from training earlier this year, just prior to taking part in the Rio Olympics, that Stephanie had a tragic accident which left her with a severe injury.

On the way to teach children English at a Vietnamese school, Stephanie’s skirt got tangled in the back wheel of the motorbike taxi she was on and she was thrown off head first. Her condition was described as “critical” and she was given a 1% chance of survival.

This is where her friend Khalid Gehlan stepped in.

Khalid heard of Stephanie’s critical condition and set up an online fundraising campaign to get Stephanie the medical treatment she needed and arrange for her to be brought back home. In just a few days, he had raised more than £300,000 and Stephanie’s life was saved.

After being brought back to Scotland, Stephanie was brought out of her coma, began talking and miraculously managed to walk again. She has now started back training and hopes to be fit enough to compete for Scotland in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Khalid explained why he felt compelled to help Stephanie; “I couldn’t bear to think of Stephanie dying before she had that chance to fall in love, have children, grow a family, travel the world and do all the things she wanted to do.

khalid-gehlanKhalid’s inspiring act saw him nominated in the category of “Unsung Hero” in the Sunday Mail’s Great Scot 2016 awards.

An overall winner is chosen from the winners of each category and Khalid received a standing ovation as it was announced that he had won and was this year’s “Great Scot”. His saving of Stephanie’s life was described as “truly inspirational” by the judges led by former First Minister Lord McConnell.

But our inspirational connections don’t stop here.

One of our instructors is Colin Hamilton who was nominated and won the “Forces Hero” award in the Daily Record’s Our Hero 2005 awards – awards for ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.colin

Colin served with the Black Watch and lost his right leg and suffered severe burns to his stomach and face while trying to save a colleague who had fallen on a high voltage electric cable whilst in Kosovo in 2001. Colin’s heroic and selfless act resulted in him spending nine months in and out of hospital directly after the incident – and would see him attend hospitals on a regular basis to this day.

Obviously, his injuries meant that Colin could no longer be allowed to go on active duty but when he heard that his regiment was being deployed to Iraq in 2003, Colin refused to let his mates go without him so set about persuading Army chiefs to change their minds.

Colin clocked up the second fastest time ever for an 800 metre run by a military amputee and passed every test the military could throw at him so, reluctantly, they consented for him to go to the front line. Colin explained; “Being back with my mates is the best form of rehabilitation you can get.

Colin’s selfless act in trying to save the life of his colleague followed by his bravery in the field of combat saw him not only win the “Forces Hero” award but also be named the overall winner and crowned 2005’s “Our Hero.”

deirdre1Following on in Colin’s footsteps, the Chair of our charity, Deirdre Oakley won in the “Contribution to the Community” category of WestFM ‘Cream of Ayrshire’ 2015 awards.

As well as being our Chairperson, Deirdre also works full time as a Community Education Worker with North Ayrshire Council and is a volunteer with Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue Team.

She won the award for devoting almost all of her time to charity fundraising, raising over £20,000 in 2014 alone.

I cannot help but be inspired by these truly wonderful people and my charity is honoured to have a connection with them. 😀

Tai Chi – the yang for my yin

I mentioned in a previous post (Hall’s well that ends well) that as well as our day-to-day charity courses / lessons for victims of violence etc. I have managed to book the hall building out every evening Monday to Friday with various martial arts and exercise classes which relate to the overall theme of my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (www.ScotCPS.org.uk)

By the end of October 2016, we had Muay Thai, Ladies Boxing Bootcamp and Krav Maga classes to encourage the local community to use our facility.

But I’m a firm believer of having harmony in a project. A Yin and a Yang.

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So far, I had managed to get all the physical, ‘rough’ sports and exercise on offer but I felt we needed a softer, non-aggressive element to balance things up. So I set about finding a Tai Chi instructor who could offer weekend classes at the Barony St. John Centre.

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If you don’t know what Tai Chi is, here is a brief description;

Tai Chi is recognised by the Chinese Government and many Health Institutes around the world as a form of exercise that offers one of the greatest all-round benefits to health.

Originally created 400 years ago as a martial arts system that incorporated the wisdom of the ancient Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang with specialised breathing techniques and a profound understanding of the internal energy meridians used in traditional Chinese Medicine. Chen style Tai Chi (Taijiquan) is a sequence of dynamic movements that combines soft and hard with fast and slow actions, in a balanced and natural way.

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During practice the body remains relaxed with the practitioners’ consciousness, breathing and actions all closely connected. These unique features enhance benefits to health, fitness, and weight-loss and are just a few of the reasons why so many people, regardless of age and level of fitness, regularly practice Chen Style Tai Chi throughout the world today.

Tai Chi exercises are said to regulate all systems within the body, improving digestion, respiration and circulation. As the movements are performed in a relaxed manner this can also lead to a reduction in stress-related disorders. The low-impact nature of the routines improves the condition of bones, joints and muscles without strain whilst encouraging balance, focus, flexibility and coordination to promote health and vitality within the individual.

It’s no wonder that Tai Chi is now being offered in various hospitals and centres throughout NHS Scotland.

We have been very lucky to have gained the services of two Tai Chi instructors from Glasgow based “Scotland Tai Chi”;

Mhairi McGowan is a qualified Level 2 Tai Chi instructor under Grandmaster Liming Yue of the Tai Chi Centre UK and will be running the weekly classes at the Barony St. John.

Michaela Sinclair (seen qigong-2in the purple outfit)  is a Level 4 Tai Chi, 3rd Duan Wei Qigong instructor and an indoor student of Grandmaster Liming Yue of the Tai Chi Centre UK and will be running master classes at various points throughout the year.

 

I’ve also ordered a banner to advertise the opening of the hall and the evening classes we now offer – what do you think?

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Ideally, I’d like to get a Yoga instructor and someone to teach meditation to complete the balance between “exertive” classes and “relaxed” classes.

Watch this space. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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