Our latest story concerns Sam Dawson, Bournemouth local and general manager of the BodyPositive Dorset charity. We caught up with Sam to talk about her passionate connection to her work…
In the past, we’ve met a diverse range of Bournemouth locals – but this time, we explore a new avenue. Introducing Sam Dawson, an inspirational individual fighting the stigma of HIV, whilst also living with the virus herself. In this interview, we spoke to Sam on overcoming her diagnosis, living with HIV and empowering others through her work with BodyPositive Dorset.
ARE YOU LOCAL TO BOURNEMOUTH?
I was born in Boscombe hospital. Shortly after I moved to Wimborne and then came back into Bournemouth town when I was 12. All my family are here; my mum, dad and two brothers. I’ve also got my own family here, I have two children, so this is just where my family live. Bournemouth’s actually a great place to live as well, it’s changing a lot but it really is a great place to live.
WHAT IS BODYPOSITIVE DORSET?
We’re a charity that was set up to support and empower people living with HIV. Our aims are to empower people living with the virus and prevention, so we go into schools to talk about the best ways people can protect themselves against all Sexually Transmitted Infections and, of course, education around the stigma of HIV. We also provide education to nurses, students, the media, just to get the word out there to change people’s perception of the face of HIV and what it looks like.
HOW DID YOU FIRST COME TO WORK FOR BODYPOSITIVE DORSET?
I became HIV positive in March 2008. I was horrified for the first few months. Then I started going to BodyPositive as a service user and met others living with HIV; people who had been living with it for years and others who were newly diagnosed like me. Through that, I found ways to live with the virus. One of the former support workers put me on a train to London despite an anxiety disorder that I was struggling with and I met a group of women who were all living with HIV, which was really inspiring. That’s the thing with Bournemouth. You don’t see a lot of women with HIV, so meeting these women from all over the UK was a real turning point for me. From that weekend I felt empowered to do something as a woman living with HIV.
I felt empowered to become a peer for people living with the virus, so I progressed from doing smaller jobs here like cleaning and reception work, to more of a support role. And now, I have the title of general manager of the centre. I still see myself as the same as everyone else here. I’m still a service user, so I feel equal to everyone else.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE ENTAIL?
There is so much admin! But I like to be in amongst it all and just getting on with everything. General manager, for me, is just a title, so if something needs doing I will just do it. BodyPositive has always been more than a job; it’s part of my journey and a huge part of my life. The real nitty-gritty stuff is doing things like meeting someone’s parents or family. We don’t just support those living with HIV, we meet all sorts of people who are affected by HIV. For them, that support is just as important.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR BODY POSITIVITY?
Reach out to the relevant support services. It is always really, really hard to reach out to somebody but once you get that peer interaction, even for a small amount of time, it’s almost like being at peace. Just having somewhere, you can feel safe, talk to other people and compare issues is so necessary.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF WORKING AT BODYPOSITIVE DORSET?
We’re like a family here. There’s always good days and bad days, whether you work here or just access the services. Last Friday, for example, I was feeling a bit down and people here could tell because they’ve known me such a long time. They really had me cheered up within half an hour. That’s the important thing about what we do – that human element and sense of community is so rewarding.
IS THERE ANYONE/ANYTHING THAT INSPIRES YOU, LOCALLY OR BEYOND?
I could give you a huge list of people that inspire me. I know it’s cheesy, but my mum always inspires me. It’s just who she is. And locally, Bournemouth inspires me in a way. I love the beach, especially in winter! I don’t know why – I love looking at a stormy beach with wind and rain. It’s the all the sounds I think. The sea really can take away all your cares and woes.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE PERSONALLY TRYING TO ACHIEVE?
I’m not saying everybody should be able to get up and start wearing an “I’m HIV positive” T-shirt, because that’s not life. But my aim is to find a way for other people to live their lives with HIV. Finding coping mechanisms that work for each and every person that comes here. A lot of people think that they can’t work or can’t continue living how they would have done and you can’t really blame anyone in particular for that. It’s all because of the stigma and misinformation surrounding the virus. Back when I was growing up, we never had anybody coming in to teach us about HIV or Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD INFORM THE PUBLIC ABOUT HIV, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
HIV doesn’t discriminate, it’s people that discriminate. You might not think that you need to know anything about it if it doesn’t affect you, but in reality, learning about HIV is so important. People need to remember that HIV isn’t about your lifestyle or you as a person – you cannot connect the virus to someone as a person. I’m a white, middle-aged woman who was diagnosed when she was 40 years old. I’m an example that it can happen to anybody in any walk of life.
If you’re interested in supporting all of the fantastic work BodyPositive Dorset are doing, why not head over to their website to make a donation.
Want to find out more about the charity? Check out the documentary below for more information…
Stephanie Wyatt, Miss Earth 2019
Learn more about Stephanie Wyatt, 19, from Dorset, as she has been crowned the new Miss Earth 2019…
At the end of last month, Stephanie Wyatt was crowned Miss Earth England 2019 at the Arden Hotel in Birmingham, sponsored by Millennium Balti in Leamington Spa. She got in touch with Humans of Bournemouth with full details on her story and what it’s like to be “Miss Earth.”
WHAT ARE YOUR DUTIES AS MISS EARTH?
As Miss Earth, I will be representing England on an international platform of millions of people around the world. Since I have also been rewarded with the title of ‘Beauties of a Cause Eco-Ambassador’ for my accomplishments, my duties include working with environmental, eco-activities and other social causes.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVOCACY?
My main aim is to advocate the preservation and restoration of Mother Earth. From a young age, I remember being exposed to the harsh reality around me and knew I had to make a change. When I found out that I could make a difference, I knew I had to carry on doing what I was doing.
DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS A STIGMA ON PAGEANTS?
Despite the stigmas, Miss Earth is different to your everyday beauty pageant. It is an environmentally-focused competition. A platform for change. For example, one of our challenges that was judged was to create an “eco-warrior” outfit. I decided to make mine completely out of real flowers. I believe that we are sending out a message here, showing the public that we all have a responsibility to preserve and attend to what the world we live in needs. Which fights against any stigmas.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING TO THE MISS EARTH FINAL?
I am extremely honoured to be put in the position to attend the final. Which is the third-most prestigious platform in the world to represent England. I’m also privileged to meet so many like-minded women. I’d like to thank the Miss Earth England organisation and I hope that I will do my country proud. This really is a dream come true for me.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER PROJECTS BESIDES FROM MISS EARTH?
I want to be socially and environmentally responsible for our earth. That’s why I created my own project in 2017. I investigated how I could tackle the world’s second-largest polluting industry, which is clothing. I thought of several ways to reduce this problem and also need those in need at the same time. That’s why I decided to aid those whom are struggle with period poverty. My first steps to making a difference were deciding to set up workshops at my local library, where the public could donate their unwanted clothes. Once generous individuals had donated, I was then able to up-cycle them into re-usable sanitary wear for girls in Kenya. This can make a big transformation on a girl’s life in Kenya since they can go to school now in comfort and not have to worry about their period getting in the way of their education.
WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO DURING YOUR REIGN AS MISS EARTH?
I hope to set up a lot more like-minded projects, similar to what I have done before. I’m particularly interested in helping Third World countries; they are one of the main reasons why I put my heart and soul into the work I do.
Jack Lenton, Personal Trainer
Meet Jack Lenton. His lifestyle is his career. As a personal trainer, he owns his own business and is able to train clients worldwide.
Learn more about how he decided to become a personal trainer and how his passion for fitness began. Jack also desires to help others develop their own career in the fitness industry…
ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM BOURNEMOUTH?
No, I grew up in the south of Somerset. Then I decided to go to Exeter University, so I lived there for a while. After that I lived in America for 18 months. I’ve lived in Bournemouth for the past year. My girlfriend lived here, so it made sense for me to move here with her.
WHAT DOES YOUR PROFESSION INVOLVE?
My day-to-day job is mainly online coaching and training. I also employ people to help with my business and coaching — I love being able to give people the chance to do what they love as a job. We mainly coach one-to-one sessions, giving the clients personal advice on themselves and how their body works and what suits them. Nevertheless, we also coach in groups as well; they don’t tend to be any more than 40 people. An individual’s ability determines what group they are put in. As a group, they will be supported as much as possibly needed.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO FITNESS?
Fitness was the only thing that kept my attention; I didn’t really enjoy school. All my efforts went into fitness and sports instead of education. Therefore, when choosing a university course, exercising science caught my eye. It was the only course that for fulfilled my desires at the time.
WERE YOU INTO SPORTS AT SCHOOL?
Of course! It wasn’t weightlifting or strength training — I was too young for any of that. I tended to play more standard sports such as football, basketball and I tried a bit of trampolining. As a kid, just being active was my priority. Fitness has always been a key aspect of my life.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU LIVE A STRICT LIFESTYLE IN TERMS OF FITNESS?
I have made my fitness lifestyle strict because that is the how I prefer it. My mental and physical health has improved by working out daily. Although it never limits me in terms of my lifestyle, since I enjoy it so much, it’s more of a hobby than a chore.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO START SEEING RESULTS ON YOUR OWN BODY?
I was looking at photos of myself the other day. From when I was about a year into my training and my body was so different. It took me about two years to see a massive progress. For a long while, I wasn’t very sure on what worked on my body type in terms on fitness wise. I found that, I noticed what I was doing wrong before finding what I was doing right. Over the years, I’ve increased how much I train. Before fitness and training was part of my daily routine, I was working out about five times a week. My personality is quite addictive, so that certainly helped keep myself on track.
IS SOCIAL MEDIA IMPORTANT TOWARDS YOUR CAREER AS A PERSONAL TRAINER?
Social media makes a significant impact on my career since it allows me to coach worldwide. My personal trainer career is no longer restricted to local people; because of social media, anyone can reach out to me. It also benefits me in terms of meeting like-minded individuals from anywhere and everywhere. Those who share the same passions as me and are part of the fitness community.
WHAT IS YOUR END GOAL?
Right now, I hope to carry on what I’m doing and making money from it. I also hope to keep employing more and more people for my business. This means I can help them gain experience and earn money from doing something they love as a career, just like me.
Susan Newman, Upholstery Lecturer
From a young age, her passion for creativity was always there. Now she is older, upholstery lecturer Susan Newman tells us how she wants to share her skills and imagination with the rest of Bournemouth…
Meet Susan Newman, a local upholstery college lecturer for leisure and college courses around Bournemouth. Her passion for designing and producing her own furniture around the house has always been important in her life. That’s why she’s chosen to help others share her love and inspiration for creating by teaching them upholstery.
WHAT DOES YOUR PROFESSION INVOLVE?
Upholstery is the work of providing furniture. We work on springs for seats, padding and all the fabrics. The students I teach are a variety of full-time and part-time students from all age groups. The main ones I focus on are my apprentices, which are part of the college. They usually work four days a week and are at college one day a week; however they are still learning while they work. The scheme is in place to encourage students to get into a career in upholstery or even help them start their own small business. Whereas the leisure courses I teach are aimed more at adults that want to learn these skills to entertain their minds and socialise with new people. Either way, my duty is to inspire and widen my students’ knowledge in upholstery.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS LOVED CREATING?
Creating has always been a huge desire of mine. Even during school I had a passion to design dresses and just be inventive whenever I could. Creativity is something that you are never able to lose, no matter what happens in your life. Nowadays, alongside teaching, I’m always giving myself mini projects to embrace my imagination.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR CAREER?
It all began when I moved into my first home. I remember just staring at the curtains, knowing I could make my own with a better design. When I finally made them, everyone’s responses were unbelievable. All my friends and family kept asking me to make them a pair. I felt a sense of pride and realised I could make a career out of doing something I loved.
WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS YOUR CAREER?
When I discovered my love of designing, I wanted to find out more. I decided to take a course at Poole College in soft furnishing and upholstery. After I got my City & Guilds qualification in upholstery, I realised I wanted to teach people the same skills and share my creativity with them.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOUR STUDENTS GAIN FROM YOUR UPHOLSTERY COURSE?
Alongside learning about fabrics, materials and the furniture industry, my students also learn key skills that employers are looking for. Students are encouraged to make their own decisions when facing problems in the workplace. A big part of being an apprentice is learning how to be independent as an adult. They also face a lot of time pressure for their projects and assignments. Therefore, we are testing their time-management skills and developing them as the course goes on.
IN YOUR OPINION, HOW IS THE APPRENTICESHIP SCHEME BENEFICIAL TO YOUR STUDENTS?
The scheme is brilliant for students that are stuck for a career path and want to try something unusual. They are working for companies around Bournemouth as they are learning. This means they are able to earn a bit of money. For some students, apprenticeships are a great alternative option from university, considering it is much more cost-effective because they are avoiding thousands of pounds of debt.
DO YOU KNOW ANY UPHOLSTERY COMPANIES IN BOURNEMOUTH?
In Bournemouth, upholstery companies are everywhere. My apprentices generally work in companies such as AIM, which is based at Bournemouth Airport. They produce soft furnishing for all sorts of aircraft, such as the Virgin airline. Ocean is another company; they manage furniture for boats and cruise liners around the world. Similarly, there are major companies like Atlas and Esteem that are based around Bournemouth and Poole. They work with coffee shops, bars and offices in the country.
Click here if you’re interested and want more information on apprenticeships.