Anna lives in Harrogate with her two teenage sons, Madoc and Mani. As a single mum, the summer holidays are always a challenge, but especially so for Anna, who has Lupus, and was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The FEAST sessions at Dopeamin have been vital for her family, and have helped transform her son Madoc’s outlook on life.
Anna wanted to share her story, so that she might help others in a similar position to access the support FEAST can offer. Read her interview below:
When did you first come across FEAST?
My sons’ primary school sent us a letter to let us know they were eligible for free places on holiday activities. Since then, the FEAST team have been so helpful, making sure that we’ve had vouchers to take part in FEAST activities each holiday. It’s a massive help for families like ours where a parent is poorly and can’t take their kids out like others can.
Why did you choose the Dopeamin sessions?
Adam from Dopeamin had visited Madoc’s school (King James High School, Harrogate) a while ago and really made an impact. At the time, the kids were just returning to school after Covid, and I think Madoc and his friends were feeling pretty disillusioned. Adam came along and spoke to them on their level – he was offering a chance for them to be heard, to be understood and to express themselves.
From the very start, Madoc loved going to the Dopeamin sessions. Adam didn’t just show him the exercises he can do, but also how to eat well, how to look after themselves, and take care of their mental health.
What did Madoc enjoy about Dopeamin?
Without Adam, Madoc had no one else to look up to. At the time, he was starting to get into a bit of trouble with school, and even with the police. Adam talked to him and his friends about his own experience – he’d been there, done that, and was able to share the impact in a way they could relate to. Adam really cares, and that comes across – he’s such a massive positive influence.
How does Dopeamin benefit Madoc?
Before Madoc started the Dopeamin sessions, he weighed 15 stone. He’s lost that excess weight with all the exercise Adam has encouraged him into, and he’s been eating better too. He even shows me how to make smoothies!
Beyond his physical health, there’s no doubt that Dopeamin has helped Madoc feel better emotionally and mentally too. He’s got a place where he can express himself and he’s not going to be told to ‘shut up’. He feels good about himself, he’s in the right head space, and he’s got a routine. As a result, I’d say he’s really turned a corner, and now he’s training to be an electrician. He loves being on site, having a laugh with the team. It’s a huge reassurance for me – I’m just so happy for him.
How else would you say the FEAST sessions at Dopeamin have benefitted your family?
I was amazed that I could book the Dopeamin sessions for free through FEAST – without those vouchers, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. Because of my Lupus, Madoc and Mani have missed out on so much. I’ve missed birthdays, and there have been times when I’ve not even been able to do homework with them. It’s a cruel condition – you can’t plan anything because you never know when it’s going to flare up. In the past, I’d book things, but then not be able to take them, and they’d be so disappointed.
I feel so thankful for FEAST, and for Dopeamin. Thanks to these sessions, both my boys have something to do in the holidays – they’re not just lazing in bed or hanging around the streets. When you’re a parent with an acute health condition, you worry that you’re not as on the ball as you could be. Sometimes I think your children are more vulnerable, because they don’t want to worry you with their problems. Having someone else in their life like Adam, who cares for them too, reassures me that they’re OK. And I just feel so lucky to have that there.