Running club to empower girls with mental strength

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Mini mermaids boost their confidence in the park. (Credits: Mini Mermaid Running Club)

Mental health is the focus of a running club for local girls aged 7-11, which aims to empower the girls with resilience, confidence and self-esteem, as well as instil the benefits of regular exercise.

Twelve girls are participating in the eight-week programme in Hackney Downs that aims to “provide resilience to this crazy world,” said the London Development ambassador, Khara Mills-Haunch.

Four weeks in, the girls are already starting to recognise the difference between the “mini mermaid” and “siren” voices. Megan, aged 10, said: “I am starting to use the voices at school to help me make the right decisions.”

While running, Vika, aged seven, said: “I feel amazing! ‘Mini mermaid’ said ‘keep trying’, ‘siren’ tried to distract me by saying that I couldn’t do it, but I ignored her.”

Mini Mermaid Running Club is a programme centred on teaching girls the difference between the positive “mini mermaid” voice – “I can” – and the “negative siren voice” – “I can’t”.  The project started in the United States in 2010, with the first UK programme beginning in Leeds in 2015. Hackney Downs was selected for the first Hackney programme, chosen for its “perfect location” combining both indoor and outdoor space.

Khara Mills-Haunch said that the curriculum is so important to build up their resilience to the pressures the girls are facing . “They are on a train at school where it is all about tests. Social media makes it all about perfection… and there is no time to reflect and take a step back.”

The programme culminates in a five kilometre challenge on 8 December at Hackney Marshes Parkrun, where the girls will receive a medal upon completion. Mini Mermaid aims to deliver the programme to as many girls in the Hackney community as possible, looking at areas to launch from the New Year.