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Paul Mouland wins DevonLive's Community Honours Award

“Inspirational” activity leader wins community award for free exercise group

A community-minded sports officer at the University of Exeter has won an award for setting up a free fitness session in a city park.

Paul Mouland, who works in the Sports department at the University, won a DevonLive Community Honours award after setting up Freemoovement in Barton Fields Park, St Thomas in May in his own time.  The first inaugural awards celebrate inspirational people who have made their communities better places.

Freemoovement sessions run twice a week in late evening, and the gathering has grown from four keen supporters to more than 30 people who are keen to improve their fitness. Two spin-off groups have now been set up in Merrivale Park and Priory Road Park.

Now, more than 120 people have taken part in the group, and requests have been made to set up more.

Paul said he was “incredibly proud” to win the award in the category of Promoting Health and Wellbeing. He said: “I’m slightly overwhelmed, not just by the nomination and then receiving the award but by the continuous support from all the volunteers who dedicate their time and effort and are equally deserving of the accolade.”

Paul’s nominator said of him: “Paul is inspirational and is really making a vital contribution to the local community,”

Paul initially set up the group on a voluntary basis because he wanted to get fitter but did not want to exercise alone. “I managed to convince some others to join me in my local park through a simple Facebook page,” he said.

Interest grew quickly, with local councillors joining community association members and residents to work out in the open air. “When people started offering to pay for the sessions, we knew we had stumbled onto something important and of great value to the community. It’s really important to us to continue to keep the activities free in order to reduce barriers to health activities and encourage as many people as possible to take part.

“I’m incredibly proud of the how the local community has come together to support and inspire each other to get active. I am also hugely inspired by the sense of community cohesion and group support along with the never ending enthusiasm of people who volunteer their time in order to assist and motivate others.”

Chloe Pooley is an Exeter City Council-funded Community Builder, providing support in St Thomas. She has been involved with Freemoovement since the outset, and said the original ethos of a free, fun community-led exercise activity still prevailed. “What has changed is the impact it's had on the community. We are using the spaces much more effectively. In my local park in Merrivale, there is now much more confidence in the park where people of all ages want to come to spend time. They form friendships, inspire and help each other get fitter.”

Sue Taylor, a member of St Thomas Community Association, is a fitness session volunteer leader with Freemoovement. She said: “Paul is very imaginative in designing the sessions and it has been great to see people grow in their confidence and fitness levels over the past few months.”

Alison Davidson, Director of Sport at the University of Exeter, said: “I’m delighted to congratulate Paul on this award. The University values a sense of community and we’re proud that Paul has motivated so many people.“

Date: 11 December 2017

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