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Deerness Valley’s own, Su Madden, set up Durham’s Haven when she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and struggled to find any local support groups. Durham’s Haven provides advice, support, and activities to help people with autoimmune conditions including Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis. Through the Active Valleys partnership, the group have taken part in chair-based exercise sessions delivered by Wellbeing for Life.

Su spoke to us about her reasons behind setting up the wonderful Durham’s Haven, and the benefits of getting moving with a long term health condition.

What encouraged you to set up Durham’s Haven?
“When I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I really struggled to find local support groups. So, I spent months researching and worked towards starting a group. There are about 50 people that attend the groups now and over 150 members on the Facebook page! We chat, craft, and have a weekly walking group. Other activities have included chair-based exercise sessions delivered through the Active Valleys partnership, as well as Thai Chi and Reiki!”

What benefits have you experienced since becoming physically active?
“For me, the main benefit has been less pain. Exercise helps because when I sit down for long periods I cease up. I now plan my days to make sure I go out for a walk because I find that the right amount of exercise keeps my pain levels low.”

How do you stay motivated?
“It can be quite hard, but I try not to get too down. When I feel demotivated or low, I do some meditation, listen to something soothing then go for a walk to clear my head. I am also motivated by my pain, knowing that being active reduces the pain definitely spurs me on. The group gives me a lot of motivation too as it gives me purpose, a reason to be positive and to get out of the house.”

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about getting active or joining Durham’s Haven?
“Do it! Absolutely do it! If you’re going to get active, you’re going to make a lot of friends! Someone once said to me, “You’ll never be alone as long as you’ve got Durham’s Haven!”. The group offers the opportunity to meet people, have fun, craft, and get active. Just go and do it. You’ll do things you have never done before, and you will not regret it!”

Active Valleys caught up with Su 6 months after our initial chat to see how she and the group were getting on.

Although Wellbeing for Life had finished their sessions at Durham’s Haven, the group continue to do the exercises. They received a Wellbeing For Life microgrant and were able to buy hula hoops, exercise bands, stress balls, exercise balls, and a parachute.

Su told us, “since having Active Valleys and Wellbeing for Life at group, I and some of our members have become more active in a lot of ways, more walking, more chair exercise and more trying to use a hula hoop which, trust me, is not easy at my age but we love having a go and feel that even trying to do it properly is exercise in itself. One member told me she hasn’t had such a laugh in ages, but, she borrowed a hula hoop to continue trying at home. We all have great fun and enjoy our newly added exercise weeks at group.”

It’s great to hear how physical activity has become a regular activity at Durham’s Haven, and how much everyone enjoys it!


If you are living with an autoimmune condition and would like to get involved at Durham’s Haven, click here to visit their Facebook page and find out more.