ATI Participant Stories – Ray

ATI Participant Stories – Ray

In honour of Mental Health Awareness week last month, we’re back with another participant story featuring Ray, Orb, a Dancing for Wellbeing class, and a Coordinator with two left feet.

Ray joined Action Towards Inclusion (ATI) at the end of October 2021. I had the opportunity to meet with him several weeks ago to attend a community dance class as part of an Orb intervention and discuss his experiences of our 6-year project.

Hosted by York St John’s Senior Lecturer in Drama & Dance (Nicole Forshaw), and facilitated by several of her undergraduate students, the class is part of a community outreach project which explores the physical and emotional benefits of dance and movement.  The classes are inclusive and creative, and Ray tells me that although it ‘’still feels a little strange’’ you quickly forgo ‘’any thoughts of how silly you might look’’ and embrace the absurdity.

In his six previous sessions, Ray had been learning about dance theorist and choreographer Rudolf Laban, and his ‘’eight efforts’’- eight movements which supposedly underlie all of our actions (there’s: wringing, floating, and gliding to name just a few). For the duration of the class, we moved around the space in different ways- contorting, finding sequences and telling stories through dance. It was enjoyable, offered chance to connect with your body and experience a sense of mindfulness, and perhaps most importantly- socialise with other members of the group.

Dancing for Wellbeing is just one of the interventions Ray has been getting involved in to improve his mental health. He’s also involved in Orb’s house band where he plays guitar and volunteers to support course leader (Andy) in sessions. Orb’s Walking for Wellbeing group has also been a favourite that Ray has incorporated into his routine.

Aside from attending wellbeing groups, sessions with keyworker Gemma have focused on practical help too, like housing support, and helping him to engage with the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and Horizon’s – so he can work on developing a healthy relationship with alcohol after battling misuse. As Ray puts it, Orb have allowed him to work on ‘’inserting things into my life which give it purpose; reasons not to drink’’- he doesn’t shy away from issues he’s faced with alcohol.

Previously living rurally and experiencing isolation, attending Orb has opened a community up for Ray, and has helped to develop his confidence and self-esteem to a point where he’s had a ‘’really positive’’ few months, and has been more open to socialising, even attending gigs with friends he’s made through Orb’s service.

Ray is now a volunteer at Oxfam where he sorts music donations and works on the shop floor. He describes himself as open to ‘’exploring new options’’ and being more ‘’proactive’’ and ‘’assertive’’ since joining ATI. Following October 2021, Ray has completed a music course, alongside several of WEA’s (Workers Educational Association) courses on confidence and stress management whilst on the project. More recently, he enrolled on Open Access University course ‘’Understanding Autism’’ and is working on maintaining being in a ‘’good place’’.


ATI is just one of our community-based projects which have helped to create sustainable change in people’s lives and to their sense of wellbeing. Keep checking in to see what we’re working on next and find out more about our current projects TAW (ending June 30th, 2023) and Multiply (ongoing).

Struggling with your mental health or addiction issues?

Laura Sandiford

Post by Laura Sandiford

Impact Coordinator

A keen storyteller, collaborator and engagement enthusiast, Laura works alongside Hannah as the Impact Coordinator, where she measures and highlights the impact of Better Connect across its business, programmes, and partnerships. She does so by working closely with colleagues, partners, participants, and stakeholders to gather information and stories, which she then translates into a range of engaging content across Better Connect’s channels.

Building relationships and networks is a large part of Laura’s role, alongside ensuring the ‘’Better Connect story’’ is woven throughout all communications.

Laura’s favourite part of the role is connecting with the faces behind the case studies and giving voice to their experiences.

Learn more about Laura