UoB student seeks crowdfunding to help tackle mental health in region’s primary schools

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Alex Stark
UoB student Alex Stark

Utilising his background in martial arts, a Masters student from the University of Bedfordshire (UoB) has developed a primary school sports initiative to help address, reduce and manage mental health in early age children.

Alex Stark, who is studying a Postgraduate degree in Secondary Physical Education, is seeking crowd-funding support to help fund the mindfulness project’s delivery after a community fund he’d previously secured was withdrawn due to the global pandemic.

Alex has set up a Just Giving page with a target of £10,000, for members of the public to donate to.

“We decided to look for support through crowd-funding and we’re running this at cost price, so no profit is made,” said Alex.

“Every penny will go towards tackling children’s mental health and just £97 will be enough to cover the costs of delivering our child wellbeing initiative to a school.”

Whilst an undergraduate at UoB, Alex set up the Active Time School Kids (ATSK) coaching company in January 2018. The company’s intention was – and still is – to get children active in schools in fun ways, ultimately aiding primary-aged child development.

“Having to manage day to day operations whilst needing to attend lectures and complete assignments was always going to be a challenge,” said Alex.

“The support from the School of Sport Science and Physical Activity staff at Beds enabled my business to grow and develop, as well as allow me to achieve high grades in my degree.”

After implementing a successful non-fighting martial arts programme in schools across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire in 2019, Alex teamed up with the Association of Traditional Shotokan Karate, run by his father Kevin in Bedford.

Over the past few months, the father and son duo have developed a programme and laid out plans for delivering ATSK’s new martial arts-inspired mindfulness project. They hope to introduce this programme to schools across the region from early 2021.

“I identified that there is no real support for helping younger age children cope with mental health issues and how they can gain strategies for a lifetime’s worth of support,” said Alex.

“By tackling the issues at an early age, we can help the children affected by mental health concerns to understand coping methods which will help them throughout their whole life.

“The added benefits will also help tackle issues such as eating disorders, obesity and how to avoid gang culture as we give children the self-esteem and confidence to make positive choices in their lives.”

ATSK’s mindfulness project will involve breathing techniques, meditation and other ways to help focus the mind. Once funding is secured, Alex plans to roll the programme out in a ‘blended’ format with a combination of in-person support at schools and the use of virtual platforms which children can access online from home, school and their local library.

Speaking about the crowd funding campaign, Alex said, “This much-needed funding will cover the costs of paying for equipment and resources, as well as paying the dedicated staff who’ll be delivering the mindfulness project’s programme in schools.

“These members of staff – many of whom are students from University of Bedfordshire – are given the opportunity to get paid at a fair rate and experience project delivery whilst being flexible around their studies.”

You can support Alex, Kevin and Active Time School Kids to reach their goal by visiting their Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kevin-stark

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