I am a single parent with two girls, Lizzie 5, and Leah 2. I’m trained as a chef, but couldn’t work the shifts restaurants wanted with having the girls.
Like a lot of families where the parents aren’t together there were a number of challenges and conflict, and a great deal of stress. I was drinking daily, with times of binge drinking, and as a family we were eating a lot of takeaway meals. The girls and I had a routine, but I had no methods of keeping their behaviour positive.
When Lizzie started school I helped out with some cooking classes for the children. Not long after that the staff at the children’s centre invited me to join a HENRY course.
We were a mixed group, but we all had two things in common – small children and wanting to improve things in our lives. Once we had learned about giving kids guided choices I started using it at home. Things quickly became calmer for us. HENRY has changed my outlook on parenting and I think about the kids’ point of view more often. I’ve also been able to take a step back from getting involved in conflict with the girls’ mum, and things are no longer so stressful.
One of the ‘stepping stones’ for change that I set was to reduce the number of takeaways we were eating. It felt really good to go back to the group and share my success with them. I now cook healthy meals from scratch, and I know exactly what my kids are eating. It’s also a lot cheaper than a takeaway every night. I am drinking much less these days, some weeks I don’t have a drink at all, and I no longer binge drink.
At the end of the 8 week programme I was invited to join the HENRY Parent Champion project, where I learned how to support other families with young children in my community. I run two groups for parents and children where they learn about the balanced plate, portion sizes, and identifying stepping stones for change. We all prepare a dish from scratch, learning techniques and trying new foods. The best part of being a Parent Champion is making a difference to other people’s lives. A boy in one of my groups had never tasted courgettes. We cooked with them in the group, and now he asks his mum to buy them and cook them with him. I love it when parents come to group the following week and share their experiences of recreating the dish at home for all their family. That’s when I know I’ve helped them take a step forward.
I have been so inspired by my work with HENRY and the opportunity to encourage children in the community to eat and enjoy healthy food that I have now got myself a new job as a chef in a local primary school so that I can provide kids with healthy food on a bigger scale.
HENRY has definitely changed not only my outlook on life, but also the outlook for my life, and for my kids’ lives.
Luke features in this short film about HENRY, running a cooking activity as a Parent Champion (see him at 2:00)
Find out where HENRY programmes, workshops and activities are running
Great volunteering opportunities for people who want to support children and families