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Swell news for Waves of Wellness


Joel Pilgrim has felt at home amongst the waves for 25 years.

“For me, it’s a place to escape stressful things in life,” he says.

“When you get out there, it’s almost like being in a meditative state – you put your head under the water and it washes it away.

“The chemistry of the brain when you’re doing something physical and getting those endorphins released, it’s pretty powerful stuff.”

That, along with his career as a mental health occupational therapist, inspired him to start ‘Waves of Wellness.’

It’s a surf therapy charity that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.

“We get people down to the sand who are at risk of or have experienced mental health challenges and normalise them by talking about them and learning some tips and tricks to managing mental health,” Mr Pilgrim says.

“Our message is simple – it’s OK not to be OK and you don’t ever have to go it alone.”

Newcastle Permanent staff taking part in a Waves of Wellness session.

It’s now looking to expand, thanks to a $58,000 grant from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, which has been put towards a new van.

“We now have our own dedicated van for our own specialised equipment, which is safer and easier than using a trailer and our vehicles,” Mr Pilgrim says.

“It was a bit of a juggle before, but this is allowing for the next chapter of WOW.”

The grant is also enabling the charity to target more areas of coastline across the region.

“Lake Macquarie is a big one for us, there are a lot of people asking for our program and wanting our program to go down to Caves Beach so this will allow us to come down there,” Mr Pilgrim says.

“We will also be going to the Central Coast and as far as Yamba so the van will be helping us to transport equipment all around the state.”

Mr Pilgrim says he’s notices a surge in demand since COVID-19.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of conversations, as well as people struggling with mental health challenges,” he says.

“What’s amazing is it’s giving people dialogue. If you are struggling, that’s okay, there’s a lot of people out there finding it tough, it’s about finding the right people to support you.”

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair Phil Neat was on hand today to present the keys of the new vehicle.

It will be his last ever duty as chair before he retires from the position.

“It’s a bit sad but also I’m very privileged to be involved with the charitable foundation for 17 years, four as chairman,” he says.

“In that time, we have approved almost 500 individual grants to 270 individual charities and I’ve been fortunate to be involved in every one of those grants.

“I can’t cite everyone I’ve been involved with but I have made a point of going around to the regions we operate in and trying to go to launches like we are having today, so it’s a privilege to be involved.”

He plans to spend his newfound time with family.

“I’m going to turn the mobile phone off, it’s been at the ear for the last 50-odd years,” he says.

“I can spend more time with my family and embark on projects I have been putting aside for a few years.

“I am still a Director of the Newcastle Permanent until November, so I’ve still got my responsibilities until then.

“We will announce the new chair of the foundation next week.”

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