Jan Coppinger has lived in South Somerset for nine years, and co-founded the Healthy Living Centre in Chard. Jan told her story to Rob Hunt:
‘I was born in Liverpool in 1957 and lived there until the age of seven. I have an identical twin sister, and four other sisters. I have two daughters in their twenties, and a son of eight. I also have two grandchildren.
My family moved to Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, then to Preston, where I studied catering and became a chef. I moved to London to work for EMI Hotels as an assistant restaurant manager, but found hotel life too harsh. I decided to move back to Blackpool and became a tram driver. At this point in my life I couldn’t even drive a car, but when an opportunity arose to learn to drive buses, I took and passed my PSV (Public Service Vehicle) Licence. For the next four years I drove big red London Routemaster double-decker buses, and both my daughters were born during this period.
After London I returned to Blackpool and studied sociology and psychology at night school. I then gained a certificate in Youth and Community Development Work from Solihull College. I worked with Hereford and Worcester Youth Services for two years, then became a community worker in Wolverhampton for five years.
During my time in Wolverhampton I had a spiritual experience, at the age of 32. I could feel energy whisking through my body and coming out of my hands. From then on the world looked and felt different: I could feel other people’s feelings and see their energy fields. I found that I could help people by clearing energy blockages in their body. I felt I was living between two worlds. I explored what all this meant. I talked to people, went to groups, read books and generally followed my nose to find my own path. It was difficult for me to control my own energy at times; I tended to break electrical things on touching them. I eventually got in touch with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers and attended courses there, which all helped me on the journey to find out why I’m here and what I’m supposed to be doing.
Nine years ago I moved to Somerset and started working at the Youth Centre in Chard, which I ran for five years. I still had this feeling inside that I needed to do something more, but I didn’t know exactly what. I took a one year sabbatical and went to India, where I did a lot of meditation and got in touch with my spiritual self. I had become frustrated and was looking for a way to be more effective in making changes in the world.
When I came back, I worked with teenagers with challenging behaviour. Most of them were sensitive and intelligent young people who just didn’t know how to control their own energy and feelings, and were very disruptive in class. I taught them how to control their own energy and be part of a class community again. This was so successful, that I was approached to train teachers as well.
One day, I was sitting on a bench with Kerry Veale and the late Morris Newbound, discussing how Chard would benefit from having a Healthy Living Centre. An idea was born. We promptly applied to the New Opportunities Fund and opened just three years ago, in the building which used to house the old library.
We advise people on diet, nutrition and general healthy living. We offer free consultations with practitioners qualified in the use of flower essences to support emotional and mental wellbeing. We use bio-feedback technology, which teaches you to breathe properly. This can help with reducing pain, combating addiction and lowering blood pressure. We offer exercise classes for the over 60s and go into schools to teach students chanting to improve breathing techniques – breath is your life force.
Mind-mapping and life-coaching are also part of our programme; these tools help people find direction and purpose in their lives. Our aim is to help people to set goals for themselves and find ways of achieving them.