Interview: Nealey Conquest

By kesty morrison, Tuesday May 16, 2017

With a name like this, and it is her given one, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Nealey has a number of accomplishments under her proverbial belt. A fundraiser for The Karuna Trust, coordinator of the Wellbeing rooms, winner of funding from The School for Social Entrepreneurs, and creator of Community Conscious, she won’t prove you wrong. Alongside this, Nealey works as a holistic masseur and a life-drawing model. She moved to Bristol at the end of 2010 and I put it to her that she has got quite a lot done in that short space of time.

We are sat in a coffee house in Totterdown. The walk we had planned in Leigh Woods has been rained off so we huddle and nurse hot drinks. Nealey explains that she came to Bristol after completing a degree in fine art and sculpture in Norwich. She’d started volunteering for The Karuna Trust, a charity that works with lower caste tribal communities in India and Nepal. By the end of 2010, she ended up living in Bristol and working professionally for Karuna as a solo fundraiser.

“It’s a Buddhist charity so I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are a lesson in being kind and compassionate and that feels very nourishing – to be involved with people who put that in the centre of what they’re doing in the world.”

By the end of 2011 she began to think about setting up a community project. She was working as a masseur at Hamilton House and wanted to do something within holistic therapies. Deciding to set up Community Conscious, a service that brings complimentary therapy to people who wouldn’t usually access it, Nealey used her
connections at Hamilton House. “I had always wanted to do social work, so it made sense to provide that service there.”

In 2012 Nealey got funding from the School for Social Entrepreneurs and ran an intervention of complementary therapies to people with mental health and addiction issues who access the Second Step Service. Soon after, Nealey was offered the position of community coordinator within the Wellbeing Rooms, working alongside two others.  Community Conscious became integrated and for the first time, Nealey was paid to run it. “Community Conscious was allowed to thrive as the outreach element of Wellbeing.”

A recent success for this collaboration was last year’s crowdfund to raise £3700. The aim was to fund work with fifteen care homes for the elderly within Bristol in order to tackle isolation and loneliness amongst the residents.

“We offered massage and mindfulness tasters. We simultaneously found a pot of funding from Bristol Ageing Better to train staff in basic hand massage techniques and to work holistically with care homes and give them tools for self-development and to care better for their residents. It was an all or nothing kickstart so that was quite stressful, I worked very hard at that time. In the end, we surpassed our target; we got £4200.”

This year alongside continuing their work with older people, Wellbeing has decided to work with young people. “We want to help younger people improve their mental health. There is a Wellbeing event coming up in June ‘Staying sane in a frantic world’ a fundraiser for this project.”

Nealey has just arrived back from India where she was working with Karuna’s project partners, with people with no healthcare, no knowledge of human rights, no access to education.

“All the work I’ve done involves helping people to improve their wellness or to connect with their inspiration, and it’s satisfying to be part of work that enables me to connect with others meaningfully and to help others to do the same.”

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