Breathe Arts Health Research, the social enterprise developing creative approaches to tackle healthcare issues, has designed a new therapy to help young people suffering from hemiplegia.

With the help of mentors from Lloyds Banking Group, Breathe is looking to expand its work to benefit children nationally and has signed up British Paralympic athlete, Bethy Woodward as the social enterprise's patron.

Hemiplegia is a condition which severely limits the use of one side of the body, and Breathe designs programmes that help children suffering with this disorder to overcome their disability through the use of creativity and magic, as well as designing programmes to tackle other health problems and inequalities.

This unique approach to therapy integrates specially adapted magic tricks into intensive therapy programmes to improve both the physical health and general wellbeing of the child.

Since 2008 Yvonne Farquharson and Dr Dido Green have been working with a team of clinicians and 'Magic Circle' magicians on developing the therapy, and have so far brought the benefits of magic to 50 children with hemiplegia across the UK and Israel, helping them to develop their motor skills and subsequently increase their independence.

Breathe hosts camps for children suffering with hemiplegia where they are taught specially adapted magic tricks by a team of magicians and trained therapists. All of which have been designed with the aim of encouraging the movements required in order to train the affected limbs, thus restoring much of the motor functionality.

Research shows that before attending the magic camp children could use their weaker hand in only 25 per cent of two-handed activities. After the camp, this figure leapt to 93 per cent and they were performing more tasks independently. The long-term aim for the enterprise is to broaden out the service so that it is available to more and more sufferers, and to adapt the programme to work with other health conditions.

The support that Yvonne received from her mentor, Karen Cook of Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking, meant that she was able to take a step back from her day to day involvement in running the camps and start to develop it as a business venture.

Having previously relied on grants to fund the research, Yvonne is now seeking ways of making the enterprise a viable business in order to fund the continuation of this vital work.

Karen and Yvonne have worked together to develop business and marketing plans which will see Breathe diversify to offer therapies for stroke victims, whose symptoms are similar to those suffering with hemiplegia. The enterprise also benefitted from the networking opportunities offered through the mentoring programme by being introduced to Breathe's new patron, Bethy.

Yvonne Farquharson, founder of Breathe, said: "Working with Dr Dido Green to carry out robust scientific research which explores the clinical impact of this work, and consequently proving the effectiveness of the therapy has been a really rewarding process, and now the challenge is how to make this available to as many people as possible in as many places as we can.

"Working with my mentor from Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking has really opened my eyes to the available opportunities. Having not come from a business background, it is invaluable to have someone who is able to take an objective view of what we're trying to achieve and to give us some guidance about the best way to go about doing so."

Karen Cook, Head of Sustainable Development and Community Enterprise for Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking, said: "I saw Yvonne give a speech about Breathe at her graduation from the School for Social Entrepreneurs and was really moved to see if I could help in any way. The team at Breathe have a really inspiring idea which they were in the process of proving through research.

"I was keen to get involved with the enterprise as a mentor, and have since worked really closely with Yvonne to put some practical changes in place that could make a real difference. We have worked together to consider other funding pathways, the diversification of patients and implement a marketing campaign."

Breathe's new patron, Bethy Woodward, British Paralympic athlete, added: "Breathe's method of combining intensive therapy with the fun of learning magic tricks can really help children with mobility problems and increase their independence. It's all about achieving their full potential and I only wish that these magic camps had been available when I was a child as it would've made such a difference.

"It is great to see the children increase their confidence as well as helping to strengthen their weaker hand. Traditional physio methods can only do so much and it's fantastic to see such an innovative and compelling method of working with hemiplegic children has been developed."

About Bethy Woodward

Bethany "Bethy" Woodward is a British Paralympic athlete who competes in the 100m, 200m and 400m T37 events. She has competed at the highest level of her sport, representing Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Paralympics and the 2011 IPC Athletic World Championships and representing England at and the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

About the Mentoring Scheme

The Business Finance Taskforce (BFT) mentoring initiative was set up by the banks and the British Banking Association (BBA) to help the economy return to sustainable growth by supporting businesses.

Lloyds TSB has pledged to expand its network of mentors by recruiting and training more volunteers giving a total of at least 400 by the end of 2013. The bank has an exceptional breadth of mentors from across the company - from senior management to specialist finance departments.

More information about Lloyds TSB's mentoring commitment can be found here. One of the key commitments within the initiative was to establish a free business mentoring scheme. Further information can be found on the website.

For more information about Business Mentors South West, click here.