Running initiative boosts self-esteem of primary school kids

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Mini Mermaids UK ()

In the latest of our series of grassroots success stories, we examine the work of Mini Mermaids and Young Tritons UK, the running club focusing on boosting self-esteem in young girls and boys. 


Mini Mermaids UK is an after school and community programme focusing on completing a 5k challenge. The programme aims to increase self-esteem and confidence in primary school girls aged between seven and eleven years old, while encouraging them to take part in movement and activity. The multi-year curriculum, running in 6-8 week sessions, includes group discussions, tracking their progress in their diaries, games, movement and activities. The programme runs in both schools and community centres and was founded in 2015 by Hannah Corne, who brought it over from the United States. 

At the end of the programme, the girls take part in a 5km challenge. It encourages them to complete the course however they like as they are in control. They use all the skills they have learnt throughout the programme to complete it. This final challenge helps the girls to set goals, rely on their inner strength (physical, mental and emotional) and understand the correlation between physical activity and overall well-being.


Since launching in 2015, over 1000 kids have been through the programme in the UK by either running, walking, hopping, skipping, jumping or dancing the 5km. The programme relies on over 200 volunteers from across cities such as Leeds, London, Liverpool and Sheffield and they have donated almost 3000 hours of their time.

By helping the girls identify the two characters of Mini Mermaid and Siren (the positive self-affirming voice and the negative voice that holds us back in life), they have the tools to listen to their positive voice, be resilient and believe in themselves. No matter what they choose to do in life, this will help them build their self-esteem and inner strength to persevere, even when things may seem difficult.

“Mini Mermaids has helped me get stronger, and it has told me to not listen to Siren. So now I have loads of courage and I always have a can-do attitude.” – Mini Mermaid, St. Joseph Primary School, Pudsey

Following the success of the Mini Mermaids programme, Hannah has launched the Young Triton Running Club programme which is challenging the typical description of strength that boys are so often exposed to, while encouraging them to take part in movement and activity. By challenging the typical stereotypes, they inspire every boy to become emotionally and physically balanced through:

- Self-compassion
- Empathy
- Cooperation
- A broadened definition of strength

How does the programme encourage more volunteers to join?

Volunteers are recruited through advertising at universities, local volunteer centres and local communities. Mini Mermaid and Young Tritons have a clear equal opportunities policy and matches their volunteers as close to where they live as possible. To help recruit, reward and retain volunteers, the programme offers incentives such as travel expenses and flexible training.

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