Nun's footwork helps homeless

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The Independent Online
COLETTE FLYNN, a nun and former biology teacher, is taking a holistic approach to helping homeless people.

Two afternoons a week Sister Flynn visits a hostel in Norwich city centre where, as a trained reflexologist, she massages the residents' feet, a process which 'helps the body normalise itself'.

Chris, 19, a resident of St Martins since losing his job and becoming homeless two years ago, believes in the effectiveness of the treatment but was surprised to find it was administered by a nun. 'I didn't know she was a Christian till last week.' As Sister Flynn begins on his feet, rubbing and kneading and bending and squeezing, Chris praises her work.

'I suffer from club-feet and I'm on my feet a lot and what Colette does relaxes you, even makes you go to sleep sometimes,' he said.

'It's not everybody's scene. Some of the people here don't want anyone messing round with their feet, it's all too strange. But Roz, one of the girls here, says that after Colette has done her her feet are in heaven for a week.'

Sister Flynn, 64, a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, trained in Pressure Point Therapy to qualify as a reflexologist.

She says the alternative medical practice, which claims that massaging parts of the feet can help with disorders affecting other parts of the body, has not raised eyebrows in the church.

'No one is claiming that reflexology is a cure, but rather that it helps the body to normalise itself.

'I'd be suspicious of some of the extremes of alternative medicine but reflexology is just part of the holistic approach. We know little about how it works but we know that it does work,' she said.

She is supported by the parish as an active nun but the reflexology is 'off my own bat'. The social security allowance of most of her clients would not stretch to the pounds 25-an-hour charged by professional reflexologists but Sister Flynn does not charge.

She has observed that many of the young men at the hostel have very attractive feet. 'I think feet are wonderful,' she says. 'They are full of character. You can tell a lot about a person from their feet.'

(Photograph omitted)