North Manchester Black Health Forum

07 December 2017

“I am disabled and living with long-term health conditions, but I have learnt that I can do things and enjoy life just like anyone else thanks to the support I get from my peers, volunteers and staff at the Opening Doors project, where we all have our say.” Sofia Ali-Shah, resident

“People didn’t seem to know their neighbours and many of us felt lonely.

With a lack of support, a resident in our community died on his own, with no one around him.

We were determined it wouldn’t happen again; it was our catalyst for change. Neighbours, friends and families got together and decided something needed to be done and it needed to come from us – it is our neighbourhood, our problem, our solution.

We started engaging the wider community and created a steering group made up of local people and then came up with the idea for the project.

We now regularly hold different  activities including arts and crafts, and the activity changes every six weeks. It’s never static; we change to fit in with what residents want.

In the beginning, the majority of the group were men, which was our initial target, as often they are less likely to access services but that has expanded.

We also train volunteers, which used to just be for older people, but now younger people also get involved.

One of the young women who volunteered with us lacked confidence, so much so that she couldn’t even look at you, but now she is supporting people and getting really involved. She is now a support worker – it’s a great achievement and she has really built her confidence.

Activities usually take place in a local centre but we also support the group to deliver their activities outside the building.

One member of the group joined six months ago and is now taking responsibility for running an activity, making sure the building is open and welcoming everyone. Her confidence has increased dramatically. We also visit people in their homes – it could be something as simple as having a cup of tea and chat, or taking them  out to a community event.

There were people who had lived in their home for 30 years and didn’t know their neighbours. Now, they know each other and are less isolated. They go out together, do activities together, we have got rid of old misconceptions and people are happier.”

Ruqia Allana, project coordinator


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