‘Ek Saath – Community Together’, a project run by the Indian Community Association (ICA), offers daily activities and get-togethers for older residents in Reading.
Project members are encouraged to interact with new people in the group and the wider community to develop a social network and build their self-esteem. Veera Gupta, Project Manager at the ICA, explained: “Many members do not have family nearby and live alone, therefore, the friendships and support gained through project is important for them. In particular, the social time and lunch club provides a safe space for them to speak to other local people with similar backgrounds and experiences.”
One member, an 86-year-old woman from Mauritius, had few connections in the local area and spoke little English when she first joined. Being part of the project has developed her confidence and social skills. She now comes to the centre every day and enjoys volunteering at the ICA - clearing tables after lunch and helping to set up exercise props. She has even learnt English and Hindi so that she can converse better with other members.
Activities are chosen by project members, taking into account their diverse needs and interests. Mrs Anand, a project member, said: “I enjoy the arts and crafts sessions as I am always learning new skills. I recently took my canvas home after a painting session and decided to hang it on a wall after receiving praise from my family and friends.”
In addition to weekly chair-based yoga and art classes, a volunteer from Reading Voluntary Action also provides one-to-one IT sessions. The idea for this came from a member who highlighted that the group regularly discussed the problems they experienced using modern technology. As a result of the sessions, members have become more confident using smart phones and computers, enabling them to stay in touch with family overseas.
The ICA also organises trips to local places of interest. During a recent trip to Basildon Park in Berkshire, a National Trust property with links to India, project members were asked to take part in interviews which will form part of an exhibition. A date is being arranged for members to tell their stories of how they came to live in Reading for this.
Project member, Mrs Patel, said: “Coming to the ICA gives me peace of mind – it is like my second home. I have made friends that are now like my family. It is also the only place in my local area that I can keep fit and socialise.”
The Ek Saath project is funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery in London West.
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