Members of The Awaaz – Voice of Women project, run by Redbridge Education and Social Welfare Support Group

The Trust works to support the foundations of good health, one important foundation being social connections (even while remaining physically distanced). Social isolation has been shown to have the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day[1] so connecting with our communities has a huge positive impact on health and wellbeing. Regular involvement in a group activity and the growth of strong social connections are vital for a long and healthy life.

The Awaaz – Voice of Women project, is run by the Redbridge Education and Social Welfare Support Group. The Ilford based project provides an opportunity for women from the ethnic minority backgrounds to come together weekly to socialise and take part in different activities including yoga, flower arrangement, knitting and lunch. With an emphasis on breaking down barriers, women lead and shape the project which helps to support new friendships, understanding of different cultures and the growth of a stronger and happier community.

Covid-19 has meant that the project is no longer able to conduct activities in person, but they have made sure to keep in regular contact with their members. All the sessions are being delivered regularly online, through social media and WhatsApp, keeping those important social connections going while physical distancing continues.

Ghazala, the project co-ordinator said, “Our drop in sessions have been a prime example of social networking where all the ladies take pride in dressing up on Wednesday for the drop in session and they told us that it has been a highlight of their week and look forward to it.

They made sure that they would not miss the session by changing their other commitments. It’s been great to see the women make new friends and learn new skills from each other by sharing their knowledge and skills.”

She continued, “Since the COVID-19 those bonds of friendship have developed further and they are now keeping in touch through online activities and social media. They are watchful of their friends and keeping an eye on their emotional and mental health needs and offering physical help to those who need it through family members. This a prime example of people bonding and being part of community.”

One member spoke of the significance of the project for them stating, “I would like to thank Awaaz for the continued support in this lockdown period. We are supporting each other by staying in touch with zoom meetings every Wednesday. Because of these zoom meetings we feel connected in the difficult time of Covid-19.”

Redbridge Education and Social Welfare Support Group is funded by the Trust through money raised by The Health Lottery London East.

[1] Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010), Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. (accessed 1 October 2019)

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