Members enjoying a day out at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Association of Blind Asians (ABA) has been supporting visually impaired South Asian people and their carers in Leeds since 1989.

Thanks to funding from People’s Health Trust, they have run the Boithak project for the last two years.

Debbani Ghosh, Manager at ABA, said: “The project is vital and very special for those who come along. For elderly people it can be hard to come out without being dependent on family so the project gives them the confidence to leave their homes and attend the groups because transport is provided to those who could not travel by themselves.”

Rifat, who attends the project, said: “I don't go out much as I cannot afford it but with this project, I have received help with transportation and made new friends. I enjoy coming to this group and talking in my native language.”

More than 100 people have been attending their groups. Many of them were isolated and experienced low self-esteem at the beginning of the project but they have become active by taking part in Steering Group meetings and they have had meaningful involvement in planning and development of the project.

Debbani explained: “Those involved were keen to join the sessions and attend the group on a regular basis - there were no similar activities for these community groups where they can meet, learn, discuss and take part in activities together by talking in the same language, which can still be a barrier within South East Asian communities.”

The project is members led, providing four groups in four different South Asian languages (Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi or Gujarati). Each community group wanted to do something different. To date, they have organised various sessions including chair-based exercises, yoga sessions, craft activities and information based sessions on crime, fable reading, poetry, gardening and art.

They have also organised outdoor trips to museums and exhibitions including Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bolton Abbey and National, Railway Museum York. The project has had a very positive impact on members as well as the staff. Debbani said: “We have seen a significant increase in confidence. They have developed meaningful relationships with their peers and don't feel as isolated as they have in the past. And now, these deeper friendships have turned into joining each other on holidays and sharing each other’s recipes and food.

“As a charity, we have built a great relationship with everyone involved and these sessions gave us the opportunity to get to know them, their journeys and the barriers they face so that we can provide support based on their individual need.”

Project member, Labu Ben, said: “The group has given me a strength to come out and leave the house. I like coming to the groups and taking part in different activities. It has certainly helped me with my loneliness.”

The project is funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery in Yorkshire and the Humber.

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