Medway Diversity Forum (MDF) is a charitable organisation that promotes social inclusion by working with people in Medway and the surrounding areas, who are socially excluded on the grounds of being members of minority ethnic communities.
Thanks to Tackling Inequalities funding, MDF were able, for the first time to deliver a series of sports activities to a large number of ethnically diverse people, many from lower socio-economic groups, whose first language is not English and with long-term health conditions. The communities we engaged with were: Indian (Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalee), Bangladeshi, Chinese, Pakistani, Lithuanian, Ghanaian, Nigerian and as well as White British because our online classes were open to all.
The activities included:
- Online Yoga & Chi Kung/Tai Chi
- Therapeutic Dancing
- Inter-generational football with 5 teams playing weekly
- Ladies-only Badminton
- Karate classes for 5-14-year-old children and elderly ladies
The funding was used for:
- Venue hire
- Tutor cost
- IT cost associated with delivering online sessions
- Project management
The project also worked with a number of local partners including Kings Rochester Sports Centre, Gillingham Badminton Association and our community member groups.
Because of the variety, accessibility, and affordability of the activities offered to suit every age group and gender, the participants felt that they could change their sedentary behaviour and address the negative effects this was having on their health.
- 38% of the participants engaged in new and regular activity which otherwise they would have been excluded from, particularly in the case of Muslim and elderly Chinese ladies, who found mainstream activities unaffordable, culturally unsuited and face language barriers.
- MDF recruited 3 BAME health and digital champions from this cohort of people.
- The activities improved the mood, mobility and general wellbeing of the participants.
- Friendships were made and they learnt about different cultures and supported one another in times of need.
- This high level of participation, despite the pandemic, was also due to participants being co- creators of the project, including planning and delivery, which made them feel valued.
Community empowerment – One of the main reasons for the project’s success was that a budget from the grant was given to a few of our member organisations: Chinese, Ghanaian and Hindu faith groups, to run some of the activities, like, Dancing, Football and Karate, and this enabled the funding to reach more people in a short space of time, but also, these groups were able to develop organisational, budgeting skills and resilience.
Quotes from the beneficiaries
I am benefitting a lot from the weekly dance classes and this has given me an opportunity to meet my friends, albeit online. Medway Diversity Forum’s Rupa has been fantastic in teaching us how to do activities virtually minimising the risk of meeting people face to face. I was feeling very isolated during the lockdown and Kent Sport has made it possible to undertake activities which have helped me mentally and physically. My back pain is a lot less now, and I hope we can continue this long term. Chinese lady, 68
We are very thankful to Kent Sport and Medway Diversity Forum for allowing us to come together as families to play football in this challenging time. It is truly intergenerational with people from ages 8- 60 playing together and this funding has helped us to buy football equipment and sanitisers, which was preventing us from playing earlier. It is great to see people from different ethnicities joining us too. Ghanaian man, 45
Tai Chi & Chi Kung classes have proven to excel all my expectations. After my recent hip and foot operation, I was not sure whether I would be able to participate fully in all the exercises and movements. Not an easy task on Zoom, particularly when attendees have a wide range of fitness levels, abilities and first languages. Pauline Lau, our tutor navigates her way through these differences with ease, bringing the students together as one, with her professional teaching skills. The sessions are helping to improve my balance, strength, and flexibility. The social interaction with other students is uplifting and they have given me the confidence to pick up the threads of my pre-accident life and encouraged me to develop a daily, exercise regime. The classes leave me feeling refreshed and calmly energised. I look forward to continuing to develop my Tai Chi & Chi Kung practice and sincerely hope these lessons are able to continue. Beth Atkins, Medway Resident
Challenges & Learnings
- Some people were initially wary of any face-to-face contact given the pandemic situation, high infection and mortality rate among the ethnically diverse population.
- Moving online had its advantages and disadvantages:
- Some felt digitally excluded and could not join, so we encouraged these people to do gardening, spend time at their allotments and walk with neighbours/family.
- MDF made the online classes open to all, so people from different diverse ethnicities joined including white British residents.
- Initially the Yoga and Tai Chi tutors were not digitally savvy to carry out lessons online. MDF gave them training to improve this.
- Affordability to buy equipment was proving to be a barrier, i.e. badminton racquets, footballs, gloves, goalpost, sanitizers, karate uniform. MDF used the grant to subsidise these costs and now these participants can continue to take part and use the equipment long term.
- For those women for whom transport was a barrier, carpools were arranged to access badminton sessions.
- Be flexible – sometimes situations arise which requires us to think “outside the box”.
- It is very important to involve the service users from start to finish of the project, from planning, delivery and impact measurement, to maintain their level of commitment.
- Maintain constant flow of communication with the beneficiaries as to what is going well and what needs improvement.
- By giving ownership to small grassroot community groups to run activities within their group, this helped MDF to reach a wider audience and deliver a more personalised and bespoke service. These small groups do not have the confidence to apply for funding themselves and their members are reluctant to participate in an unfamiliar environment.
- An element of “hand holding” was necessary initially, but when people started to enjoy the benefits, they were motivated to carry on.
Medway Diversity Forum is extremely grateful to Kent Sport and Sport England for awarding us the Tackling Inequalities Fund, for making this positive intervention in people’s lives during a particularly challenging time and allowing them to take action and ownership of their wellbeing. It allowed a small ethnically diverse charity, like us, to start running regular activities/services which contributes to not only the sustainability of the organisation but also to improve the quality of the lives of the large ethnically diverse population we serve in Medway.