This is the first of The Wisdom Factory CIC's posts on this year's Grant Fund recipients and we're starting with an interesting project from Legacy West Midlands (LWM), a registered charity that has its roots in celebrating the heritage of post-war migrant communities in Birmingham. Their work highlights their relationship to the industrial, architectural, and cultural heritage of the city. Early projects included tracing migrant journeys through food, and developing a local heritage trail.
Legacy WM's Heritage Lottery-funded Old Wives’ Tales project explored the experiences and challenges of the first women to arrive from Bangladesh in the UK during the 1970s. From this they realised that these women, and those of the subsequent second and even third generation, generally stay mainly in the home as housewives, and do not participate in activities outside family life. As a result they can be isolated, have few opportunities for physical exercise or social contact, and can become isolated and depressed. In South Asian languages there are few words to describe mental health issues and little recognition of them; this lack of awareness means many women suffer in silence, without the cultural tools to understand why they are feeling this way, or to express it and to seek help.
These issues, along with generally sedentary lifestyles and limited social networks, lead to a combination of poor physical and mental health. This is compounded by difficult socio-economic circumstances:
• Most wards LWM work in are in the top 4% of deprived wards in the UK (IMD, 2011)
• Female life expectancy in these areas is 8 years below the national average (B’ham City Council, 2013)
• A majority of deaths occur from preventable circulatory diseases (31.05%) and coronary heart disease (18.86%) (B’ham City Council, 2013)
• Sport England mapping indicates that less than 15% of the local population participate in sport and active recreation for the recommended 30 minutes or more three days a week.
In the light of the above data and their own experience within the local community, LWM consulted with 40 women they had met during various projects. Many said they would like weekly physical activity sessions and the chance to get out of the house to meet others. With clear evidence of need and desire on the women’s behalf, LWM secured a small grant from the Lottery Awards for All fund for the Women Can! pilot project. The pilot project ended in May 2016 and they secured continuation funding for another year, ending June 2017.
It began with 25 women; 50 now attend the physical activity sessions twice a week, where they enjoy swimming, walking, jogging, badminton, netball, aerobics and other physical activities – many of which take place in local leisure centres and green spaces. During these sessions, as well as improving activity levels and physical health, women meet other women, expanding their social networks and addressing issues of isolation and depression.
LWM had achieved a great deal but felt there is still so much more they could and would like to do. Funding would enable them to continue and to extend provision for the women they currently work with as well as recruit new women to the sessions. It will also allow them to broaden the range of physical activities they can provide as well as develop the healthy eating aspect of the project, complementing physical wellbeing with workshops on making better food choices and providing a lasting impact beyond sessions. Diet is an important factor in good health and goes hand in hand with physical activity; which in turn boosts mental wellbeing and contributes to a general feeling of positive wellbeing.
The Wisdom Factory CIC was happy to support the ongoing costs of this excellent project.