We joined the Ageing Better Sparkbrook Hub in celebrating Christmas and the people who has made a huge impact in tackling loneliness and isolation in the local area.
Attending the event, and listening to Nigel Brookhouse, CEO of Narthex Sparkhill, one of the organisations behind the Sparkbrook Hub, it was clear that there was much cause for celebration, apart from just the Christmas festivities!
Emphasising the massive importance of community and paying tribute to the amazing strengths of the Sparkbrook local people, Nigel said “The Ageing Better programme has helped the Sparkbrook Hub to support 50 individual citizens groups, engaging with 1,250 people in the area.” He added;
“This has made a real difference to the local community by tackling loneliness faced by those who have been most isolated”.
Nita and Stephen, who provide local citizens with support, explained more about the broad range of Ageing Better activities taking place across Sparkbrook. These range from activities focussing on food and health, art and craft groups, exercise, rumba and English classes and there’s even a slow dancing group set up by a local citizen called Miguel, originally from the Congo.
Two thirds of the participants are over 50, and whilst the programme aims to reduce isolation for people over this age, it also supports work to prevent it happening in the future. Up to this point, most of the people who have attended are women (63%) but men are encouraged to get involved and share their skills, or learn something new. For example, there's a newly established healthy eating workshop, designed specifically for Pakistani men.
Sparkbrook is a diverse neighbourhood and many of the participants have backgrounds in countries such Pakistan, Yemen, Ireland, Bosnia, Poland, Somalia, the Caribbean islands and Bangladesh. It's these people, who take an active role in making a difference in their neighbourhood, and those who come along that show the strength of this community.
And the evidence across the Ageing Better Programme suggest that people have made friends and continued to meet long after the initial Ageing Better support finished.
Gulfam, 67, of Small Heath has been in the UK since 1963 and he set up a local support group with the help of the Ageing Better Sparkbrook Hub. He said “People come to me very unhappy and lonely, they have just been sitting around at home, or in the park. I give them tea and biscuits and help them out, I don’t get paid or ask for any money”
It is clear Gulfam is one of the many people who has a passion for supporting this local community and make a difference here. The group he started has helped people become less isolated. With the members’ help they find friendship and support – much needed advice about travel arrangements, bus passes, finding places to buy furniture or household appliances as well as encouragement to develop their own new skills.
An impressive and highly encouraging testament to the amazing hard work, skills and strengths of people in Sparkbrook!
If you would like to find out more about what takes place in the Sparkbrook area, get in touch with Nita: , or by calling 0121 708 1398 ext 104 or 07467 045 293 (mobile)