"We appreciate each other more now." How a Birmingham community group kept going through the pandemic

This interview is about "SAR-RAMZS Cooking club, funded by Ageing Better in Birmingham as part of the Multi Cultural Community Group (MCCG).

On March 23rd 2020, the British government announced that the country was going into lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. People were asked to stay indoors and only leave their home for necessary trips purchasing food and medicine.

We caught up with Nadima, who leads a community group called The Multi-Cultural Community Group (MCCG). 

What happened with the group when the government announced the lockdown and the restrictions?

"COVID-19 has changed our lives though it has been challenging, I feel it has brought people closer and we value and appreciate each other more now.

"As a community group leader, I had to stop the group from meeting up. It quickly became apparent that the situation was difficult for our older members who lived alone and especially those who had no contact with family and friends. I became increasingly worried about some of our members and realised it was important that the group continued in some way, even if we couldn't meet face to face. Together with the group, it was decided that we would keep the group running by contacting each other on WhatsApp and video calls."

That sounds good, how did the new activities go?

"Well, some of our members didn't use apps or devices. So, when we started baking Easter cakes and doing cooking sessions, arts and crafts and quizzes, I made sure to check in on those who weren't able to join. I made sure they were safe, obviously keeping to social distancing rules. Members remained in contact by swapping phone numbers with each other, so everyone had someone to talk to or text.

"I did notice how members mental health changed, especially for those who were isolated and lonely. I encouraged them to keep busy, exercise, to try and stay positive and if they felt low I made sure to call them myself or arrange for someone in the group who they felt comfortable speaking with. Throughout the pandemic people from the community, who I didn't know from before, have been in touch. People who have felt Isolated, who needed someone to talk to and I had referrals from community organisations who supported me and the group.

"As for myself, I have continued to do as much as I can, keeping the group going and making sure that everyone is safe and their wellbeing is stable. I help keep my neighbours together too and we all have got to know each other now. We've organised candles light prayers, music nights, celebrated birthdays and cultural events. It's kept the community spirit going for everyone.
The cooking sessions via WhatsApp and video calls have been a particularly great success! Members share pictures and put on the group Facebook page. We are looking to create a cook book named SAR-RAMZS COVID-19 LOCKDOWN RECIPES. We have been supported by Ageing Better in Birmingham. Ageing Better have been really supportive, and they've helped me to continue running the group."

Thank you to Nadima Vasi and all the members who shared their experiences in the video below. 
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