Spirit of Manchester Story : The courage and bravery is amazing
We spoke to Sandhya, the Safety4Sisters North West facilitator, about the weekly migrant women’s group that was held on Tuesday.
The group, for women who face issues both with immigration and with gender-based crimes, gets a regular attendance of 15 to 20 women each week. The importance of the group is to create a safe, confidential and empowering environment for highly isolated and marginalised women to share their experiences and support each other. This allows women to share similar experiences, be believed and to support one another, which is a rare opportunity in their circumstances.
Many of the same women attend the group each week and today the group explored the #WhyIDidntReport campaign on Twitter and discussed the reasons why women in their group hadn’t. For some it was because when they had tried to report it, they had a negative response due to their immigration status. For others they hadn’t been believed, had been prevented from reporting or feared deportation if they did.
The group had a new attendee today; she had moved from a different area and didn’t know anyone locally. She explained that she felt let down, scared all of the time - even though she was in a different area to her husband and his family. She was also dealing with the pain of miscarriage due to violence. She explained that when you are in her position, it’s the loneliness that hurts the most as you haven’t done anything wrong. Knowing that this group exists doesn’t take the pain away but makes her feel less lonely.
Sandhya added: “The courage and bravery of the women who attend the group is amazing.”
Safety4Sisters North West is an anti-racist, feminist organisation fighting for the rights to safety for migrant women experiencing gender based violence and who are subject to immigration control.
Spirit of Manchester Story - The plants grow and so does my sense of community involvement
Every Tuesday, the dedicated Friends of Ladybarn Park voluntary action gardening group meet in order to enhance and maintain the beauty of the lovely shared space in the heart of the busy community of Fallowfield. Facilities are aimed at all age groups and include a children’s playground, multi-use sports area and a bowling green.
The surrounding parkland, including the landmark ‘Poplar Walk’, are carefully tended by enthusiastic volunteers, and at 85, Doreen Robinson is one of the most well-known and committed gardeners.
Doreen volunteered not even knowing if she could hold a spade. Two years later, she is a dab hand and feels her involvement in the park has made her healthier and happier, not only tending the plants but giving her a greater sense of community involvement as the park is supported by local schools and businesses alike and holds regular fundraising events. For Doreen, there is an emotional investment as well as working on the flower beds.
She said: “Not only are you planting flowers but you are sowing the seeds of friendship. I love being involved in the park – the plants grow and so does my sense of community involvement.”
Pauline Ainscough, the chair of the Friends group, has worked to harness the support of the local community and enlist members. Since her first involvement eight years ago, and thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Doreen, Pauline has seen Friends of Ladybarn Park grow from "an acorn to a great oak”.
Spirit of Manchester Story : Dance – It helps women to find their strength again
Imagine you’re a woman who’s been through domestic abuse. As well as physical injuries, you might have experienced emotional and psychological abuse which has severely affected your confidence. You might be feeling anxious and depressed. You might not speak English confidently, and you might not know where to turn for help, especially if you’re not sure about your immigration status, your finances or where you’re going to live.
Ardwick-based charity Wonderfully Made Woman aims to work with women to find solutions to these issues, acting as a first point of contact for women and helping to signpost them to specialist services. They work supportively and creatively, running a range of services from coffee mornings to seminars and courses on domestic abuse issues, using social media to provide extra information and support.
Today (Wednesday) was their weekly dance session. Dance may not seem an obvious service to offer to women who have experienced domestic abuse, but Ehinor, who coordinates the sessions, explained, "It helps women to find their strength again, and build confidence in their own bodies and what they can do. It brings them together to make connections with each other, and they learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures. Each week women will choose a piece of music and develop a dance to it, then bring it and teach it to the rest of the group. We’ve even had sessions where women go to other community centres and teach the dances to the people there."
Hali, one of the dancers, said "I come to dance because I make friends. When I am at home I feel lonely, but when I dance with my friends I feel good. When I go home, I take music from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Pakistan – even though I’m from Iran!"
For more information, see www.wonderfullymadewoman.org/
Spirit of Manchester Story - I’ve learnt a lot I didn’t know before
The Gaddum Centre is one of Manchester’s oldest charities that offers services to carers including advocacy, support and therapy. On 26th September, one of their services included a two hour healthy eating workshop for carers ran at Openshaw Resource Centre. The workshop was attended by seven carers and facilitated by a registered nutritionist.
Paul Wooley, the Coordinator of the Manchester Carers Network, was also in attendance, and said that the workshop was part of a wider three year programme of training for carers. The topics and themes of the workshops are led by what the carers want, and in the past have included sessions in Moving and Handling, Mindfulness, Legal Rights and Healthy Cooking.
Paul shared that the sessions always receive positive feedback. From this particular session, one participant said it was “very informative” and another said “I’ve learnt a lot about dietary advice that I didn’t know before”.
One participant highlighted the importance of these sessions for carers, saying “I care for a family member with diabetes, and I came today thinking that I already knew a lot. I went away knowing much more, as well as with some really useful tips and advice”.
Whilst the skills and knowledge gained from the workshops are invaluable, there is also a crucial social element that brings carers together and encourages them share their own experiences, tips and insights as part of a peer network.
At the time of the interview, Paul mused that “The workshop ended 20 minutes ago, but people are still here talking and networking”.
Spirit of Manchester Story - Patient Support Service at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital "I've really benefited from the peer support"
Gail Brett is a Patient Support Officer for Henshaws, a charity that supports people of all ages with sight loss and a range of other disabilities across the North of England. Gail manages the Patient Support Service, which is based at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. The service helps individuals to cope with the emotional and practical difficulties that a sight loss diagnosis can bring, right at the moment they need it most.
Gail said, “This week is very important for us because it is National Eye Health Week (24-30 September 2018) and helps to promote the importance of eye health and the need for regular sight tests for all. We are working very closely with the Stroke Association and the Macular Society to increase local awareness of the campaign and our volunteers are also staffing the information desk every day this week.
Every day is different but this morning has involved speaking to eight different service users and providing them with the support they require. I’ve seen some patients at their diagnosis stage and helped them to understand what this means and the potential impact this will have on their lives. This can for example mean the loss of their driving licence”.
The Patient Support Service is open to all and is focused on enabling people with sight loss to live independent and fulfilling lives. The service offers advice and training to enable service users and their families to build skills and develop confidence. Gail states that, “We are committed to linking people into the local community and to local sources of support, peer support and social activities. The service we provide is open 5 days a week and is accessible by appointment, drop-in, telephone, email and via direct referral from health specialists and consultants”.
The service also operates an information desk within the atrium at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. The information desk is run by a team of volunteers who donate at least a day a week of their time to staff it and provide an initial access point to information and advice. Gail said, “We simply couldn’t provide the service without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers”.
When asked what the impact of the service was, Gail replied, “Many of our service users return for advice and support after a year or so and it’s great to see the positive change we have helped them to make following their sight loss. I have seen people’s confidence grow, people returning to employment, making new friendships and regaining their independence. It’s also great to see service users return and decide to help others through running services themselves such as one of our emotional support groups”.
One service user said “Meeting Gail at hospital gave me the confidence to face the difficulties I am having due to my sight loss. I have had a visual impairment for many years and just struggled on with it but after speaking to Gail I came along to the living with sight loss course and met other people and really benefited from the peer support and meeting other people with a sight loss.”
Spirit of Manchester Story - Everyone has a chance for their voice to be heard
John and Pete were participating in a Having a Voice session at Back on Track on Tuesday. The course is all about getting your voice heard and how to put yourself across. Last week, the group grilled Kate, a Back on Track manager about how the charity works and this week, all 11 members of the group gave a short presentation on a subject of their choice such as films they enjoy or hobbies. This allowed them to practise speaking in front of a group in a safe and friendly environment.
John was referred to Back on Track a year ago and was feeling isolated. He now feels that he can talk to people in the group and is also involved in a Mustard Tree drama group. He said “Often people are judged by their looks or how much money they have but I think it is more about having a good heart”.
Pete agreed that the group is really beneficial and he particularly enjoys talking to others and picking up information. Pete said, “There is such a wide variety of people here and I try to encourage others. It is easier to like someone than dislike them and I’m glad to have met John – he’s a friend now”.
Kate, Back on Track Wellbeing Co-ordinator, explained that lot of learners are not confident but it has been great to see people gain new skills and the ability to speak up for themselves. She said “Everyone has a chance for their voice to be heard and a safe environment has been created. I’m really enjoying it – it’s so valuable to get to know people and see them use the skills they have learnt in their lives”.
It has also given Back on Track really valuable feedback on their services. They are a charity based in city centre Manchester, and their mission is to provide the opportunity to learn for people affected by homelessness, mental health problems, drug and alcohol misuse, and offending, so they can make positive changes that last. They do this by providing education, training, work experience and volunteering opportunities - helping people move on from problems in their past towards a meaningful and fulfilled life.
Spirit of Manchester Story - Most of us in Manchester are inclined to lend a hand but lots of us don’t know where to start
Most of us here in Manchester are inclined to lend a hand, help those in need and support one another when times are tough - but lots of us also just don’t know where to start.
That is where the Volunteer Centre Manchester comes in.
Each Wednesday sees a fresh wave of Manchester folks in one of the Volunteer Centre’s weekly inductions, all of whom are looking to volunteer and give their time to help voluntary organisations in the city.
“This is one of my favourite bits of the job, being able to meet people and, hopefully, get them enthusiastic about volunteering,” says Shanna, one of the Volunteering Development Workers at Volunteer Centre Manchester whilst packing up after this week’s volunteer induction session.
The session is all about helping those people find a volunteer role that is right for them and empowering new volunteers with information they will need before they volunteer. There are 13 people at this induction and it starts with a ‘getting to know you’ session where attendees chat to one another about why they are looking to volunteer.
Muhammed, one of this week’s attendees, really wants to help “mainly young people who may be a bit lost, I want to help them see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
There is such a diversity of experience and motivation amongst today’s attendees - a second year neuroscience student, a new mum, people who are brand new to Manchester and those just wanting to meet new people and do new things. But all have a single thing in common - they are looking to volunteer.
At the end of the session, when Shanna has gone through the ‘volunteering need to knows’ and shown the group how they can find opportunities using the Volunteer Centre System, all the attendees are wished good luck and encouraged to get in touch if they want more help. There is a few questions, a little bit of anxiety around whether people have the skills and experience to volunteer, but after a bit of reassurance everyone seems to leave happy.
Reflecting on the session, Shanna said: “I think It’s also really nice for people to see that other people are like them and motivated to want to support and help people. You don’t get that so much these days – you know your friends and family are kind people but you never just get to talk to a stranger about how they want to help people”.