Rashida Salloo runs Ready Steady Active, a small, community-based organisation in West Yorkshire which provides sports, health and physical activity opportunities for women and girls with a focus on increasing participation and health amongst those of South Asian and Muslim background. Here she talks about the challenges her organisation is facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just like at many organisations and businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Ready Steady Active and our ability to operate and continue making a difference in the communities we serve.
We are a small organisation based in Kirklees, West Yorkshire providing community-based sports, health and physical activity opportunities for women and girls with a focus on increasing participation and health amongst those of South Asian and Muslim background. On a normal week we work with more than 200 people of all ages attending our exercise, health and multi-sport sessions including sports such as football, basketball and rounders as well as players competing in our community Rounders league, all of which has been put on hold since March.
We’ve had to get used to working with limited resources and capacity but take pride in our ability to make a real difference against these challenges by being agile, focused and innovative which has allowed us to help change the lives of many. However the current difficulties we face due to Covid are proving too great for us to overcome. We have seen nearly all of our indoor venues – which includes school and community halls – close or stop taking bookings. These are the spaces which work for our community; familiar, rooted within the community and offering a degree of privacy at a low cost. With the ever-changing local and national restrictions, unclear guidance and rules which limit numbers, along with wide anxiety amongst our participants and increased costs to secure flexible alternative venues, we’re finding our ability to deliver just not viable.
Feedback from our participants show 71% have seen a decline in their physical activity levels and 39% have experienced a decline in mental health this year, and with many of our participants from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds they are worried and concerned about the risks to themselves and their families. We have many participants who are carers and/or live with older family members which make our decisions even more difficult in case infection spreads to those who are the most vulnerable in our community.
Our work relies on consistent, reliable, safe and accessible provision to help change behaviour and perceptions amongst inactive communities to effect long-term change in the lifestyles and self-confidence of our participants. We have also made a real difference by bringing people from different backgrounds together to strengthen relationships in the community, and we worry greatly that we are getting close to losing all this progress we have made.
As we all know Covid-19 has disproportionality affected these communities and highlighted the health inequalities which exist in society; we are gravely concerned that at a time when our role is most needed and critical for the future health of our community, we will not be able to help those who need us most.