Relaunched in 2012, the Pakeeza Women’s Group in Rochdale is partly funded by Sport England’s Together Fund, which exists to help community groups working with our target audience grow and help people be more active.
After nearly being forced to close when initial funding ran out, the group’s chair, Razia Shamim MBE (who was recently awarded the freedom of Rochdale), spearheaded efforts to pull together community resources to help keep sessions running.
While group members, their families, and local doctors crowdfunded, a volunteer for Pakeeza Women’s Group submitted an application to the Together Fund.
Every Monday, around 30 women over 50 from Rochdale’s South Asian community meet at their local community centre for exercise, socialising, and home-cooked lunch, provided by the centre’s owner.
After coffee and catch-ups, session facilitator Rabeah Wahid – whose role is funded by the Together Fund – leads 45 minutes of aerobic exercises designed to boost stability, flexibility and confidence.
Beginning as a series of armchair workouts, after just five weeks of sessions most of the women now spend the full 45 minute workout on their feet.
Rabeah said: “I enjoy teaching the sessions and love the fact it’s helped so many women. We are in our fifth week and there is so much positive feedback and results, [such as] improvements in blood pressure, feeling healthier, and getting less tired doing their daily tasks.
“A lot [of members] have expressed the mental impact of being isolated during Covid and, in general, a lot of them live alone. They have told me the group has improved their depression and they feel a lot happier being active and getting out of the house.”
As well as providing supportive physical activity, getting out of the house and having access to a close-knit group has been important in reducing social isolation and boosting morale and, for some women who live alone, can’t drive or have caring responsibilities, this group is their community.
The group has been so successful in providing members with a physical and mental boost, as well as a sense of confidence, that local doctors are referring patients to the group. .
Najma, who has been attending since the group started, said: “We love the exercises and I’ve started doing them at home in my living room. We will come whatever the weather because we love the group, it’s like family.”
Click here for more information on the Together Fund.
Prior to the training, many non-medical/community-facing staff didn't feel confident in discussing movement and physical activity within their work.
Across England, sports clubs and organisations are being supported by a new network of Sport Welfare Officers. They have been recruited by Active Partnerships and funded by Sport England through an investment of National Lottery money.