Changing lives: the power of Active Reach
Posted: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 15:59
Active Reach has shone a light on the power of the community-led approach.
Since Active Oxfordshire launched Active Reach, thanks to £155,000 in funding from Sport England's Tackling Inequalities Fund, we've seen incredible examples of partners coming together to reach people most in need. The first phase alone in Blackbird Leys helped hundreds of people get active and protect their health and wellbeing. Active Reach is now focused on parts of Banbury and Abingdon, and there's a step change emerging in how we can learn from our communities and ensure they are kept centre stage.
In this blog, Tom Gubbins, Sport and Physical Activity Manager at Cherwell District Council and Yasmin Kaduji, Active Reach co-ordinator and volunteer at Banbury Mosque reflect on Active Reach's approach:
When did Active Reach start in Banbury?
Tom: Active Reach began in October and involves a range of local charities and organisations including Banbury Mosque, St Leonard's Church, Aspire, Age UK Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire Mind and Cherwell District Council. It was fantastic to be able to bring together organisations who wouldn't normally have worked together before.
Yasmin: I first got involved through the Banbury Community Fridge and my volunteering at the Mosque. We realised there was a need to work with everyone to break down barriers and help our local communities stay active. We spent a lot of time listening to our communities about what they wanted to see and what their barriers were.
How have you managed to carry on during lockdowns?
Tom: We've focused on upskilling local people to become personal trainers and deliver their own sessions, and some of our partners have been able to deliver online activities. We also had a period in December when we could start up again, and the response was incredible. We saw 115 local people who traditionally wouldn't have engaged sign up for different activities, including swimming at Spiceball Leisure Centre, spinning and Zumba. We also linked in with our existing offers such as FAST programme and Bikes for Key Workers project.
Yasmin: We Make every Contact Count training with volunteers and helped people to build their confidence getting online. We've had women sign up for personal training courses including myself, and the course covers healthy eating and healthy behaviours as well as physical activity.
Another exciting development is that we are working with a local Gym, Kayi Fitness Club. We have in principle agreed with the owners to be able to offer ladies only sessions for two nights and two mornings per week, which is critical for local women who wouldn't want to attend a mixed gym.
Why do you think the Active Reach approach works?
Tom: For me, it's about building trust and relationships with the people who know their communities and can unlock the door. Without them, you cannot integrate into the community. Flexibility is also key – being ready to fit in with other people's timetables and bringing activities to them to break down barriers. Each area we work in is totally different, and rather than dictating our ideas it's about listening, understanding and empowering the community.
Yasmin: The mosque is a crucial hub where everyone is able to engage with, where people feel comfortable and safe. We have built up trust with the people with all people of all walks of life we want to reach, so if we suggest a new class or activity, they respond quickly and share with their friends and neighbours. It's about listening and finding the right way to communicate – email doesn't work, as the majority use What's App.
We're very proud to be able to work with so many community leaders and organisations to reach people in the greatest need. Watch this space for more developments on Active Reach in Banbury and Abingdon!