The Pakistan Cultural Society (PCS) started the twice-weekly wellbeing group [Monday and Wednesday] at the turn of the year and over the past ten months the sessions have gone from strength-to-strength. The organisers believe the project is so popular because it sensitively addresses ‘real issues’ affecting the Asian community.
The group aims to deliver a physical and educational programme to help combat such health conditions as obesity, depression, cholesterol problems and heart disease, which are big ‘life changing’ ailments prominent amongst Asians, young and old, living in the UK today. The beauty of what is being learnt during sessions is that each woman can take the information home and pass on the details to their family, meaning the important messages are reaching a wider audience and helping even more people.
Initially, PCS hoped the group would attract a handful of core regulars but this was to refreshingly change once the ‘word of mouth’ got around about the Sahelain Arts & Health project (Sahelain translates as Urdu for female friend).
The opening day attracted over 80 people with the small community hall bursting to capacity with women queuing outside, waiting to enter the building… the programme now has a waiting list of 30 potential members.
The purpose built venue and subsidised community programme has been paid for by monies generated by PCS through fund raising exercises sourced from Arts Council England, North East.
The attendees are mainly housewives who fall into the 40-75 year old age category and whose children have now grown up or flown the nest. The programme content has included aerobics, elements of Yoga, cookery advice classes, poetry, flower arranging, singing, jewellery making and painting – all activities that can help nurture self expression, self-confidence and encouraging inner talent.
The cookery classes have implemented a re-education of some healthy cooking methods, for example, encouraging the women to cook their traditional curry dishes without using oil, reducing the calorie count and making a healthier meal.
Shahina Ahmad, said: “The group has totally changed my life. I’m so different now; I’ve gone from being a very shy person to somebody who enjoys talking to and meeting new people.”
Shahina is married with three sons and has two granddaughters; she has been living in Newcastle with her husband for the past 29 years after moving to the UK from Pakistan. Shahina has found the group a very positive experience – she has lost 10 lbs through the exercise sessions and has even created her own audiotape of energetic Bhangra songs that she uses to help teach the aerobic moves to her immediate family.
Shahina adds: “The group has made so many people happy, it’s a place we all look forward to coming and where your problems are forgotten when you walk through the door.”
Razia Sanam, said: “The Sahelain Arts and Health project has such a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. It’s perfect for ladies in our culture who have little chance to socialise and have limited opportunities to exercise.”
Razia continued: “A high percentage of Asian women become very lonely and depressed as they spend a lot of their time at home, alone, when their children go to school and their husbands go to work. This group has been a life changer for so many of us; our husbands couldn’t believe we were the same women.”
Razia is married and has four children and four grandchildren; she has lived in Newcastle for 35 years, where her husband has built up a successful family business, running a travel agency.
Razia concludes: “This project can have great knock-on effects because as people and their families get healthier, we can all move forward as a community.”
There are plans to help cater for other areas including setting up a mothers and toddlers group and even a men’s evening exercise class – this was suggested by some of their wives as they are collectively concerned about health issues brought on by daily stresses and strains endured through the demands of a hectic business life.
Pakistan Cultural Society (PCS): The PCS is one of the North East’s most astute arts development organisations with over fifteen years experience of actively promoting the richness and diversity of South Asian Arts. The acceleration and growth of PCS is the result of a being guided by a very forward-thinking group of passionate board members, who represent the organisation’s long term vision.
The board isn’t exclusively Muslim as it holds representatives from a cross section of the community – providing PCS with a culturally diverse make up that will assist in the positive progression of the organisation for years to come. The PCS board still has a loyal presence of local businessmen who almost two decades ago helped to build the foundations of the organisation.
The cultural group prides itself in programming exciting and dynamic concerts, events, festivals, education workshops and commissions for regional, national and international audiences.
The PCS also delivers Arts & Health sessions for residents of the South Asian BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities in Newcastle; exploring the opportunities to develop other wellbeing projects throughout the region.
Munmun KC, Director of PCS and the person behind the Sahelain wellbeing Arts & Health project.
She said: “PCS is proud of the way it can make a real difference to peoples’ lives and have such a positive impact on the local community. We feel that as a group we can deliver a healthy balance of both informative and entertaining programmes, which can assist in the North East’s regional development, as it continues to enjoy the journey of being recognised as a diverse and multicultural region.”
The Next Move:
For further information about the Sahelain BME women’s wellbeing Arts & Health project and other PCS activities / community events including its Islamic Arts and Heritage Festival that takes place across Tyne & Wear throughout November 2008 please contact (0191) 2743030 or via email email@example.com alternatively visit the official website www.pakistanculturalsociety.co.uk
PCS = Participation, Celebration and Success.
PCS Address: 24 Cedar Road, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 9XX
Media Opportunities: The PCS would like to offer the media an opportunity to visit the Sahelain Arts & Health programme. The press will be able to photograph, film and interview the ladies about the project and find out the impact it has made to their lives.
If you’re interested in covering the item but are unable to attend any of the sessions, telephone interviews can be arranged with key spokes from the project team.
Photography – a set of promotional photographs are available on request (photo credit is TONY GRIFFITHS) – an example of which is present on the page of this press release.