On Friday 15 May 2015, the Asha Neighbourhood Project celebrated a significant milestone. Asha was born thirty years ago and since then has supported thousands of women and children in Beeston to live fuller, happier lives.
The charity runs a range of different services and activities including ESOL classes, intergenerational volunteer befriending schemes, advice services, help into employment, health support, childcare, playschemes and community participation work.
Initially the charity was focussed on supporting the Bangladeshi community, but over the years has extended its reach to other communities within Beeston, a fact that could be seen from the range of nationalities that attended Friday’s event. Asha is based in a house in Stratford Street and from its unassuming surroundings, has managed to touch the lives of some of the hardest to reach people in the community. As a local Beeston resident, I regularly walk past Asha on my way to my plot on the Lady Pit Lane allotments. Having always been intrigued to know what goes on inside the building and being a big believer in how different cultural experiences can enrich your life, I decided to go along to the event to find out what it was all about.
The thirty year celebrations were held at a packed Hamara Centre, with standing room only at the back. The room was a sea of colour, with local women turning out in an impressive array of pink and orange saris. Multiple generations who had benefitted from the work of Asha over the years attended, with a real sense of exuberance in the atmosphere. Staff member, Tahena, told of how her mother had first come into contact with the group in the 80s when she did an ESOL class. Tahena attended Asha’s playschemes as a child and then got her first job running the after school club. Her own children are now benefitting from Asha’s services, 30 years on from when it first opened its doors.
The agenda was packed full of speeches from Asha’s founders, Parveen Akhtar and Abdul Quddus, chairperson Afia Khattun and an address from newly re-elected MP, Hillary Benn. Mr Benn said:
“For thirty years the Asha Neighbourhood Project has been giving hope and opportunity to the women of Beeston, particularly the Bangladeshi community. This project shows you what you can do when people come together; there are people here whose lives have been transformed.”
The evening saw films of people’s life stories, sharing the richness of their different cultures. Those attending also heard presentations from current volunteers, a medley of Bengali songs sung by Chandrika Abedin and Amal Podder and saw an energetic performance of Bollywood dancing from local young women.
The festivities culminated in a much appreciated meal and the cutting of some large thirtieth anniversary cakes.
If you would like to find out more about Asha, you can contact Zaheda Khanam or Helen King at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (0113) 270 4600.
This post was written by Becky Dalton using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.