South Leeds women are fighting to save a free community sports programme that many of them say has changed their lives.
The project has been running at Hamara for 5 years, featuring Zumba and dance, yoga, aerobics, basketball, swimming, walking and more throughout the week. Nearly a thousand local women of all ages and backgrounds have participated, with the most popular classes regularly attracting 30 or 40 attendees.
But it came to light this last month that the funding – part of the Sport England Olympic legacy – was coming to an end at the end of January, and the programme was at serious risk of the axe. In response, some of the women hurriedly pulled together a petition, and quickly gathered over 100 signatories – following which, they and Hamara held a crisis meeting to find a way forward.
Some of those fighting to save the programme have spoken out for it as follows.
“It’s unique, with such a massive range of people, there’s nothing else like it locally; it’s been so positive for our health, both physical and mental” (Christine).
“The classes have had a really positive impact on my life. Normally, I rarely socialise – but they give me motivation to get out of the house, and I feel so good since starting to attend” (Zab).
“The sessions are priceless: they offer such a welcome break from the rest of life” (Tracey).
And: “This programme is amazing. I feel a lot fitter since coming, and more confident. The basketball especially has given me something positive to share with my teenage son” (Rohima).
Proposals have now been announced to run a reduced programme for the time being, with participants paying £2 each per session to cover costs – whilst Hamara staff collaborate with a working group of the women to reshape and fundraise for the programme.
Ash Malik, the CEO of Hamara, commented:
“Our meeting with the women was very positive, it’s a win-win for the community and for Hamara, and we’re going forward together”.
But one participant added:
“This has been a huge success for our community, and I can’t understand how it came to this, why it was left to the last minute to try and save it. But we’re passionate about it, we wanted to be heard, and we’re totally willing to work to help save it. Some people say they’re happy to pay the £2, but many of us have concerns: we don’t have much spare money, so will have to cut down on coming. Let’s see what happens.”
For more info about the programme, including how to support it (for instance, via sponsorship) contact Hamara at hamara.org.uk or on (0113) 277 3330.