As part of a journalism, film and photography course that SLCR is running for Leeds Federated Housing, a group of students visited the Hamara Healthy Living Centre at the end of April.
They were given a brief introduction to the centre and the opportunity to interview some staff and centre users. Afterwards, they were asked to write up their experience and thoughts about the visit however they wished. Below is what David, Robert and Zardasht came up with. It is interesting to see how they write in different styles about the same thing and express a variety of comments and information.
Their audio interviews from the visit are also being curated into a short radio programme and will be aired via www.slcr.org.uk.
If you would like to find out more about the Hamara Centre please visit: www.hamara.org.uk.
Gemma Rathbone, Journalism Tutor
Upon entering the Hamara Centre you would not be wrong in thinking you were walking into an Asian restaurant. The first thing that hits you is the amazing smell which intensifies with each step into the building. My first thoughts were to run into the kitchen and sample whatever was responsible for the spicy aroma, but I could not. I was here to interview and that had to be my priority.
Established in 2004 the Hamara is a community centre based in the heart of Beeston which offers advice, activities and, of course, food. People are under the misconception that the centre is for the Asian community only, but with Hamara meaning “all of us” they want you to know that everyone is welcome. Black, white, gay, straight, old or disabled – everyone is welcome – and with activities such as tai chi, excursions, luncheon clubs to name just a few, why wouldn’t you pay the centre a visit?
Speaking with Mohammed Arshed Lodhi, development worker for the elderly, you get a sense of how much the centre means to everyone who works there. Already having a background in working with the elderly and a vacancy arising at the right moment, Mohammed believes his skills can benefit more by working at the Hamara. Working with other agencies his aim is to improve the mental and physical health of the elderly. With so many OAPs unaware of which benefits and grants are available to them, advice is the most popular reason for them to visit the centre, closely followed by community trips.
Of course, all of this requires funding and even though advice and some activities are free, a small charge is applicable for some activities. If money was no option, I asked Mohammed, what would he like to see? His reply was quick and straight to the point: “An extension to the building.” For all the activities that are available, they struggle to accommodate them all, which has resulted in many being turned down. An extension would go some way to solve this problem, and judging by the passion in his voice I think Mohammed would be only too happy to lay the foundations.
From a mere hour at the centre I can see how much it means to everyone there. For those who work there it is a way to pass on their knowledge and to help people in need. For those who use the centre it is a reason to get out of bed on a morning, make friends, feel wanted and be part of the community.
The Hamara, the heart of Beeston – why not pay a visit yourself?
Now … just where is that kitchen?
“What would you be doing if you didn’t come here?” “Watching telly probably,” was the reply of Colin. Three of the saddest familiar words of the modern elderly malaise.
The Hamara Centre in Beeston is a scheme to organise, encourage and inspire. We were researching the eternal problem which bestrides the ethnic divide of the leisure time of older unemployed people. Speaking to volunteers and members we were impressed by the enthusiasm of persons involved who obviously enjoy coming. One thing missing seemed to be an end product, especially for the younger end.
Mr Arshed has worked at the centre for 15 years and is perfectly happy to be assisting people there. He maintains that Hamara is for all people, cultures and religions and everyone is welcome.
Colin has a different perception. “It is all Asian,” he concludes, but admits it is difficult to change as the Beeston catchment area is predominantly Asian.
“The centre is one” feels a good initial starting point of information for the younger people. It is more than just useful for the elderly to utilise their leisure time. To progress further the place needs to become more multicultural and inclusive to be truly representative of the Beeston population.
This was a special day to me because I learnt many new things and I could see that I would learn much more still. It was good for me because now I know how to interview people. To be honest I was a bit shy and nervous but I think I did okay because this was my first time to do this kind of thing and to interview people face to face. I just want to say thank you.