Virtual leap forward – despite pandemic setbacks!

It’s no secret that 2020 was all about COVID-19 – and for Diversity Matters, this crisis also initially numbed the charity. However, with our clear purpose already being to respond to needs in the local community, we quickly refocussed to do just that – only digitally.

 Everyone in the organisation pulled together – apart. From volunteers and staff to Board members, everyone joined in however they could, to achieve a whole host of great things.

 Goals remain clear

Never forgetting our long-term goals and keeping a positive outlook as much as possible, we set out to continue activities in any way possible and to support the development of the community strategically. We usually make a big deal out of our annual volunteer celebration and we insisted on putting it on in 2020 too, because although it is difficult and demanding to volunteer during a pandemic, our volunteers didn’t stop contributing with great passion even during the lockdowns. So, we continued the celebration tradition – only virtually. And amazingly, the online event was attended by over 50 people!

But it wasn’t all fun and games. We conducted consultations around BAMER support services during COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on BAMER women’s learning journeys in Tameside. We linked people, community groups and services to try to make sure residents from the BAMER communities could access support. And to inform strategies moving forward, we shared our experiences from the pandemic – and developed a BAMER link role whose job role was to ensure the needs of the local community was fed into the right platforms, as there was a growing concern for a lack of access to services due to language and digital barriers.

In times of need, we all pull together. From volunteers to staff and Board members, and even our families as you can see in this picture, supported us. We couldn’t have done it without them!

The need for extra support within our community grew and grew, and one of our initial projects during the spring of 2020 was to work in partnership with local services to establish a food bank in Hyde ensuring dietary requirements of the Muslim faith were met. This project was able to provide over 3,762 meals with 44% of these including meals for children.

 The personal touch – virtually

The offer direct to the local community was also revamped massively to be able to support as much as possible without being able to open up our doors for activities, like we would usually do. Thankfully, we quickly became the ‘go to’ organisation for helping to connect BAMER people to services and we supported over 60 volunteers to be able to continue to support their peers despite not meeting in person. Some 70 vulnerable residents, who were shielding, received ongoing telephone support and 418 people were signposted to support services.

On top of that, our tri-lingual team conducted over 100 wellbeing calls to our diverse service users across Tameside, created very useful videos in Bangla and Urdu explaining key COVID-19 health messages and still managed to work with partners to put on a skeletal version of our usual training programme with sessions and workshops including Health and Safety, Positive Parenting and a Motivational workshop.

We are still going strong, despite the pandemic. And even though we don’t see each other much in real life right now, we have managed to keep the momentum going and supported the local community through it all. We’re hopeful for the future and sure 2021 will bring us closer to normality again – but we know now that you can throw pretty much anything at us, and we will remain standing to support every member of our community to the best of our ability.