A new community-care initiative from Bonnie’s:
a weekly women’s health group for Hindi and Urdu speakers.
Our Hindi and Urdu speaking women’s health group takes place one day a week on a Friday. The group is mainly for women of Indian descent but any women who speak Hindi or Urdu language, they are welcome here.
These particular women are very isolated. Some of them are elderly as well, and they mainly depend on their carers or their grown up children. For some of them, their outing outside is like one day a week, coming to the group.
I ran this same group while I was working for Joan Harrison Support Services for Women in Liverpool. I’d seen the need for a group for women to socialise, and for community resources, health information and raising awareness. They were lost. I ran that group for seven years and then my organisation finished, so that group went too.
Once it happened that the group wasn’t there, there was no support, no nothing.
I kept in contact with the women for the next two years and always they want to come back again to the group. They missed it so much. They were lonely these two years. Sometimes their daughters would say, ‘They are just at home, is the group starting?’ They continually kept on asking.
My role is a community worker, but I was a domestic violence worker for the past 10 years. So I came to Bonnie’s and I said, ‘Look Tracy, there is a very urgent need.’ Tracy is the EO and she understood the importance and she gave us funding for a new group.
It takes place at Liverpool Women’s Health Centre. They’ve got a big, huge group room and two kitchens. I love, they all love, the top room. It’s just beautiful.
Would you believe at first I had seven or eight women from the previous group, and they were so happy to get together they said, ‘Could you put the picture on Facebook so our children can see their mum in the group?’
So actually I did. I don’t know how many likes I got.
These original women were not Bonnie clients but now some women who come from domestic violence situations, they are joining us too. It can take a bit of time for them to break the ice, and feel that they belong and they won’t be judged. The thing is these group women, especially the elderly ones, they know if a new face comes they will never ask questions. Instead they will try to support. They understand. They wait until the new woman wants to talk. There is a big welcome for them.
The group starts around 10 and finishes at 1. Those who can, they just walk or bring their own transport, but for the frail and aged who need transport, I give it to them.
We start off with community information first, after that we go to the health information. Often I have experts visiting to discuss the issues. And then we go for morning tea. Sitting and having a meal together once a week, that’s really an important bit. It’s an important part of their life. Eating in a group is our tradition, it’s a family sort of thing. So here they form like a family bond. They like to bring something from home and share. There’s always so much food there.
The staff at the Centre will say, ‘Oh just leave the dishes, we’ll take it to the dishwasher’, but it’s our cultural thing after eating. The women they wash, wipe all the dishes, everything neat and clean done. That’s our culture and that’s how these women are.
Then after that we sing. I personally believe that singing and music is so therapeutic. I have seen lots of women with mental health issues and other issues. One of them had grief and loss issues when her son had passed away. This woman was like, oh dear, so traumatised. And just wouldn’t feel anything. She was very unwell, but through music, just singing and being able to express herself she changed. She chose Indian songs, and would sing and express the words, and the tears would flow out of her eyes. And I saw that woman improve her happiness so much after maybe five, six months. I’ve seen it really is a therapy.
Currently I’ve got 15 women. The youngest would be around 25 and the oldest is 80+. I just love it, I get satisfaction, I feel I belong in there. I see myself there, in them. And if I’m able to make a bit of difference in other people’s lives, I would do anything, that’s who I am.
I was concerned for the wellbeing of these women and when I did get an opportunity I did bring the idea over to Tracy, she did the rest. We very much appreciate it. The women are very thankful for that.