My involvement with The Ubele Initiative has remained constant as an organisation close to my heart since its inception. It is somewhat like being close to a pregnant mother and having a relationship with her child when it is born. To witness that metaphorical child, mature into the nucleus of the superb organisation that the CEO Yvonne Field and her team, has run for nearly a decade doing incredible work, is indeed a magical thing.
I was pleased to be able to lead on a Northern initiative to introduce Ubele and its work to people who were unfamiliar with this organisation and its ethos of intergenerational work, leadership, capacity building and so much more. The BAME community in Manchester were introduced to each other and Ubele via online technology during the Covid crisis. Through an exchange of information at structured meetings, I was able to learn about the challenges and difficulties that were being faced in Manchester as organisations struggled to stay afloat and support their vulnerable clients during this time. I was privileged to meet some very dedicated community workers and network leaders, who were committed to serving their communities in the best way possible. These workers were sometimes tired, and they were frustrated, but they were also very motivated to continue to assist those in need in the best way that they could under very trying circumstances.
Our meetings formed the basis of networking which is also an informal way of learning, and the exchange provided a wealth of information, and knowledge, as everyone had something to share which was of benefit to someone else. It was also interesting that participants living within Manchester exchanged beneficial information of which they were previously unaware. I was pleased, encouraged, and stimulated by the majority of participants. They welcomed the opportunity to connect with the wider Ubele family by accessing and acting on the requests for research data and using the information provided in the newsletter, and joining the many Themed Conversations / Events hosted by the Ubele Initiative during this period.
What saddened me though is the extent to which many BAME workers are being marginalised and under-resourced within their areas of work, operating with weak infrastructure and labouring under a knowledge gap. A great deal of support and training is required to build some of the organisations that are currently doing great work, into sustainable operations.
The COVID crisis at its height has instilled fear in BAME communities, due to published reports of the disproportionate number deaths; and as yet, we still do not know why those deaths are disproportionate. People who were ill at home refuse hospital for treatment. There are people who died from COVID and could not be buried in a culturally specific way. This compounded the distress within the community, and many workers in these areas are now deeply concerned about how they will cope with the mental health fallout, from all of this, which they feel is certain to follow as a result. As alluded to above people have not been able to grieve properly for their loved ones or be with their loved ones as they approach death at the end of their lives. Some families have even lost multiple members.
There were a small number of people who were able to use this experience positively. But alas there are so many others who still cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This short intervention has created an opportunity for greater visibility of some of the most marginalised groups operating in the north. A presence on the Ubele website, a page for people to talk to, for people to share in images and words and sound, their work in these regions the opportunity to continue to meet others with whom they can which would be the first stage of building partnerships.