Group providing wellbeing and 'second home' for elderly Asian women could shut down

A group that has been a lifeline for the Asian community for 40 years could close its doors for the last time if emergency funding is not found.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
Dostiyo, in The Mounts, is now only open two days a week for daycare - and is ran by 40 volunteers who cook for eachother. Previously it was open five days a week.

Dostiyo, in The Mounts, sees 60 women pass through their doors for their voluntary daycare groups every Wednesday and Friday for keep fit classes, lunch clubs and a 'conversation cafe' for women who speak Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and Sylheti to learn English.

The group has acted as a second home for Asian women aged 60 plus, for 40 years, and has given hundreds of isolated women a reason to smile again.

Not only has the centre been fundamental in helping with breaking down cultural barriers but Dostiyo has helped women integrate better into their new community, finding new friends and learning a new language.

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The 'conversation cafe' teaches women English.

On one occasion Dosityo reached out to emergency services overseas to intervene in a forced marriage and helped a soon-to-be bride, who was travelling to live in a different country, return home.

But all this could change if a three-year Social Wellbeing Contract - which is currently funded through Northamptonshire County Council's Public Health pot - is not replaced at the end of March 2020 (previously reported here).

It's not just Dostiyo who could be affected.

Eleven other voluntary groups in Northamptonshire, including Northamptonshire Age UK, could also lose their funding if it's not renewed by the county council, leaving 3,500 people countywide receiving no support.

Ladies get to learn Tai Chi and yoga at the centre which focuses on their mental and physical health.

In an open letter sent to Northamptonshire County Council's chief executive, Theresa Grant, the voluntary organisations said they have now achieved even better value for money after the overall contract has reduced in value from £2.6 million in 2016 to £1.6 million in 2018.

Centre manager, Deepa Bakrania, has been working at the centre for 15 years. She fears for the worst if the money is nor replaced.

She said: "If we do lose this funding it means this centre will not operate and this service will shut down. They will have no place to go to. They feel that this is their second home, it’s been here for 40 years.

"Here, they have started making peer groups and they support people who might be in the hospital. They will cook for them and take it in turns to sit next to their bed and chat with them and that’s because they come here."

Dostiyo has been instrumental in forging new friendships among the centre-goers.

Aside from their daycare centre, the centre runs 12-week counselling services, Macmillan support, hearing checks, advocacy work, CV help and nutritional advice, among other classes.

Deepa added: "We have got all these communities accessing this one centre where we help with integration and cultural support.

"And, for a tiny amount of money, the amount of services we provide as part of the voluntary sector are far more vast than any other specialist centres providing one thing.

"As the voluntary sector we engage with a lot of services and bring them here and that’s all value added."

Sixty women attend each session, either on Wednesday or Friday. Other support sessions take place throughout the week.

Last year Dostiyo, who also run a community group in Wellingborough, lost their funding for Kettering and Corby.

Deepa said: "Some ladies suffer with really low self esteem.

"They come to our country, which is completley different, they don’t know the culture and suddenly they are in this place with a new family and married.

"It affects their confidence walking out of the house which they could back home. It has so many knock on effects. This is where the voluntary sector is key for support."