White Water Centre – working with BME communities
• Who is/was involved in running the project?
This project was organised by the Broxbourne Ethnic Minority Association (EMA) in partnership with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) to introduce more people to paddlesports. Although the EMA and LVRPA were the project leads there were many partners that contributed to the success of this project including, Broxbourne Council, the Society of Africans and Caribbean’s and the Broxbourne Muslim Community. By engaging with such a variety of different partners the project was able to reach a number of communities and individuals that would not previously had the opportunity to engage in activity at Lee Valley White Water Centre (an inspirational London 2012 Olympic venue).
We used a variety of communication tools to attract as many people as possible to join our programme. Information about the project was published through twitter, flyers and websites of other ethnic minority groups (e.g. Society of Africans and Caribbean’s and Broxbourne Muslim Community). We also be relied on the word of mouth which is very often one of the most effective ways of communication.
• Who benefits and in what ways
Lee Valley White Water Centre currently attracts a number of local residents and has a thriving club that has been in operation since April 2014. However, attracting and engaging with members of hard to reach groups, including black and ethnic minorities and the Muslim community has always been a big challenge, with the majority of current members predominately white British male.
Waltham Cross has changed demographically a lot in recent years with new communities that have recently settled in the area e.g. Polish, as well as those who migrated to the UK many years ago e.g. African, Caribbean and Muslim families benefiting from this project. This project has therefore helped to integrate people of all ages and backgrounds in Waltham Cross and in turn helped to improve community cohesion. Recent figures from the Public Health Hertfordshire also suggest that residents in Broxbourne have the highest obesity levels across the county (23% for adults and 12% for children). Our project, although small, helped to address this. Our initiative has also been instrumental in terms of introducing new activities to “marginalized” communities and most definitely changed people’s perception on both paddlesports and sport/physical activity in general.
• What has been achieved?
Sport very often is one of the best ways to engage hard to reach groups and can be used as a platform for social integration and engagement. Over the course of the six weeks feedback from parents and participants indicated that this had been achieved.
All participants that completed the six week course learnt the basics of paddling, including rescue skills and other key skills needed to progress further in the sport. By the end of week six, all were successfully awarded their level one certificate. More importantly this project helped to tackle social exclusion, address inequality and boost self-esteem amongst local residents from various ethnic minority groups.
To effectively launch this programme we organised a free taster day at the White Water Centre. This ‘community fun day’ provided an opportunity for local residents to visit the White Water Centre and find out more about what is on offer. The day provided a platform to promote and sign up residents to the six week paddlesport development programme. More than 60 people from BME communities attended the day. Although not all progressed to the 6 week programme, the day did introduce all attendees to the wide range of activities available at the centre and encourage a large proportion to become more physically active.
• What is so special about the project?
The following feedback illustrates what made this project so special;
Michal Siewniak, Capacity Building Officer from the EMA said: “The whole project, which introduced paddlesports to hard to reach groups has been fantastic and it has exceeded our expectations. It was really good to see so many young people from so many backgrounds trying something very different, learning new skills and meeting new friends. This project has enabled us to break down barriers, increase sport and physical participation”.
One of the parents, Rubbina Umar, added: “My children have really enjoyed the paddlesport programme. I can’t thank the organisers and coach enough for allowing them to have such an amazing opportunity. The Centre is an amazing resource and I hope that the whole family will use it much more in the future”.