Befriending a Community.

The Harrow Ghanaian Association (HARGA) has shared how they have used the Covid Awareness Fund to support and make a difference to the Ghanaian community in Harrow.

Befriending a Community. Helping Harrow Ghanaians through the pandemic.

Samuel Botchey, Chairman of HARGA and a father of two doctors, heard about the reality of Covid in hospital and after losing a family member to Covid and a member of the Ghanaian community as a result of the pandemic, he wanted to take action. He saw an opportunity for HARGA to encourage their community to follow protocols and minimise the risk of infection and applied for the Covid Awareness Fund (CAF).

Once successful in their application, an activity plan was produced to raise awareness of Covid and encourage the uptake of the vaccine. The plan started with monthly meetings between the Ghanaian community and health professionals. Some meetings were delivered in their local language to aid understanding. This gave the community an opportunity to raise their concerns and ask questions directly to trained health professionals. Participants were very satisfied with the answers they received.

Volunteers made calls to elderly members of the community to encourage them to stay safe and to take the vaccine. It was clear when carrying out this activity that elderly members felt isolated and welcomed the calls just so that they could speak to somebody. The use of Facebook live had a wide reach to the community. With a GP registrar delivering the live video to approximately 546 people. Video clips were also recorded with doctors, nurses and other health workers advising people to be careful and take the vaccine. The videos were shared widely on social media. To ensure elderly members of the community had access to the social media activities, 1:1 support was given where possible.

HARGA collaborated with Harrow Young Achievers who designed and created messages in the form of Tik Tok, flyers, and videos on Social Media to get the message across to young people.

Flyers were designed and distributed. Initially they thought it would be easy to distribute 1000 flyers but it proved quite challenging as people didn’t want to come close to the volunteers because of the pandemic. The weather was a challenge as well with some volunteers reluctant to go out in the rain. However all of the challenges were overcome and lessons learnt.

A number of Covid Health Walks were organised with volunteers talking directly to members of the public about Covid and directing them to a mobile testing team at Harrow Rec. Wealdstone was also selected as an area to hold an outreach event because of the low uptake of the vaccine in the BAME community in the area. Leaflets were distributed to homes, shops, shoppers, and residents on the high street.

In addition they have implemented activities to help counter the wider impacts of the pandemic. Bringing in Benefits Officers to talk about the benefits members may be entitled to and the Nightingale Nurses Association to talk to the community in the local language about general health care.

Many things went well throughout the programme, which is still ongoing. Convincing 19 Ghanaian residents including four nurses and three health workers to get vaccinated was a great success. The weekly Covid Awareness Fund Engagement meetings between the council, public health and grant recipients are very helpful. The meetings have allowed them to ask important questions like: ‘how can undocumented people can get vaccinated’? As a result of the meetings Samuel’s question was quickly answered and he took three undocumented Ghanaians to a centre to get vaccinated. Following this success, three other undocumented Ghanaians followed suit!

The Covid Awareness fund has made a massive difference to the community. The impact on the elderly community especially has been huge. Initially they felt isolated and unwell both mentally and physically but as a result of the calls they received from the volunteers, they now feel connected, are talking freely and coming out of their shells. Some have even started to volunteer to raise awareness of Covid! In addition, as a result of the talks from the benefit officers, nine members of the community now receive benefits they have been entitled to for a long time. This would not have happened without the grant.

Even if the Fund had not been available, they would have still taken action but would not have been able to reach as many people and befriend the elderly members. It was a blessing and they are grateful.

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