A COMMUNITY centre’s 30-year project to provide Meals on Wheels Curries has been more important than ever for local people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indian Community Centre Shree Bharatiya Mandal (SBM) in Ashton is a not-for-profit organisation that serves the Hindu and Indian community as well as other residents in the borough.
It provides a wealth of services from translation and language learning to elderly and social care and youth, sports and recreation activities.
The centre has played a key role in tackling Covid by acting as a Tameside Council community champion, helping to share important safety, testing and vaccination messages, especially reaching people who may not use more mainstream channels such as social media.
Another service they provide has been especially valued during the pandemic – the luncheon club, which operates three days a week and delivers on average 100 delicious traditional Indian meals to vulnerable and housebound people.
Chairman Amrit Mistry, who has been a community champion since Tameside Council first launched the programme last year, said: “The team comes in at 7.30am to start the preparation of the food then cook and it’s already at 10.30am.
“Volunteers then deliver them to the community, helping the most vulnerable and isolated people.
“We’ve been providing this service for 30 years but it has never been so important until last March when Covid descended on us all.
“We’ve helped those individuals who are shielding, isolating and feeling lonely. You cannot underestimate what it means to everyone.
“On top of that we are very proud of the other services we bring to the community, such as language classes, health and wellbeing services, festivals and most of all togetherness.”
He added: “The community champion scheme is great. I have been a volunteer in the Third Sector for many years so it was a natural progression to become a champion, to learn about Covid and help my community.”
SBM was started by a First Generation Indian in a house on Kenyon Street, Ashton in 1964. In 1972 the committee bought a Christian School at the current location in Ashton and used it as their community centre.
Over the next 25 years or so they raised funds through donations, fundraising activities and Lottery Funding to enable them to construct a purpose-built community Centre and Shree Ambaji Mandir (Hindu Temple) in 1999, which is now open to the public daily.
Through the community centre they celebrate festivals and cultural events as well as providing services that meet community needs, including the luncheon club.
The centre also has plans to develop programmes in areas such as mental health education, fitness classes, depression and dementia sessions.
Tameside Council Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “I have been so proud of how our Tameside community has supported each other during the pandemic and Amrit and his fellow volunteers at SBM are a fantastic example of the kind of inspirational work that has been making a difference.
“Huge thanks to them and all our community champions for their dedication in helping to reach all sectors of our community with important messages about services to help improve people’s lives.
“I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a community champion to find out more – there are many ways you can get involved, from sharing messages on your social media profiles to handing out leaflets, supporting mental health initiatives and getting involved in physical activities.”