Avon Indian Community Association – from armchair yoga to breaking down barriers
The Avon Indian Community Association (AICA) was established to serve Indian communities living in the Bristol area, providing a platform to promote better understanding of Indian culture, heritage and values, as well as social cohesiveness with the wider community. Run entirely by volunteers, it has grown from strength to strength since its launch in 2007 and currently has over 150 members.
AICA supports its member through events and day trips, at which they come together to socialise and celebrate cultural events, as well as workshops to raise awareness of Indian heritage. This social programme aims to alleviate the problems of isolation and loneliness amongst its group, a large proportion of which are older women who often live alone or are widowed, and do not have English as their first language. AICA’s outreach also engages with society outside of the Indian community to tackle issues of discrimination, improve communication and to help break down cultural, economic and social barriers.
Looking forward, AICA plans to establish a Cultural Community Centre with facilities for all ages, for family and community events, and to provide a signposting service to the Indian community for any day-to-day challenges and needs.
AICA also supports its community by offering regular meetings and talks to provide valuable advice on social and cultural issues, health and wellbeing, and financial management. Delivered by experts, the talks have in the past tackled a range of topics from diabetes to home help, will-writing to armchair yoga.
“We have enjoyed coming to meetings twice a month. We have learned over the past two years about yoga, dementia, Reiki, financial information and health…
It’s a chance to meet people and exchange news about the community. We hope the membership grows bigger.”
– A member of AICA’s social club
Since 2020, with restrictions on social gatherings imposed as a result of the Covid pandemic, the meetings could not take place, thereby removing a vital social link for the community, in particular AICA’s older members.
Alongside this, AICA recognised a crucial need to support their most vulnerable members who live on their own and have a range of health or access issues, and whose usual care networks were compromised by the pandemic. AICA’s volunteers stepped up to fulfil this need – through collecting prescriptions and delivering food parcels and shopping, and providing cooked meals to 40 members every day. In some cases, volunteers were bringing two cooked meals per day to the most isolated and incapacitated members of the community.
As lockdown restrictions began to ease, AICA was keen to restart its fortnightly social club meetings for the over 50’s, where their older members can socialise, share ideas and once again benefit from expert talks. In July 2021, SMV was pleased to provide a grant of £1,500 to support the running costs of AICA’s social club, enabling it to start up again after a break of more than 12 months.
Since August 2021, the meetings have been re-established as a vital resource for the community, fostering identity within disadvantaged groups. Three quarters of those attending are women aged between 60-80 years old, many of whom have disabilities and have missed this regular opportunity to engage with their friends during lockdowns.
AICA’s activities are a platform for supporting its members and engaging with society outside of the Indian community