Our Way Our Say – From the shadow of Covid into the light

Our Way Our Say (OWOS) provides social interaction programmes to residents of Southward, a largely deprived area in Weston-Super-Mare that suffers from a significant lack of local employment prospects. The current economic situation affects not only the adults but the children too, and can have a significant emotional impact on the entire family dynamic. This sense of social exclusion and isolation can often be felt most keenly among the older residents, children and young people.

Through the organisation of events and classes designed to break through the barriers to participation, OWOS aims to equip local people with tools and opportunities to make positive changes in their lives.

As a result of the Covid pandemic, OWOS recognised that young children in particular were suffering from few opportunities to socialise with their friends. With not many fun activities to look forward to, many children were exhibiting symptoms of frustration, low confidence, loneliness and depression.

In April 2021 SMV was pleased to support OWOS with a grant of £4,880 to assist them in their plan to set up a dance group programme for children aged seven to 11 years old. The programme was an opportunity for the children to not only express themselves, but also to learn new skills, improve strength and flexibility, connect with others and build their confidence.

19 children signed up to attend the classes led by a dance teacher and a project manager, alongside numerous volunteers. The group ran for 20 weeks – initially online, and then in-person when restrictions allowed – resulting in a fantastic Christmas show.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, during which time many activities for young people had been cancelled or discontinued, the children of Southward had something of their own that was developed to support them through the crisis, helping them return to a sense of normality.

“My favourite day of the week, I wish it was everyday.”
– L, age 8

The physical and emotional rewards of attending the classes were evident and far-reaching. In addition to improving their fitness and making new friends, the classes also relieved anxiety among the children, staved off tantrums and improved sleep.

“I can’t believe the difference in my daughter since attending this group, she is so happy and cheerful and dances the routines all around the house.”
– Mum

This, in turn, had positive knock-on effects for their families; parents were heartened by their children’s enthusiasm for the fun classes, thrilled to watch them flourish in a shared experience and they witnessed a noticeable improvement in their self-esteem.

“The positive outcomes go way beyond just the children, just looking at the parents’ and families’ faces
at show time says it all: pride, happiness and hope after a long dark year.”
– Michelle, project manager