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Oct 4

Faith centres and their role in keeping communities active – Sport England

Black Majority Churches in the West Midlands

A YMCA in Wolverhampton hosted the first BMC in the West Midlands in 1953. Known as the Black Country, due to the rich coal seam that sat just below the surface of the ground, the increasingly industrial region attracted a range of communities seeking work opportunities.

Today, the percentage of Black and South Asian people living in the Black Country is higher than the national average.

These are communities who are more likely to report living with impairments or long-term health conditions and more likely to experience discrimination than their white British peers.

As a result, its perhaps unsurprising that activity levels have historically been low in the region. However, a thriving network of Black Majority Churches came together with the local Active Partnership, Active Black Country(ABC) to change this through the Get Out, Get Active(GOGA) approach in 2020.

GOGA is a national programme that has helped more than 30,000 disabled and non-disabled people enjoy the benefits of being active together.

Delivered in partnership with Activity Alliance and a range of other organisations, GOGA takes place in 21 location across the UK, including the Black Country.

ABC is running a three-year GOGA programme that explores the potential of faith centres to reach the most inactive disabled and non-disabled residents.

Set to launch in early 2020, the project had to rapidly adapt to changing needs of local communities amid the first wave of coronavirus (Covid-19.

In its early stages, Bethune Smith (ABCs faith and activity co-ordinator) worked alongside the newly formed consortium of black-led churches (Churches 4 Positive Change) to oversee the distribution of activity packs and exercise guides to help local congregations stay active during lockdown.

The programme expanded significantly throughout the course of the pandemic, engaging faith leaders from a range of backgrounds and cultures.

Resulting in yoga classes in Sikh gurdwaras, chair-based exercise classes in Black Majority Churches, and a range of cross-community outdoor activities when coronavirus restrictions allowed.

Over the summer, Sport England hosted webinars with colleagues from Active Black Country and the GOGA national programme as part of our #CloseTheGap2022 events - a series of workshops and conversations dedicated to tackling inequalities in the sport and physical activity sector.

In the Active Black Country webinar, we heard how GOGA harnessed the potential of faith-based networks to engage black communities who had otherwise struggled to be active.

Were so impressed with the cultural competency demonstrated by Bethune, Mike and the team that we wanted to celebrate their successes as part of this years Black History Month.

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Faith centres and their role in keeping communities active - Sport England

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