Borough group Everything Human Rights helping ethnic minorities with life in Britain
Established around 18 months ago, the organisation seeks to bridge the gaps preventing integration and cohesion while helping those who have moved to the country from abroad tackle specific problems they encounter.
It has already built up an impressive network of links with other not-for-profit organisations and charities as well as attracted the notice of Wigan Council, and has ambitious plans to quickly extend its services across the borough and region.
Co-founder Farai Nhakaniso, who moved to Leigh with his partner three years ago having come to the UK as a student in 2004, says the organisation is also there to provide support for other people tackling some of the problems he faced.
Farai said: “Everything Human Rights is born out of lived experiences and my research finding out what our ethnic minority communities need.
“It deals with the day-to-day problems faced and things we’ve gone through which I think we can help others with.
“The main problem we face is the language barrier, being able to access services.
“Parents also struggle to support their children’s education because some subjects are taught very differently here.
“We also offer personal development. People often had good jobs in their countries but don’t know how to change their certificates and qualifications. We help them to get their CVs ready.
“We also look at volunteering opportunities, telling them the benefits of doing that. This is not something people from African countries would normally do, but we tell them they need that experience, it will help their speech skills, build their confidence, and help them try different things.”
Everything Human Rights is notably led by people who are black and minority ethnic (BAME) themselves, with some of its first service users now joining the team to support those coming through the doors.
For Farai, this is extremely important.
He said: “The ethnic minority community in Wigan has been identified by Greater Manchester organisations as hard to reach. That is also what charities and organisations in Wigan who would normally address these issues have found.
“Being BAME-led I think plays a major role in us being able to reach them.
“We understand the cultural differences and how to approach people of different nationalities.
“Certain words can create barriers, while others can make them comfortable and happy to open up.
“We never use the phrase: ‘We can help’. Culturally that can be taken as meaning they can’t do something themselves and are helpless. We use words like ‘support’ or ‘working together’.”
The success of Everything Human Rights’ approach can be seen by the fact dozens of people have attended its most popular events, while the organisation was working with residents from 14 different countries.
The organisation has a homework club in the community space at Leigh’s Tesco store where students who need help with their education which their parents are struggling to provide can get assistance.
Other activities run for young people have included a Fifa20 games tournament at Leigh Spinners Mill and an Afrobeats dance competition held in lockdown, which encouraged participants to film themselves strutting their stuff to music.
Everything Human Rights has also entered a football team into competitions run by Wigan Athletic.
The organisation is also training cancer champions to try to improve the low take-up among ethnic minority communities for screenings and runs awareness programmes.
The concern has also established strong links with organisations locally and regionally, teaming up with Leigh Film Society to distribute orange bags of DVDs and culture kits to families during lockdown and working with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership for its cancer work.
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen wellbeing and mental health issues become more prominent in its work, with regular coffee mornings and workshops on Zoom to connect residents and ensure they are not suffering from social isolation or other issues brought on by the coronavirus crisis.
Wigan Council has also seen its work and chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan attended one of its drop-in sessions.
This was a milestone as Farai says he hopes to be working soon across the whole of Wigan borough, with its work so far being concentrated around Leigh and its surrounding towns.
Everything Human Rights has ambitious plans, with a space earmarked at Leigh Spinners Mill for a permanent base and work under way to make it firstly a community interest company (CIC) and then a fully-fledged charity.
Since starting out the group has also seen the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in the USA transform the position of racial issues and problems faced by ethnic minorities on the political agenda.
Everything Human Rights has already been approached by Rotherham Council to discuss these issues, having been put in touch by former Leigh MP Jo Platt, and Farai says he hopes greater awareness among the public will help their aim of bringing people together.
He said: “It comes back to day-to-day life and the problems ethnic minorities face. At the moment this is at the top of the agenda. Our role as a community group is to keep it there.
“We’ve identified the barriers and difficulties, we want to be part of the solutions. We want to bridge that gap, encourage community cohesion and emphasise integration. It is a two-way process that is needed.”
For more information visit www.ehrcg.co.uk