Good Causes

Rita’s struggles inspire her to help her community in Derby

Rita Walia knows how it feels to struggle. The 67-year-old from Derby has had a shoulder, a wrist and both her knees replaced and arthritis makes walking difficult. At times, she has felt lonely and depressed.

She said, “I’ve got a lot of issues, but I don’t give up. I like to work with my community and I like to help them.”

Her work with Derby’s Asian community began about 30 years ago when she started a project called the Sahaly Women’s Group. It was inspired by her own struggles and the realisation that spending time with others is vital to good mental health.

She said, “When you’re sitting at home all day you start to feel depressed. Once you get out – even if it’s just going to the shop to buy some milk – you feel refreshed. If something as small as that can help, why not meet up with other people, have a cup of tea and listen to each other’s problems?

“I had met some ladies who were disabled or suffering from depression and I thought ‘this is not right, we have to do something’. I rang them up and we got together once a month.”

The women-only get-togethers soon expanded. Yoga and meditation classes were made available and Rita collected prescriptions and helped with hospital visits. She also hired a van to take her ladies on outings to destinations ranging from swimming pools to temples.

About 10 years ago, Rita started a second group, The Sanjha Sahaly Women’s Group. More recently, with the help of National Lottery funding, she has started 2 more: the Friendship Group and the Sahaly Luncheon Club, both of which are open to men, women and children.

Rita said, “When the lockdown came people were so depressed. I went to their houses and they didn’t like to open the door – they were really isolated. I thought I must do something for the community, so about 6 months ago I started the Friendship Group and the Sahaly Luncheon Club.”

The Friendship Group is aimed at families and was an instant hit. Within 2 weeks more than 100 people were attending the weekly 4-hour sessions and taking part in healthy cooking sessions and celebrations like Diwali or Janmashtami (the commemoration of Lord Krishna’s birth).

Rita said, “Membership of the Friendship Group is only £5 a year which is why I applied for National Lottery funding. The National Lottery has been amazing – they’ve helped us so much.”

The Sahaly Luncheon Club is for people with disabilities. It provides a healthy meal to almost 100 members who come from care homes and the local community.

Rita is always looking for new ways to lend a helping hand. She said, “I like to work with my community and I like to help them.”

18th August 2022

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