Slough digital ambassadors

Thanks to a new stream of funding, we were able to deliver a package of IT-based learning to help people improve their life skills. 

This had never been delivered before by Apna Virsa, but the pandemic had seen so many members of our community suffer as a result of being stuck at home, without a full range of computer skills. 

Therefore we started slowly but surely, posting eight step-by-step IT tutorials for people to watch on our Facebook channels during September and October, 2021. 

The series of Zoom videos were aimed at helping people who’d never signed up for an account or used the programme.

We took PC users through the process of signing up for a Zoom account, essential given so many now use it.

Nic produced and hosted the videos, which were designed to be as easy to follow as possible.

These were made and narrated by Nic, and included a series on how to navigate and use the video-call platform, Zoom

Other videos centered around helping people to improve their smartphone skills, especially using different features on WhatsApp. 

These included how to record voice messages, use dictation instead of the keyboard, and share their location with friends and loved ones.   

We also delivered several talks at our exercise classes to make people aware of online scams, how to recognise and avoid them. 

For this, we became a member of Friends Against Scams, and were even recognised as Scam Champions for completing the relevant training! 

Separately, we began our in-person IT classes in Slough, teaching our senior stars new skills on tablets which we were able to purchase.

The IT classes have given confidence to our senior students, and they have a tablet each to enable them to take part.

Delivering essential skills became a priority for Apna Virsa after witnessing the difficulties encountered by so many during the pandemic.

These classes are ongoing, and we’re continuing to apply for alternative funding to deliver more IT based teaching. The teacher delivering these for us so far is Urusa Ahmed. 

The first round of funding came from the NHS Volunteer Responders Accessibility Grants.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Continuing our work to promote well being and mental health off the back of the pandemic, we launched an online photo-sharing project, which ran through July and August, 2021.

“Every Picture Tells a Story,” set out to share the stories of people’s favourite or deepest-held photos, focusing on the story behind them.

This was to encourage each other to reflect on the happier times in our lives, eliciting positive and fond memories as much as possible.

Most of the stories were told via one-minute videos on our social media platforms. Each participant presented their photo and was asked a series of questions about it.


Suresh Gogna revealed she’d lived next to the famous Hilltops Hotel in Kenya, her place of birth, and had greeted the Queen as a young girl while she was on her honeymoon.


Jasmine Cheema shared one of her favourite pictures of Rome with us. The holiday had a touching story behind it since her family live abroad, and had managed to be with her for the break.


Antonia Lewis shared this photo of her family waking up early at Yellowstone Park in the USA to see the geysers.

The hashtag for the project was #apictells, and we encouraged everyone to tag us so they could share their own photo memories. 

Six of the eight stories were told through videos, which we produced and published on our social media channels.

Two of them, meanwhile, were told via the photos themselves having conducted written interviews with the participants.

Yash Verma went to a wedding celebration in Sri Lanka after a serious operation and felt a lot better for it. Here, she went to a special elephant reserve.


This photo of a wedding in the Punjab, India, brought back special feelings for Avinash Batta, now living in Slough. She was one of the small girls gathered around their cousin for his wedding.

There was a terrific amount of engagement, especially on Facebook, and the stories varied from favourite holiday memories to the special people in our lives and those who’ve left a lasting impression.

There were even several stories linked to the rich and famous, with one photo featuring the famous hotel in Kenya where Queen Elizabeth took her honeymoon with Prince Philip, and another of John Major on a trip to Slough.

Special thanks go to Antonia Lewis, Shanila Rahi, Suresh Gogna, Jagdev Gill, Yash Verma, Avinash Batta, Kim Panesar and our own Jasmine Cheema, who told their stories for the camera and for the written word. 

The Brain-teasers quiz series

During June and July, 2021 we ran a fun series of online quiz videos for people to challenge themselves with.

Called Brain-teasers, the series was presented by our yoga teacher Kiran’s eight-year-old son, Dom.

Every week, people were given a new general-knowledge brain-teaser with three clues to help them guess it.

Dom proved a real star on the project. He read out three clues for each brain-teaser we came up with.

Participants could leave their answers on the social media posts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, before we revealed the correct answer at the weekend.

To say Dom was merely a natural in front of the camera was a massive understatement!

Injecting humour and timing, our budding presenter gave us all a lift, and you never know, it could be the start of something more serious for him.

Dom came up with all sorts of humorous ways to present the videos. He also spoke like a pro who’d been voice trained! Well done Dom!

This experimental project was in response to surveys from Apna Virsa regulars, who said they’d like more quiz/fun orientated content on our social media channels.

It’s clear that people had wanted something to help take their minds off things, especially with the ongoing stress and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Big thanks go to Dom and Kiran for agreeing to help us with this, and for everyone who participated online.  

Photography Walking Club: #AVwalkingphotos

From February to May, 2021 we ran the Photography Walking Club – where we encouraged our communities to focus on a fun goal, whilst continuing to be healthy and active during the pandemic.

The club had been launched off the back of our successful winter 2020 campaign, 30 Minutes for 30 Days, where participants had to walk for half-an-hour, five days a week.

And it experienced great levels of participation, with some stunning photos of nature being taken by our amateur photographers. So how did it work?

One of the many photos entered into the photo club: this one is from Bob Pedley of a beautiful Berkshire sunset.

Essentially, the club piggybacked people’s regular, weekly walks by encouraging them to take photos with their mobile phones, too.

The photos could be of anything: wildlife, plants, a beautiful panorama, a fun selfie, the weather – it was up to them. However, for the final four weeks we introduced different themes to focus on, including wildlife, water, and Springtime.

Then on the following Monday, we would put a post up on our Facebook account (Apna Virsa) asking participants to upload their photos. They could enter a maximum of five per week.

A collage of images taken by participants during Week 2 of the club: as you can see, the standard is particularly high.

The best ones were initially chosen by our judges, and went into two semi-final online votes, with a final public vote deciding the top three.

Whilst we awarded shopping vouchers of up to £40 in value to the winners, there was also a special recognition prize, chosen by the judges themselves, for the photographer who showed consistent quality.

The three winning photos, left to right: First prize – Raj Tegala (horse), Second – Sushma Sharma (swans), Third – Bob Pedley (forest).

Antonia Lewis won the special recognition prize from the judges for the consistency of the photos she submitted to the club every week. This shot of a kestrel flying high also made it to the final public vote.

Rajnesh Tegala (left) won the first prize for her photo of a horse, while Sushma Sharma (right) won second prize for her snap of some swans at Windsor. Well done to them both.

Fit 4 Yoga challenge: #fit4yogaAV

During February and March, 2021 we ran the Fit 4 Yoga challenge to enable people to learn a different yoga move every week from one of our experts.

The project was for anyone who wanted to have a go, and there was also a chance to win a prize if they did a yoga move particularly well.

It was, of course, a health based project, with an emphasis on strengthening, toning, and making the body more flexible.

A collage of those who took part in Week 1 of the challenge: practising from the comfort of their own home.

The project was led by our mainstay teachers, Kiran Shashi and Kay Zebzabi, for a period of six weeks, and it saw a committed level of participation from our senior ladies.

Every Tuesday, we posted a video on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp demonstrating the week’s yoga move.  The videos were kept incredibly short and simple – no longer than two minutes. We also included a photo of the final poses at three different levels of difficulty for people to mirror and practise to.

Kiran is pictured here demonstrating the poses from Week 1 of the challenge. The project helped people to get “yoga fit” whether they had previous experience or not.

Kay Zebzabi’s Warrior 2 pose, shown here at three different levels of difficulty. Having different levels allowed people to practise the pose most suitable to them.

Participants could then spend as much time as they liked during the week practising the move, before submitting a photo of their final pose/s to us by the end of the week.

Then on Mondays, we would nominate three “stars of the week” – people who had performed the pose particularly well at different difficulty levels.

By Easter, all of our stars went into a draw to win prizes.

The three winners from our prize draw took home shopping vouchers up to the value of £40. Well done to them.

The winners of the three prizes were Satwant Kaur – first, Suresh Gogna – second, and Gurnam Chandan – third. They all won shopping vouchers in value between £40 and £20.

30 minutes for 30 days walking challenge

In a bid to keep the over-50s fit and healthy during the pandemic, whilst giving them a goal to aim for, we ran a tremendously successful walking campaign, 30 minutes for 30 days, between October and November 2020.

First off, we had more than 200 sign ups from the communities of Slough, South Bucks and Maidenhead.

As lockdown restrictions had been eased, we hosted sign up days at several locations where we handed out walking packs, including a pedometer and walking sheet.

The campaign was a great opportunity for people to get outside for some exercise whilst aiming to complete a goal every week.

Members and non-members alike were tasked with walking for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for five days of the week.

And they all pledged to walk half-an-hour for five days of the week, in their own time. That meant they would reach the NHS recommended exercise time for adults of 150 minutes per week.

We handed out pedometers and walking diaries for the walkers to use – meeting most of them out in the open air in the days before – and provided guidance and regular updates during the six-week period to keep them on track.

Our over 50s often got off to an early start, taking their walks around parks in Slough and South Bucks as well as further afield.

Touchingly, scores of participants engaged with the campaign on our social media accounts, posting regular videos and photos of them on their walks, using the hashtag #30for30walks.

By the end, almost 100 people entered a live prize draw to scoop shopping vouchers worth up to £50.

Pictured are our prize winners who came out on top during the final draw. Top L-R: Kim Panesar, Mary Abraham, Naresh Saraswat, Rajinder Mehta, and Shanila Rahi.

A further two participants – Kim Panesar, 60, and Shanila Rahi, 73, – were specially recognised for being active on social media during the campaign while offering encouragement to other walkers and sharing goodwill messages.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the campaign was that it provided the means for our members to walk independently, or in their safety bubble, which they could continue to do after it had finished.

Older People’s Day 2020

On October 1, 2020 we staged the first Older People’s Day online for Slough, bringing voluntary sector groups together so our town’s seniors wouldn’t miss out.

For the past 13 years Slough Senior Citizens Group has hosted the event in person, but was unable to do so this time around due to the coronavirus restrictions.

As a result, Apna Virsa buddied up with the Seniors, Men’s Matters, and the town’s Asian Carers Group to launch a day of online activities together.

Elders were treated to a Bhangra session at 11am, seated chair aerobics/keep fit at 2pm and yoga at 5pm, all free of charge. And Slough Seniors hosted an additional class on Zoom for its members.

Meanwhile, video addresses and personal stories were run on the Apna Virsa Facebook channel to motivate and send well wishes to seniors, many of whom have been shielding during the pandemic.

2020 marked the 30th anniversary of International Day of Older Persons, with the theme of health being at the forefront.

#Cake4Caring online event 

To celebrate those special ones in our lives who’d made the national lockdown a little easier, we staged a remote cake-baking event in August 2020. 

Using the hashtag #Cake4Caring, we encouraged people on our social media accounts to bake a cake from home for their special person.

Participants were encouraged to bake their own cake and give it to a loved one where possible. Here are some of the lucky recipients and bakers!

Once done, they had to upload a picture of themselves with the finished cake – whilst nominating who they were giving it to and why. 

The weekend of baking saw Ozlem record two video demonstrations for members to follow if they didn’t know what kind of cake they wanted to bake.   

We had such a terrific variety of bakes from the August weekend event: Here are just a sample that were posted online.

But the most touching part was seeing who the cakes were made for, which included little granddaughters and separately partners who’d performed errands for their loved ones whilst they’d been shielding from the coronavirus. Upwards of 30 people took part. 

And the following week a collage of images of everyone’s cakes was pieced together.

#OneSlough Covid-19 information campaign

From July 2020 we led and fronted a public information campaign on behalf of the voluntary sector to support and issue coronavirus safety messages.

The #OneSlough project was geared towards increasing awareness among Slough’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities of Covid-19 symptoms and how they can stay safe. 

This followed a government report which stated that BAME communities across the UK were more at risk of worse outcomes when contracting the virus.

Aik Saath’s Mary De-Wind produced her own podcast as part of the project, to help get the message out there to young people.

The pilot project was one of the first in the country, and although in partnership with a consortium of public health bodies, as well as Slough Borough Council and Slough CVS, Apna Virsa delivered the project at grassroots level. 

On our social media accounts, we not only shared existing messaging and came up with our own, we utilised the personality of figureheads in the community to record their own safety message videos which went viral online. Through a weekly radio slot on AsianStar FM, we organised and prepared medical experts for live interviews concerning Covid-19, as well as delivering the related social media publicity.    

Through a variety of press releases, we highlighted key safety messages through the media including how the track and trace system works, and how people can take a test. We illustrated this by telling the stories of real people in the community, including youngsters from youth organisation, Aik Saath, who went to get tested themselves at the Slough testing centre.

Tan Dhesi and Resource Productions worked with Apna Virsa to produce three multilingual videos concerning staying safe during the pandemic.

We also harnessed other personal stories, including those of Slough MP Tan Dhesi who lost two family members to the coronavirus. Tan agreed to record a series of videos in tandem with Apna Virsa, each with a different focus on public messaging.

To help target the communities effectively, Tan agreed to record the three videos in three different languages, including Urdu and Punjabi. These videos also went viral with the help of Tan’s social media following.

Youths from Aik Saath showed the public how easy it was to get tested at Slough’s Testing Centre with both a video – and a later story which appeared in the media.

In addition, we actively worked with community groups to encourage them to issue safety messages themselves so we could truly maximise engagement and reach.

This included BAME church leaders and other leaders of religious places of worship with a high BAME membership. In this way, we could utilise trusted community figureheads to speak to their members at ground level.

By mid September, we stepped away from the project due to other commitments, but we left a legacy of success and a solid foundation for Slough Borough Council to carry it on – including the launch of their own “Community Champions.”

Leaders of The Redeemed Christian Church of God Emmanuel in Langley were one of a number of congregations to work with Apna Virsa – by issuing safety messages to their members at services.

The project was also lauded by the government’s cabinet office and held up as an example of community innovation during the pandemic.

Seema herself, who ran the project free of charge, dedicated endless hours of work to help the BAME community in its time of need. Well done Seema!

The Step Up 4 Seniors Challenge

During May and June 2020 we ran an online dance challenge to get seniors up and moving from the comfort of their homes.

The Step Up 4 Seniors Challenge saw Bhangra teacher Jasmine Cheema record a routine for the members to dance to, which was posted to social media. 

Scores of seniors did a jig from their own homes – and we brought these together for a giant video, as if they were back together again despite the lockdown.

Members then respectively practised at home and recorded themselves doing the routine once they were ready.  Their videos were edited together to produce a final music video, giving the impression they were all dancing together.

Amazingly, even seniors who were in their late 80s took part. 

Before lockdown, the majority of the seniors had attended Bhangra dancing for the over 50s in Slough on a weekly basis. But when the coronavirus measures kicked in they were confined to their homes and could no longer dance together. 

The challenge not only promoted wellbeing and encouraged them to exercise more, but brought the members together albeit in a different way given the challenging circumstances.