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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.

Ongoing coronavirus messaging

Following our success with the #OneSlough Covid-19 project, we were asked by both Slough Borough Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to continue sharing safety messaging during the pandemic.

This was partly because of our track record of being trusted in the community and having a large Black and Minority Ethnic following on our social media accounts which could help them “get the message out there.”

We have been happy to support our two closest local authorities in this regard and hope all the efforts involved will go some way to reducing the spread of Covid-19.

#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.

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. 

National Lottery TV advert

In May 2020 Apna Virsa was included in a television advert from the National Lottery which showcased the excellent efforts of community organisations during the pandemic.

In our case, we were included for the endless hours of free exercise classes we put online – as you may know we are partly funded by the National Lottery.

The final collage allowed community organisations, such as ours, a chance to take the stage. Seema is pictured bottom, centre left, alongside 15 other volunteers. Well done Seema!

Seema recorded herself saying “Thank you” which was featured in a collage at the end of the piece with numerous other group leaders saying the same thing.

The advert is called “How you’re helping,” and can be viewed here. It has clocked up around 11,000 views so far.

The National Lottery has showcased our efforts during the pandemic on a regular basis, and in fairness we couldn’t have done a lot of our work without their essential funding.

Unexpectedly, the advert continued to be shown on national television for the best part of five months – so in the end Seema had far more than just five minutes of fame!

Apna Virsa’s Recipe Channel

In May 2020 we launched our own YouTube channel to provide some cooking inspiration for people from home.

Ozlem demonstrated the perfect prawn salad amongst other dishes. Everything was filmed from her home.

Ozlem uploaded weekly cooking videos of a variety of different dishes, with the recipe and method outlined alongside each post.

Some of the most popular recipes, with the most views, have included her lentil bread, mango salad and Turkish zucchini.

What’s more delicious than a prawn pasta dish? Surprisingly, it wasn’t one of our most popular posts but still did well. Followers were always advised to follow the information provided as well as the video.

The channel was also utilised for the #Cake4Caring event where Ozlem baked two different cakes for people to consider baking themselves on the August weekend celebration. 

Free Online Exercise Classes During The Pandemic 2020/2021

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, we have run a consolidated series of classes online so people won’t miss out on keeping fit, moving and generally taking care of their wellbeing.

Youngsters take part in one of our fast Bhangra classes in 2020 via the Facebook account.

With the help and commitment of our fabulous instructors, we have continued to deliver yoga-pilates, yoga, and bhangra classes on Facebook live and Instagram.

In fact, we initially delivered both a fast-bhangra class and a class for those veterans who wanted to go a little slower.

One of our seniors gives slow Bhangra a go in the morning via Facebook. Participants used whatever space they could to try and keep fit during the lockdown.

Our viewing figures have been staggering with up to 500 live views on a weekly basis, and thousands more during the course of the week as people do their own pre-recorded “catch up”.

Plus children as young as three, seniors in their late 80s and those in wheelchairs have taken part. What a result!

Here, one of our male seniors performs a yoga move with the help of our teacher leading the session on Facebook.

 

It was touching how many people took part. Here, a brother and sister have a go from the comfort of their own home.

Special thanks go to Priya, Kiran, Jasmine and Kay, whose hard work has enabled thousands of our followers, and people further afield, to stay sane and connected during the pandemic.