As October ushered us into Black History Month (BHM), my visit to the Croydon BME Forum Centre could not have come at a more appropriate time.
On Tuesday 4 October 2022, I visited East Croydon for the first time with members of my team.
Andrew Brown, CEO of the Croydon BME Forum centre gave us a warm welcome to the Wellness Centre at Whitgift Shopping Centre, Croydon.
The centre was celebrating an exclusive BHM Health Awareness Event.
There were several stalls led by a combination of health care assistants, community volunteers and the Croydon BME Forum staff.
The Health Awareness programs consisted of:
- HIV, blood pressure and cholesterol tests
- Blood sugar and diabetes checks
- Cancer awareness
- Prostate cancer advice
- Massage hubs
- Chess playing
- Salsa dance classes
- Mental health support and advice
- Financial advice and support
- Vision support for the blind
I had my blood pressure checked and even managed to sneak in a cheeky neck massage.
Andrew gave us a tour round the wellness centres and offices. I was amazed by the passion and commitment this organization exudes in supporting black and ethnic minority communities in Croydon.
The model created by the Croydon BME Forum is targeted to build trust, break down stigmas/barriers and create health awareness in a way that is culturally appropriate using lived experience to influence change from communities who are impacted.
The approach also focuses on building capacity within the community through working with LSBU healthcare students as well as taking up graduate students as interns for work experience. I met a young man who had just started on the day. Bless his heart!
The story of how the centre was established inspired me to write about it.
The Wellness Centre opened in Croydon in 2020, one month before the pandemic arrived in the UK
Prior to this time, Andrew and his team were in conversation with the Whitgift Centre to see how a legacy can be left for Croydon Residents in the centre of Croydon.
After three months of consultation with the local community, Croydon BME Forum staff and funders, the idea of the Wellness Centre was formed with the following aims and objectives:
- The Wellness Centre will be the ‘one stop shop’ for information on mental health and wellbeing resources available within the borough of Croydon.
- The Centre is to be a community informed and led mental wellbeing resource in an effort to centralise the information about mental health in Croydon.
- The Wellness Centre will be the first point of call for all information on mental health and general health and wellbeing resources in Croydon.
- The Wellness Centre will become the first, or one of the early points of call, for people seeking more information/ support on/ around their mental health and wellness.
Three years later, Andrew tells me:
We are happy to see that the centre is now open six days a week 10am to 5pm and can be used on Sundays for special events.”Andrew Brown, CEO of the Croydon BME Forum
Current activities held at the centre include (Yoga, fitness, chess club, health checks, cancer awareness sessions and mental health workshops and over 1500 people have used the building during this time.
Croydon BME Forum’s vision is to tackle health inequalities in its truest sense in Croydon, our most deprived borough in SWL, working in collaboration with all partners in health, care, education and housing. They work closely with the Asian Resource Centre which I plan to visit next. They have embraced the Core20PLUS5 approach and have a Core20PLUS Community Connector who is at the centre of some of the change in the community. Their ambition is to expand their reach to those who suffer the most, put up more health and wellbeing events and achieve equity, one day at a time.
I look forward going round other South West London communities to celebrate the good work that is going on to improve the health of our population.
Happy Black History Month!