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The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on the world, and the same is true for many Black-led organisations who seek to bring positive change to their communities. The global pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities in redressing societal inequities for these changemakers. Black-led organisations are doubly affected as they grapple with a preexisting lack of resources and tools and try to serve end-users who are hardest hit by health inequities and economic crisis.
Despite these strains, our Common Call Fund grantees show how Black-led organisations are still making a meaningful impact during these unusual times. Ahead of our upcoming report on the state of Black-led social enterprise and charities, we’ve spoken with some founders to find out how they’ve continued to support beneficiaries in these particularly testing times.
Supporting mental health awareness
The effects of COVID-19 have also exacerbated mental health issues, especially for Black essential workers on the healthcare frontline. A recent study by King’s College London urged for a national strategy to combat the medical staff’s mental trauma, highlighting the severity of the NHS workforce’s mental health crisis.
Launched amid COVID-19 and the recent Black Lives Matter movement, Equality 4 Black Nurses seeks to address the trauma Black nurses experience alongside institutional racism.
Founder Neomi Bennet tells Common Call, “I've never had to look after so many black patients in one time in the whole of my 10-year nursing career, so when I went into ICU, the people that were dying looked like me, intuitively, I knew that my risk was higher. Nobody took that into account.” Equality 4 Black Nurses offers therapy to Black nurses to address the trauma of COVID-19, which is magnified by racial discrimination.
Female empowerment organisation, the Blossom Foundation, is providing young Black and African girls with resources and knowledge about mental wellbeing. Feelings of anxiety, grief, and loneliness are heightened at this time, impacting mental health. Blossom Foundation’s CEO Ruth Ogunji helps girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 20 identify the state of their mental wellbeing. “We educate them on their mental health, their mental state of mind, how to deal with loss and how to deal with issues.” The foundation’s online group sessions offer a forum to discuss pressing concerns in a safe and welcoming space.
Providing essentials for those in need
Some immigrant communities have faced additional strains due to lack of financial resources and cultural barriers that make it hard to maintain vital relationships with others during social isolation. Some people need to shield so they cannot go out and get the essentials they need to survive. Transportation may prove difficult or dangerous to use due to the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus. Organisations catering to African immigrant communities have launched specialist delivery services to get resources to those most in need.
Walingamina Shomari’s organisation, Care Link West Midlands, delivers essentials to Central African immigrants in the Midlands struggling to afford or access basics. She tells us: “We deliver food supplies, medicine and day-to-day essentials. A lot of stuff has been done during this COVID period because people will not find this support - especially the elderly. They cannot get this particular support elsewhere because of the cultural and language barriers.”
Similarly, Support and Action Women’s Network (SAWN) is striving to meet unmet needs in the African community through the launch of a mobile food bank offering African staple foods. These food items are understandably underrepresented at mainstream food banks, as they aren’t as easy to come by as staple cupboard goods found in supermarkets. Beneficiaries welcome the organisation’s efforts to help them access foods from their country of origin. SAWN delivers food fortnightly to those in need of supplies. Its founder Rose Ssali says, “When you go to a normal food bank, you are expected to appear in person, and to carry your food. However, the size of one and two packs of potatoes and a pack of rice is too heavy if you're an elderly woman. Fortunately, we have a van and we use that to distribute food.”
A common call for uncommon resilience
As Black-led organisations adjust to serve their communities in a new capacity, the persistent lack of parity affects their ability to deliver the necessary support that allows beneficiaries to thrive. While these organisations’ efforts inspire us, we know more can be done to support them.
Our report, Stories from the frontline, discusses the current context for Black-led organisations and how we’re helping their development post-pandemic.
Please see our report below: