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EKTA South Asian Group

CONTACT: Emily Danby
Email: e.danby@mindinharrow.org.uk | Tel: 020 8515 7879

What is the EKTA Group?

EKTA is a unique, peer-led, community support group for South Asian community members living in Harrow who are experiencing mental distress. EKTA is the only peer, volunteer-led South Asian support group in London and possibly in England.

EKTA’s monthly activities respond to the culturally specific mental health needs of the South Asian community – for example, the significant amount of stigma and discrimination faced by members, as highlighted in Time to Change’s research. As a result of this stigma, social isolation and loneliness is a significant barrier to recovery.

EKTA has addressed this barrier by providing members with a 'safe space' to talk about their experiences as well as the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, health information sessions and discussions such as celebrating festivals, exploring wellbeing through play and meditation and discussing 'recovery'. These sessions are uniquely accessible to South Asian community members through the group's use of peer leadership and the respecting of members' language, religious and cultural needs.

As the only group of its kind, EKTA has been a lifeline for hundreds of service users. Without its support, many would have ended up in crisis care.

EKTA members enjoying a summer outing

What activities does EKTA run?

The monthly EKTA event runs from 1pm to 3.30pm. It starts off with 15 minutes of light exercise, followed by a vegetarian lunch and then activities. These may include talks and workshops on relevant information by experts in their fields, skill development, wellbeing sessions, entertainment, outings, festival celebrations, etc. The group also arranges one outing per year as well as Diwali/Idd and Christmas parties.

Last year the following activities were held:

  1. Talks on employment, training and education, dementia, positive thinking, talking therapy
  2. Use of smartphones
  3. Craft – bag making
  4. AUM healing and meditation
  5. Music and Masti by Nituben Shah
  6. Day outing to Bournemouth
  7. Diwali celebrations at RAM'S restaurant with live music
  8. Christmas Party with entertainment and games
  9. Tai Chi exercise session

The charge for members to attend the monthly session is £3. Charges vary for outings and parties.

The design and delivery of EKTA's monthly activities is the result of the contributions of its members, all of whom either have their own direct experience of mental ill health or are carers for those individuals. Each month different members take on a variety of responsibilities, such as:

  • keeping the attendance register
  • collecting individual’s monthly £3 contribution
  • serving the food
  • the setting up and clearing up after an activity or an event
  • preparing and sending out of the EKTA flyer

Taking on these roles can allow members to utilise and develop their skills and personal experience.

How can I join EKTA or find out more?

Membership of EKTA is open to any South Asian mental health service user or carer for someone experiencing mental health issues. Contact Emily on e.danby@mindinharrow.org.uk or 020 8515 7879 if you would like to apply to become an EKTA member, or if you'd like some more information. Applications will then be evaluated by the Volunteer Coordination Committee.

The history of the EKTA Group

EKTA was formed in 2008 with 20 members under Mind in Harrow and was initially funded for 3 years by the OPEN UP project and Central & Northwest London NHS Foundation Trust. It was run by Chandra Shah who was employed as the Project Co-ordinator. Under his able leadership the membership grew to more than 100 – at times there was even a waiting list!

In 2011 when the funding came to an end, volunteers and well wishers recognised that EKTA was an essential service for the local Asian community. They decided it should be continued with community donations, volunteer support and leadership. Chandra put himself forward as Volunteer Coordinator and ran the group with a dedicated pool of volunteers. Due to funding constraints some of earlier activities had to be stopped, but monthly activities were continued.

Towards end of 2015, Chandra decided to step down as Coordinator and a steering group was formed consisting of volunteers and members to guide the continuation of the EKTA group. It was decided to form a three member Volunteer Coordination Committee to run the activities under Chandra’s guidance and thus they took over in February 2016. It has been nearly a year since the Volunteer Coordination Committee has been in charge and have run the activities successfully. The current membership is about 70, of which the majority are elderly.

EKTA has developed an impressive reputation locally. In 2015 it was nominated for the Harrow's Heroes 'volunteer team award' and again in 2016 it was one of the four finalists in the 'Bringing People Together Award' category, recognising the significant contribution the EKTA team has made to the local community. In November 2015, EKTA's excellent work in peer support was recognised with a National Marsh Trust Award, in competition with 40 other organisations nationwide.

EKTA's eighth birthday celebration in 2016