Opening The Door for Others
Nik shares how she found a way to be active that suited her.
Date: 28 June 2022 Author: Energise Me
Sonia wants to increase the accessibility of physical activity for underrepresented voices, starting with bilingual children in schools.
My name is Sonia. I was born in Liverpool, but I moved to Southampton after I got married in 2001. Being Asian, I didn’t do traditional sports activities outside of school like swimming. However, I did ride a bike. My Dad loved Badminton, so we often played it in the garden and sometimes we’d play tennis in the road. I still do a lot of these activities and up until the pandemic, I played badminton as often as I could.
More recently, I started going to the gym. It’s a different experience compared to the other activities I enjoy. I don’t speak to the other gym-goers, but the equipment has helped me to adapt my movements as I get older. It’s no secret that your body’s abilities and needs change with age, but you must be willing to change what you do to suit it. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone back to the gym since COVID restrictions were lifted, but I hope to return soon.
My Mum has been a big inspiration for me regarding adapting the choices I make for my body. She suffers from severe arthritis and has had both of her knees operated on. We decided to get her a Fitbit to encourage her to move more, setting herself a goal for up to 3,000 steps a day. And she has absolutely been smashing that goal! For me, she is an ode to the idea of setting a goal that suits you.
It's no secret that your body’s abilities and needs change with age, but you must be willing to change what you do to suit it.
Walking has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Now more than ever, it is an integral part of my routine. Especially after lockdown when it was all we could really do. When I meet my friends, we choose to go for a walk and a coffee, rather than just a coffee. And every Wednesday, I meet with the other school Mums to go for a walk.
I’m not sure why I enjoy it so much, but I think convenience is a huge part of it. I try to walk wherever I can. If I am nipping to the shop, I will walk; it feels like I have prioritised myself by doing a bit of exercise without it feeling like strenuous work. I also like that I can give a walk purpose. There will always be a goal at the end of my walk like getting a coffee or going to the shop. The weather doesn’t stop me either. When the rain is pouring outside, my husband will look at me and say: “are you really going out in this?” And I will hold up my raincoat and smile back in response.
It's so important to be inclusive of other cultures and aware of where there may be difficulties. Not just because of language but because of cultural differences too.
I’ve worked with ethnic minorities for over 15 years and support children whose first language isn’t English. For me, one of the most important things is not seeing it as a problem. Instead, I encourage celebrating how amazing it is that these children are bilingual. It’s worth praising, it does not need “fixing”.
My team visits schools, and supports children by offering training to institutions and PGCE students. It’s so important to be inclusive of other cultures and aware of where there may be difficulties. Not just because of language but because of cultural differences too.
I don’t think it’s a case of teachers being able to speak 20 languages. But if they have a bilingual child in their class, they could learn to say hello in the child’s mother tongue for example. They could even teach the whole class!
Personally, I am Bilingual as I also speak Hindi and for me, I love when my culture is celebrated. I went to a Zumba class that had a Bollywood section to it; they played Jai ho and some Bhangra songs, and it was amazing. I was touched that my culture was being honoured.
We should embrace diverse cultures more often by celebrating them all and bringing in things like music and dance styles from wider backgrounds into school environments.
Exercise is not all about running or other “traditional” sports, there are Bhangra teachers running dance classes across Hampshire that aren’t widely known about.
I applied to be a Project 500 champion as it focused on helping women who work in activity and being active. And I thought – what an amazing opportunity! I’m not your traditional person working in physical activity. Being active isn’t a part of my day job or a particularly prominent hobby of mine either.
I thought I could offer a different perspective to an important conversation. I have a good understanding of the communities in Southampton and the things that stop them from engaging with local opportunities. Culturally, there are so many barriers to being active.
Language can also be a massive barrier. The word ‘coach’ will often cause bilingual individuals to think of a four wheeled large vehicle rather than a sport trainer. So, environments need to use terms that are accessible to all. The same issue occurs with idioms like ‘pull your socks up,’ so hopefully I can help activity providers to understand the importance of this topic so that physical activity is not inhibited to children.
I would also like to highlight more diversity in the workforce and in advertised activities. Exercise is not all about running or other “traditional” sports, there are Bhangra teachers running dance classes across Hampshire that aren’t widely known about.
As a Project 500 champion I have been trying to connect with people already working in our communities. I have been reaching out and building relationships with providers that I am aware of and seeing where that leads me. From there, it has sort of snowballed into more and more people.
I have also been helping to share the stories of local providers. Hoping to emphasise the different routes into working in the active sector but also showcase the variety of people working in it.
For me, it’s been quite mind-blowing seeing how huge the industry is in Hampshire alone. There are so many different people out there doing a vast range of things. I’ve spoken to Hockey instructors, Yoga instructors and Bhangra teachers. I am really starting to see that there is so much you can overcome to work in activity. There are people out there with all sorts of conditions and health issues, but they are still helping others to be active.