A SUCCESSFUL community project in part of inner-city Bradford is helping Asian woman aged 50 and above to overcome loneliness and cultural barriers.

The ‘Nani Ji’ group (English translation: ‘grandmother’) was launched in January by Community Works – a community centre set up in 2003 by local people and located on Undercliffe Lane.

The ‘Nani’s’ meet every Thursday for ‘Nani Tea’ and also attend swimming, aerobic, ICT and English classes together. The increasingly popular sessions are regularly attended by more than 40 people.

On Thursday, the group marked its first Eid together with an afternoon of fun, food and chit-chat.

It is described as an “excellent initiative” by Nabila Mahmood, a community project worker at the Community Works centre, which is designed to support elderly women from Asian communities who, Nabila says, “are often overlooked and may experience loneliness and cultural barriers.”

Rehana Akhtar, another community project worker, said “over 40 Nani’s regularly attend every Thursday and love to chat with everyone.”

Councillor Doreen Lee, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, attended Thursday's party and described the Nani Ji project as “a great initiative which allows people to meet others.”

She described how she is a board member at KAWACC (the Keighley Association Women & Children's Centre) – which she called a very similar project.

One of the Nani’s, Bhupinder Sehmbi, 57, said: “It gets me out of the house. If I stay at home by myself for too long, I get depressed. I’ve been attending since the launch in January and it has helped me to make new friends.” Bhupinder, who lives in the local area, said “Asian women over the age of 50 like myself don’t really go out much, but the Nani Ji group provides us with a nice community.”

Community Works volunteer Susheela Rahim said the oldest person at the event was Naik Baghut, who is 87 years old and came along with her daughter.

Also involved with the group is Yorkshire Dance, a dance-development charity carrying out ‘Dance On’ – a two-year project delivering dance lessons to women over the age of 55 in Bradford, Leeds and Doncaster. It allows the Nani Ji’s to “tackle inactivity”, according to Laura Liddon, a dance development artist from Baildon. Laura also said how “teaching dance to the Nani Ji group highlights how we have a new wave of people from different communities getting involved, which is great.”

Shipley-based charity HALE (Health Local Action Engagement) were also there, “providing free blood pressure testing and encouraging a healthy lifestyle”, as well as trying to “connect socially-isolated individuals to local health services”, according to representatives Sara Gora-Malik, Anita Trikha and Ahmida Zaidi.

Jane Lees, The CEO of Community Works, said “a lot of the Nani’s who use our services live in large, extended families. Despite this, they often feel isolated and have no one to talk to.”

“Many of the Nani’s struggle to bond with their own grandchildren due to language barriers”, Jane continued, before highlighting the fantastic ‘Explore Together’ programme, which sees the Nani’s “grow and learn together” with children at the Community Works nursery.

If you are, or you know any elderly Asian women who may be interested in the Nani Ji project, Nani Tea is held every Thursday from 1pm at Undercliffe Lane’s Community Works – all are welcome.