COVID-19 Champions - Shahida's story
The COVID-19 Community Champions programme aims to support residents from under-represented groups who may be most at risk from COVID-19.
As part of the programme, organisations have recruited and trained community champions to receive the latest COVID-19 information to share with communities.
One of our partner organisations, the Refugee and Migrant Centre (RMC), recruited three community champions to support their project activity in a volunteering capacity. One of them is Shahida Tariq, who has shared her story as a champion.
The incredibly dull, long-term, lockdown that, for me, started in Almeria, Spain last year and continued in Walsall until March, left me bored and frustrated. In April 2021, at the age of 43, I joined RMC as a volunteer.
As a Pakistani, I had experience of working as a teacher, a coordinator, a section head and finally principal of a reputable educational institution. I had been involved in several development programmes where social action plans were targeted towards raising awareness.
I joined RMC as a COVID Champion to continue this type of work and to support the migrant community in the borough as well as to use my time more productively.
It has been an incredible experience so far, being able to raise awareness and provide guidance where necessary; however, it has not been without challenge. Many people have been reluctant to attend appointments or even listen to the importance of getting vaccinated. It has been an immense pleasure though, I have met so many people from different parts of the world, who speak different languages. The sense of achievement when changing someone’s opinion or perception for me has been incredible.
I noticed one lady, who seemed nervous and hesitant, had a language barrier so I asked her: “May I help you as a translator?”
She replied: “Yes, why not. Please.” I translated the adviser’s information and guidance and asked her a few questions about herself and her reasoning. I challenged her on some of the misinformation she had received, and, after a while, she began to change her opinion.
A few weeks later, she visited RMC again. Recognising me, she showed me her arm where she had her vaccination. She told me: “I wasn’t going to have this vaccine, but you changed my mind. Not only that but I have convinced my friends and family to do the same!”
I’ve learnt so much being involved with this campaign: cooperation, empathy, facilitation, time management and how to change people’s perceptions from negative to positive.
If you are aged 18+, living or working in Walsall and you would like to find out more or be part of the Community Champions programme, visit the Walsall for All website: https://www.walsallforall.co.uk/community-champions
For further details about the COVID-19 vaccination and where to get your first or second dose, visit the Walsall Council website: http://go.walsall.gov.uk/covid-19_information/covid-19_vaccination_information