Written by Werisha Husaini, Volunteer at ACAA
In early April, the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) began running free fitness classes for the local community. The classes were specifically aimed at women, to provide an exclusive avenue for individuals to become an active part of the community and meet locals in the process.
The project is hosted at the Moonshot Centre in Deptford, South East London. Nearby schools were contacted to spread the word amongst their parent body, alongside local businesses who helped by advertising the project to their customers. Through social media and council magazines we were able to reach a greater readership and interest in the project steadily grew over the weeks. Within the first month we had ten regular individuals join the estimated 15 million people who take weekly Zumba classes across the world!
The structure of the six-month project involves weekly Zumba classes, which are complimented sporadically with health and dietary advice sessions. Zumba itself is a form of aerobic exercise; formed predominantly of Latin American music forms, amongst others. The music was consciously diversified to include songs from Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, bringing a wide variety of sounds, genres and emotions. The dance forms explored ranged from Soca, to Salsa and Bhangra, bringing participants a taste of different cultures and introducing them to global arts. The choice of Zumba allowed the ladies present to engage in intense aerobic exercise whilst the music and dance-like nature of the movements ensured it was a fun and engaging experience.
The primary aim of the project is to widen participation and this was ensured through the child-friendly atmosphere that was created. Many women came with their children, many of whom were under the age of one. Their presence was delightful as it ensured mothers were able to attend the classes, many of whom had struggled to attend other events due to childcare restrictions. Additionally the babies were able to experience a lively and dynamic atmosphere, and often took part in the dancing alongside their mothers.
All participants enjoyed the class, and were surprised by how fun and enjoyable aerobic fitness could be made. The regularity of the classes allowed people to meet and make new friends, and for those who were already acquainted, it provided a regular opportunity for a rendezvous. The timing, Tuesdays at 11am, suited the majority of the individuals, some of whom were new mothers, self-employed or currently unemployed. An evening class in the future would be a way to ensure that more individuals would be able to attend and benefit from the services. The Zumba class has also been an avenue to promote some of the other fitness related projects ACAA runs, such as the Children’s Gymnastics Classes. Following the classes many women have also enquired further about the ACAA’s aims and services.