Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) has been working with a variety of community groups across East Lancashire on a project to help promote safe and confident rail travel.
Shahiesta Raja, a Community Rail Education Officer with CRL, is a member of the South Asian community in Accrington and in a previous role was a secondary school teacher in Blackburn. With 20 years of teaching experience within East Lancashire, Shahiesta has been able to forge links with a variety of community groups through links with parents and other organisations.
An ability to speak Urdu and Punjabi has helped Shahiesta with communication and accessibility with some community groups. Many of these groups run in house life skills sessions such as basic English lessons as well as lessons on how to access public transport.
Some members of the community find access to public transport and especially rail travel difficult due to social, cultural or language issues. The aim of contacting some community groups was to support their learning and provide access to train travel as well as rail confidence sessions.
Shahiesta contacted some local groups that are within walking distance from Accrington station including Aawaz Access Point. Aawaz is an organisation that gives a voice to the women within the South Asian community in East Lancashire. (Aawaz is the Urdu word for voice) and to gain the trust of the organisation, Shahiesta visited the centre and sat in on some of the sessions such as basic cooking and art classes.
A visit was arranged to CRL’s office at Accrington Station for the centre manager and a support worker, and they were shown how CRL were able to contribute to their public transport life skills sessions. A group from Aawaz came to the station and were shown how to plan and take a short train trip. The first trip was a huge success with the service users and the management. The centre manager said she was impressed by the way the safety session was made accessible for the group by using the language that they could understand and how well organised the trip was.
A number of other trips with Aawaz and other local community groups including DARE (Darwen Asylum & refugee Enterprise), Al Hayat Language Centre and IMO (Inspire Motivate Overcome) have already taken place and are planned for the future.
To download the full Best Practice paper about this project click this link Work with Community Groups in East Lancashire