On behalf of the SaaS, I had a meeting with the Associate Dean of Internationalisation (Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth) this Friday. We discussed a number of initiatives for creating a sense of the value of international students among the local community. To facilitate this, a ‘Meetup’ group titled ‘Global Plymouth (https://www.meetup.com/Global-Plymouth/) has been set up, expressly devoted to creating opportunities for our international students and staff to meet receptive members of the local community, in safe, friendly environments. Please do feel free to join the group if you are interested in such events.
They are also planning a ‘major do’ on the evening of Saturday 16th October 2021 (6:30 pm onwards) at ‘The Plot’: https://shop4plymouth.co.uk/inside-union-streets-the-plot-clipper/ (You can find The Plot at 80-84 Union St, Stonehouse, Plymouth PL1 3EZ). The Lord Mayor of Plymouth will be present along with other guests. There will be plenty of free nibbles with a choice of non-vegetarian, vegetarian and vegan nibbles. Given the nature of the event, they are unable to cater specifically for those with food allergies. You may of course bring your own food to partake, or even better to share with the guests. Guests will be allowed to bring their own drinks free of corkage.
Live entertainment will be headlined by Plymouth’s own Jon and Friends. If anyone of you is interested in performing there (Dance, Music etc.) then please let us know and we will put you in touch with the organisers. We encourage members to attend as It will be a good opportunity to raise awareness of our Society as well as connect to the South Asian students coming into Plymouth.
We cordially invite you to participate in the 2021 Virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM 2021) of SAaS
Date – Sunday, 17th October 2021 Time 6pm – 7:30pm Location – Online Zoom [link emailed to members]
Meeting ID: 952 1043 4625 Passcode: 495090 Agenda: 1. Welcome by SAaS Chairperson 2. Secretary report 3. Treasures report. 4. Discussion – Annual Event and future events 5. Discussion – Membership management and expansion 6. Members comments- AOB
If members want to discuss anything in particular please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) your agenda item by 10th October so that we can add it under the AOB Meeting item.
All trustees please email (email@example.com) at least 2 weeks prior to AGM (i.e.3rd Oct 2021) that you would like to continue as a trustee for next year. We strongly encourage others members to come forward and contribute to our society as Trustees. If anyone would like to join as an associate trustee, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3rd Oct 2021.
SaaS organised a fun-filled boat trip, a charity event on 30th Aug 2021. Following the past 18 months of lockdowns, isolations and social distancing, this beautiful Bank holiday evening couldn’t be spent any better.
We all set to sail from the Commercial Wharf, Barbican around 5 pm on the largest boat, the Plymouth Venturer. We sailed along the River Tamar, taking in the spectacular views of Plymouth Hoe and Drakes Island. About 90 of us, dressed in bright and colourful attire, wearing the widest of the smiles added vibrant colours to the grey sky. The kids were having fun counting the waves, enjoying the ride. While the adults appreciated this opportunity of getting out of the virtual world and virtual parties!
There were games organised for the kids as well as adults. Many were seen posing for some lovely clicks while some were happier in their selfies. The quiz for adults brought out the competitive facet of some of us. There were some impromptu music and singing performances and we all tapped our feet to the beats. There were raffle draws that added to our charity pot for Devon Mind.
Of course, an event is incomplete without food. We all enjoyed a tasty Paneer wrap which wrapped up the evening perfectly. Our DJs aka AC & Raja, our chairperson and Treasurer played the best tunes to let our hair loose till we returned to the Barbican landing. As I went to bed that night, tired, happy, heart full of memories to cherish, these words flocked my mind …
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart “ – Helen Keller –
The South Asian Society organised a trek in Dartmoor National Park on 8th August 2021. Two of their members took the lead in organising it and a small entry fee was taken from all the participating adults. The trek was going to be around the Burrator Reservoir car park. The reservoir is located on the south side of Dartmoor in the English county of Devon. It is one of a number of reservoirs and dams that were built over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries in the area now covered by Dartmoor National Park to supply drinking water to the city of Plymouth and other rapidly growing towns in the surrounding lowlands. The tranquil water and surrounding mixed woodland contrast sharply with the open moor and the rugged Dartmoor tors. The location is a hidden gem in Devon’s crown.
I have to admit that the trek was not easy but at the same time, it was worth the effort. The steep inclination of the hill which we climbed, made the trek challenging. The weather prediction was misty and windy, overcast with some chance of precipitation. Members had been asked to come prepared for wet and rainy conditions. It started raining as soon as we started from the car park. We were walking uphill and there were ferns and rocks and scrub interspersed with trees. Though we did not see any Dartmoor ponies, their droppings meant that they were not far away. The terrain was filled with huge rocks and at times were helping each other as we climbed over these and kept going uphill.
In this phase, the walk was strenuous and we were glad that it was not a sunny and warm day as we were warm despite the slight spitting which soon turned into a drizzle. As it had rained the day before, the grass was wet and slippery. I remember that after every 10 minutes of steady climb, many of us were panting and needing small breaks. But we would take a break and chat and laugh and look around at the greenery and the views.
I was often breathless and would stop to look around and appreciate the different shades of green, the fresh breeze and the different times of bracken, foliage and sheer tonality of colours and the textures. There was so much to observe. I would stop and take a short break and keep looking and observing.
All of this effort and hard work made sense when we reached the summit. The view from the top was amazing. It was all green and wherever you looked you were astounded by the splendour of nature, its sheer scale and diversity. The river Meavy was also visible from the top. The whole group was filled with joy and enthusiasm when they reached the top. Some were striking up Bahubali poses for photographs, some were jumping – all were drinking in the beauty of nature and rejuvenating themselves.
We took a different route for coming down. This route was easy but we had to ford many streams across water bodies. Most of us were not wearing waterproof shoes. Perhaps only wellingtons would have been useful. There were muddy patches on the way, but the terrain was flat and easy to walk. However, caught up with the walk, and surrounded by good company and beautiful terrain and nature, no one was complaining.
I remember that 6 of us somehow got lost while coming down. For some reason, the mobile network was not there, so we were unable to call anyone. It was like Enid Blyton’s secret seven adventure. We were trying to find the path which would take us to the car park. Later on, we followed our instinct and finally reached the car park. This trek was an adventure that I will never forget. The combination of breath-taking views with stunning views and cool mizzle weather made the trek an adventure of a lifetime.
The walk for Charity was a great initiative that allowed members to have fun, socialise while undertaking physical activity in the spectacular Dartmoor National Park and collect some money for Charity. We were coming out of the restrictions imposed by Covid 19 and this seemed a great idea to meet and socialise in the wide-open spaces of Dartmoor. The organisers made sure that the activity was a safe and thoroughly enjoyable event for all age groups. Full credit goes to Dr Shrestha and who was familiar with the terrain and was able to organise such an awesome trek.
A very warm and summery greeting to you from the editor’s desk this staycation time. My family and I are going to enjoy and stay home like so many others this summer; drinking in the beauty of the surrounding naturescapes and exploring them with fresh eyes. We are so thankful that we live in this beautiful part of the world! Breathing in the fresh air, rejoicing with the chirpings of the bird as they peck at my cherries and raspberries turning a dark red. They have not become as sweet as I would have wanted! I will have to investigate and find ways of getting them to fruit earlier and find the necessary warmth to sweeten. Not easy with the threat of climate change. As I have not been able to travel abroad to see my mother and siblings, I am looking forward to gardening and exploring the country – perhaps going further afield from D &C and camping as well with friends.
But I am digressing as I really wanted to speak about how we all should be thinking about acquiring and building resilience. As an academic, I have taught about organisational resilience to my students, but the long and ongoing backdrop of the pandemic makes it so relevant at the practical level for us as individuals. The Mental Health Foundation clarifies resilience as our ability to cope with the normal stress of life as well as being able to bounce back from crises. This coping and bouncing back when confronted with stress, crisis and adversity require us to tap into resources – internal or external which enables us to withstand the adversity. This may require the capacity to turn to different kinds of resources, psychological, social, cultural and physical that sustain wellbeing as well as the capacity to negotiate for these resources in culturally meaningful ways at individual and collective levels (Resilience Research Centre). For the resources to truly support wellbeing and enable us to cope and bounce back, we need individual and collective strategies and interventions.
Structurally, resilience can be supported at different levels: nationally, regionally, locally and individually. Nations that are more equal, have good economic foundations and opportunities for their diverse people will be more adept at whole-society measures and interventions that foster good mental health and wellbeing. At community level, local programmes and initiatives involving everyone or targeting specific people and communities who are more vulnerable can be very effective.
Individuals can benefit through enhanced mental health literacy and opportunities for self-care and positive coping skills. Some of us at the individual level may be innately more resilient whereas others may need more support. According to the Centre for the Developing Child at Harvard University, positive experiences in very early childhood and in particular a secure attachment relationship with at least one primary caregiver is said to be a core factor for developing and building individual resilience. They emphasise that supporting a good primary caregiver-child relationship is an important protective factor for promoting resilience, while circumstances that put this relationship under strain can negatively affect resilience and mental health throughout childhood and adulthood. The Mental Health Foundation has suggested various ways of positively coping with stress and improving mental health during the Corona Virus pandemic including Exercising, Spending time in nature, Maintaining contact with friends and family, eating healthily, Being aware of smoking and drinking, Taking time to relax, Being mindful, Getting restful sleep, Avoiding negative thinking and Doing an enjoyable hobby. I heard from friends and family how simple things like walking the dog, gardening or staying in a routine gave them purpose and helped them cope with the stressors around them. Exercise is known to boost mood. Last summer when we began to feel the negative impact of all that was happening around us, we decided to join the Hill Lane Tennis club close to our home and began to play tennis. It was fun to discover that the Great Fred Perry had actually played a Davis Cup match on the same tennis court as vouched by a black and white photograph on the club website.
We are all different and what works one for one person may not benefit another. Many of my friends boosted their own well-being by going for walks, which became something they began to look forward to and did together as a family. A dear friend began to take photographs on his nature walks and posted them on his Facebook page. This became a go-to resource for others.
The benefits of eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits are espoused not only by Ayurveda and but also by modern research. A healthy diet is said to contribute to mental health and wellbeing. Research has reported higher levels of well-being reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables1 and a reduction in depression (which was sustained six months after the intervention) has been associated with a Mediterranean- style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) supplemented with fish oil2.
Another important but often neglected coping strategy is sleep, which is vital not only for mental health but plays a central role in our learning, emotional regulation, behaviour including how we interact with others3. A 2019 article by Harvard Health Publishing explains how sleep impacts mental health. We all alternate between two major categories of sleep – quiet and REM sleep. During “quiet” sleep body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. In the deepest stage of quiet sleep, physiological changes are produced that help boost immune system functioning.
The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the period when people dream. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase to levels measured when people are awake. Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health — in complex ways. The paper stresses that “although scientists are still trying to tease apart all the mechanisms, they’ve discovered that sleep disruption — which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things — wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa” 4
So though we are aware of the need to have good strategies for managing stress, anxiety and depression, or becoming more resilient, we have a collective responsibility to strengthen the support that is available for the most vulnerable amongst us. There is some great work happening in Devon and Cornwall but there are areas with little or no access to mental health support. They (https://www.devonmind.com/about/our-story ) have been working for better mental health in Devon for over 35 years with their campaigning and support services. Devon Mind highlights the importance of the work they are doing through these stark statistics on their webpages: Research by the NHS has found that 20.9% of people in the South West of England experienced a common mental health problem (such as depression or an anxiety disorder) in any given week — that’s the highest rate of mental health problems in the country, reflecting the great need for Devon Mind to support the entire community.
Hence, we have decided to plan our fundraising activities in support of Devon Mind throughout this year. Further information about events and opportunities to contribute will be shared separately.
Dr Smita Tripathi
1 Stranges, S, Samaraweera, PC, Taggart, F, Kandala, NB, & Stewart-Brown, S (2014). ‘Major Health-related Behaviours and Mental Well-being in the General Population: The Health Survey for England’, BMJ Open, 4(9), e005878.
2) Parletta, N, Zarnowiecki, D, Cho, J, Wilson, A, Bogomolova, S, Villani, A, Itsiopoulos, C, Niyonsenga, T, Blunden, S, Meyer, B, Segal, L, Baune, B and O’Dea, K (2017) ‘A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED)’ Nutritional Neuroscience 22(7) pp.474-487.
3 Walker, M (2017) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner. ISBN-13 : 978-1501144318
Here in the South West like other parts of the UK, we are celebrating the South Asian Heritage Month, which kick-started on the 18th of July and goes on until the 17th of August. It started in 2020 but this year marks its formal launch. It aims to celebrate and raise the profile of British South Asians, which include people from the 8 countries of South Asia including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is a month-long opportunity to show what it means to be South Asian in Modern-day UK, celebrate South Asian Culture in its colourful diversity as well as look to the past to see how Britain became the diverse nation it is today. It was co-founded by Binita Kane, a consultant Respiratory physician and Jasvir Singh, a family law barrister. The motto of the movement is to Celebrate, Commemorate and Educate with the view to raise awareness, come together to celebrate the rich diversity of the cultures of South Asian countries, strengthen bonds within the community and forge stronger bonds with other communities and cultures.
The month-long event creates a space to jointly celebrate the multi-hued communities and people of South Asian and is a grassroots movement that has been driven by the lived experiences of the founders and others in being British South Asian. Like many other creative ideas, it happened “over a cup of chai in December 2018 when the founders came together to discuss how people’s understanding of the interconnectedness between Britain and South Asia could be better understood in the UK” (https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/about). It has been inspired by Black History Month and other similar awareness months.
South Asian influences are pervasive everywhere in Britain, this includes our food and tastes, clothes and fashions, music and dance and even our words. Everywhere you go, in the streets and towns, you can see the traces and lashings of our varied South Asian cultures and see contributions made by our heritage. Our people have made a mark in all walks of life and in different professions, occupations and places. South Asian culture permeates all parts of British life and adds to the diversity of the nation.
In the first of a series of reports to mark South Asian Heritage Month, ITV South West Reporter Claire Manning and camera person Penny has spoken to Drs Atul Mishra and Smita Tripathi who came to Plymouth 20 years ago and have gone on to settle in Plymouth, raise a child and establish themselves as Lecturers in the University of Plymouth’s Business School. They think of Plymouth as home.
Undeniably, social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is playing a very significant role in modern life. Whilst it has many benefits, it could easily disrupt personal and social lives if used immaturely or carelessly. In the light of ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, the government and several institutions including public and sporting bodies are taking initiatives to further strengthen race relationships, foster religious tolerance and promote equality and diversity in the wider society.
In the above context, a few weeks ago, many cricket fans were saddened following controversy sparked by racist and sexist tweets written by 27-year-old cricketer, Ollie Robinson. These tweets were written years previously when he was a teenager. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took very prompt action by suspending Robinson from the team pending the investigations. Robinson’s suspension sparked a sharp division of opinions in the wider society. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders criticised the action of ECB. MP from South West Devon, Sir Gary Streeter defended Robinson remarking that as teenagers we all make mistakes which we regret later in life and ECB should adopt the core value of our society, ‘of forgiveness’.
After Robinson’s suspension, a few high profile names also surfaced who have written similar tweets in the past. It is reported that ECB has started scrutinising all media posts of its contracted players. The England players are anxious about the looming threat from further probes into controversial tweets which are very much on the cards. Such nervousness after the series defeat by New Zealand could be unhelpful for the forthcoming test series against India, followed by the Ashes series in Australia. England captain, Joe Root insisted that his team is totally committed to stamping out discrimination in cricket.
In common with other games and sports, Cricket plays an important role in social cohesion and integration. I used to play and enjoy cricket during my student life. In 1993, when I joined ICI/Zeneca Environmental Laboratory in Brixham (South Devon), I was warmly welcomed in the Laboratory Cricket team. Colleagues assumed that all Indians are good cricketers, which very soon they realised is not the case! My inclusion in the team gave me the opportunity to play matches in the lush Greens of picturesque Torbay area during the summer periods. I was the only Asian player on the ground and was warmly looked after! The social aspect was particularly enjoyable! Being new to the English lifestyle, this ‘gentlemen’s game provided the opportunity to learn many social skills!
After moving to Plymouth in 1996, few of us established the South Asian Society as a registered charity in 2003. In line with the broader objectives of the society to enhance community cohesion and integration, in 2010, we started a Cricket Tournament inviting local teams to participate. These events were highly successful and thoroughly enjoyed by the members of the society and the local communities. Due to different constraints, we could however not continue this tournament. Many society members were/are playing for different clubs and many members of the South Asian community are now fully integrated with different clubs. Increasing numbers of South Asian families are encouraging their kids to play cricket and others sports, take them to coaching sessions, where they interact with the wider community. All these activities will definitely contribute to damping down the future online abuses of various forms and will go towards achieving the goals of the society, with long-term positive impact.
As social media is being increasingly used particularly by the younger generation, we need to be fully aware that once posted, even if these posts are deleted, it is easy to track them down. As it is quite natural for teenagers to make mistakes, such mistakes could be risky for future careers. There are plenty of unfortunate examples outside the cricket world as well. Earlier this year, Rashmi Samant, the first woman to become president of the Oxford University Student’s Union had to resign a few days after she was elected. This was a consequence of supposedly racist and insensitive tweets she had posted as a teenager.
Following the recent Euro Cup Football final, alarming levels of online abuse of England players were noted. It is being realised that racist abuse sent to England players have been active for some time despite the sites being urged by the authorities to crack down on discriminatory posts and suspend accounts. Such incidences could have long-lasting negative knock-on effects on the wider communities too, such as the defaced mural of England football player, Marcus Rashford. In this context, according to a recent survey, commissioned by London Lions, 41% of the BAME community in the UK are hesitant to attend live events over fears of racial abuse, although younger fans (18-24 years) are less worried (29%). It is therefore not surprising that the government is planning to implement tougher rules in addition to banning individuals who are involved in online abuse to enter the ground. Clearly more needs to be done. Finally, it is important to realise that ultimately, the parents and the schools bear the responsibility to educate children and inculcate the right values. They have important roles to play in digital education and alerting the children about the risks associated with their online (as well as offline) behaviour. Backed by the government initiatives, schools and parents, therefore, need to build a positive partnership to educate teenagers in this important aspect of life. Given that digital technologies are getting increasingly integrated into various aspects of our lives, it is high time that proper use of such skills are assimilated in the school curriculum from an early stage.
Disclaimer: We accept no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The opinions expressed in this post are solely the author’s own views and do not necessarily represent the views of our society. Our attempt is to provide a platform for community members to share their views, reflections, and opinions through our website.
Jenny Walrond, NHS Devon CCCG Media and Publications manager
Why should I have the Covid-19 vaccine?
Around 9 in 10 adults in Devon have now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Analysis by Public Health England suggests that the vaccination programme has prevented between 6.4m and 7.9m infections and 26-28,000 deaths in England alone.
NHS advice states that research has shown the vaccines:
significantly reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
reduce your risk of getting symptoms of COVID-19
will help reduce your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19
Long Covid can affect people of any age. Research is being carried out into whether the vaccine reduces the chances of developing Long Covid and/or eases the symptoms of Long Covid in existing patients.
Some countries currently require travellers to be vaccinated or show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test. This situation regularly changes and it is best to check before booking any travel. Having the vaccine may make it easier for people to go abroad for work, holidays or to visit family.
Once you have had both doses of the vaccination you will be able to prove your vaccination status by getting the NHS Covid Pass. It is available through the NHS app; which is free to download or online. More information here:
The government has published easy read leaflets on the Covid-19 vaccination, what to expect afterwards and information for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding in 21 languages.
Is it safe?
Each of the vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, representative of the UK population and of all ages between 18-84.
Pfizer/BioNTech trials took place in the US, Europe, Turkey, South Africa and South America. Approximately 42% of global participants and 30% of U.S. participants had racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds
AstraZeneca trials took place in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. The non-white demographic in the UK trial was 7.1%. In the Brazil trial it was 31.4% and in South Africa it was 87%.
Vaccine safety monitoring is ensured at the national, regional, and global level.
Internationally WHO supports the set up of safety monitoring systems for COVID-19 vaccines in every country. WHO works with vaccine manufacturers, health officials and other partners to track safety concerns and potential side effects on an ongoing basis.
In the UK The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority approves vaccines for use. The MHRA is globally recognised for requiring the highest standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine. It has responsibility in law to continuously evaluate all products on the UK market.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is an independent group of experts who advise the Government health departments in the four UK nations on immunisations and the prevention of infectious disease. They consider vaccine safety, efficacy and look at the impact and cost effectiveness of immunisation strategies. The JCVI looks at data on the impact of a disease, data from clinical trials and modelled data, then advises on the best way to get these vaccines to the public.
Government advice states that:
There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant.
COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women.
The JCVI has recommended that the vaccines can be received whilst breastfeeding.
What side effects may I get?
The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them.
Any side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:
a sore arm from the injection
feeling or being sick
More serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.
All first doses being offered in Devon are now Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA vaccines). Details of which vaccine are being offered are shown in advertising for walk in clinics.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology has been rigorously assessed for safety, and clinical trials have shown that mRNA vaccines provide a long-lasting immune response. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for several decades, including in the contexts of Zika, rabies, and influenza vaccines. mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines and do not interfere with human DNA.
How can I get my vaccine? First and Second doses
You do not need an NHS number to book your vaccine in Devon.