Becoming part of the Chat family

The Thursday Chat over Chai group began as a safe place to which the Portsmouth Wellbeing team could refer members of the community who they felt would benefit from an informal and informative friendship group to support their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, whilst reducing their risk of social isolation.

From a handful of people, mostly but not exclusively over 50 and from minority ethnic backgrounds the group has become a wonderfully diverse group of people with very different histories, experiences and needs who come together for an stimulating programme of talks, courses, events, experiences and outings which have enhanced their learning and understanding in many areas thus enriching their lives.

We have had opportunities to learn more about our city and what is available to us, been informed about issues affecting our health and wellbeing; we have made jewellery, sketched, sewed, played musical instruments, played games, cooked, eaten, celebrated cultural events, festivals and birthdays, danced, learned and laughed together in sessions led by professionals, teachers, volunteers, enthusiasts and members. We have drunk tea of course and most importantly, we have made friends.

I joined the group shortly after retiring from a long career in Early Years education, within which, as well as teaching, I had held posts for equalities, inclusion, diversity and English as an additional language at both locally and nationally. I joined Chat over Chai the invitation of Rowshonara Reza, a one-time colleague and long-time friend and founder of the group. Now we have a committee, of which I am a member; I benefit from the group in many ways and am able to contribute to it as well as receive from it, both elements being important.

I was recruited partly as a volunteer but also as someone suffering from a whole lot of ‘loss’; recently widowed, recently retired and having become an ‘empty nester’, often alone. Like so many people of my age, and in my situation, I was, and am as vulnerable to the debilitating loneliness and social isolation which blights our society as anyone else.

One of the things I value most about this group it is that it is not overtly aimed at one specific group or type of person. There is something for everyone here, it is a ‘come as you are’ group, properly inclusive and truly diverse; no one needs a label to attend and there is no one specific thing we all have in common – except perhaps a desire for friendship, companionship, somewhere to be for a little while – the group does what it says on the teapot!

Chat over Chai poem

Chat over Chai, talk over tea,
 History, herstory, mystory, yourstory,
 Who am I? What am I?
 What is the difference?
 Roles and identities, doorways and pathways
 Am I still now, will I be always
 a teacher a mother a learner a lover?
 a wife a widow a body, a shadow ?
 Nest now empty sadly alone
 Ageing perceptibly, invisibility
 Finding new families now mine is gone.
 ‘What’ you are changes ‘Who’ you are stays
 the essence of you ‘til the end of your days.
 With Love’s light inside to inspire and guide,
 We give and receive, hope and believe.
 Chat over Chai, talk over tea,
 this a place for discovery
 History herstory mystory yourstory
 Stories and memories pasts that define
 I’ll learn about yours, you’ll learn about mine
 Friendships developing, laughter and empathy
 Sharing and caring, truth and equality
 Chat over Chai, a nice cup of cha –
 with love in your hearts come just as you are.