Covid-19 Action Fund winners: the BAME community

The Covid-19 Action Fund provides grants for Churchill Fellows to increase their vital contribution to the national effort against Covid-19. Hundreds of pandemic projects nationwide are being run or assisted by Churchill Fellows, using the international expertise they gained during their Fellowships overseas. Here are the Action Fund recipients working on issues relating to the BAME community.

Arfah Farooq: mentoring Muslim and BAME students


 A Resolution Foundation report warned recently that youth unemployment in Britain could reach the 1 million mark over the coming year and that the 'corona class of 2020' – school leavers and graduates due shortly to join the labour market – is the most exposed age group to a likely unemployment surge. Furthermore, rates of poverty amongst BAME communities are double that of white people and, due to this socio-economic status, BAME students are more likely to be vulnerable to the economic fallout triggered by Covid-19.

Arfah Farooq, from Newham, London, is the co-founder of Muslamic Makers Community, a networking and mentoring platform to encourage and support Muslims into the tech sector. She will use her grant to create and develop a summer mentoring programme for Muslim and BAME students to replace internships that have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The programme will connect a minimum of 20 students with tech companies such as Facebook and Google, for online mentoring, skills training, challenges and mini work projects so that they can gain experience, build new digital skills, meet professionals and build their confidence during this uncertain time. Additionally, Arfah will reach out to universities to grow the number of students receiving online support from Muslamic Makers, as well as expanding their network of professionals who are able to offer mentoring and advice during this time. Arfah's Churchill Fellowship to Pakistan, the UAE and the USA in 2017 explored how to encourage greater participation in the technology sector among Muslim women. 

View Arfah's profile

Patrick Vernon: supporting BAME families bereaved by Covid-19


 Recent statistics have shown that BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 with studies suggesting that they are more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than the national average. Many BAME families and communities are struggling with bereavement and unable to say goodbye or conduct funerals, with the current social distancing measures and restrictions on mourning. Responding to this urgent need, equality campaigner Patrick Vernon, from Hackney, London, set up The Majonzi Fund, a special fund to help BAME families bereaved by Covid-19. The Fund has raised over £7500 to date and received press coverage.

Patrick will use his grant to develop and expand this Fund which will offer small grants for memorial events and tributes to be held post-lockdown as well as for access to bereavement counsellors and therapists. Additionally he will develop a website which will provide online resources for bereavement support, case studies of how people can celebrate the life of loved ones under current restrictions, and a memorial wall to recognise those who have died of Covid-19. Patrick's Churchill Fellowship to Barbados, Jamaica and the USA explored cultural interventions aimed at supporting good mental health in African and Caribbean communities. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation. 

View Patrick's profile 

Ruth Oshikanlu: mental health support for BAME health and social care workers


The Guardian has recently reported that 61% of UK health workers killed by Covid-19 are from an ethnic minority background. The disproportionate number of deaths among BAME staff has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress for frontline clinicians, with more than three-quarters of NHS BAME doctors fearing for their health, according to a recent survey from the Royal College of Physicians. Ruth Oshikanlu is a nurse consultant from Lewisham, London, and a member of the Chief Nursing Officer BAME Strategic Advisory Group, where she has been part of several meetings listening to the views and concerns of BAME staff. Although several employers and trade unions are offering counselling and other forms of psychological services, many BAME staff have reported that they do not meet their needs, and have requested trauma-informed strategies as well as spiritual support from faith-based leaders.

Ruth will use her grant to provide frontline BAME health and social care staff with culturally and spiritually sensitive psychological support. She will develop a nurse-led healing programme, using a trauma resilience informed system (TRIS), to be rolled out to health and social care service providers. Additionally she will implement a 'Train the Trainers' programme to include health and social care professionals, community and faith leaders, and will recruit and train a cohort of 'TRIS Champions' in order to do this. Ruth's Churchill Fellowship in 2019 explored trauma-informed care for young people in Australia and the USA and was supported by the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

View Ruth's profile 

Yvonne Field: giving a voice to women leaders from BAME communities


Recent statistics have shown that BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. BAME-led community organisations have had to respond quickly to this need, tackling food insecurity, job loss, poverty, bereavement, financial exclusion, social exclusion, domestic violence and immigration issues which have come to the fore and been amplified during the pandemic. Much of this community action has been led by BAME women, whose stories are often overlooked and marginalised in public discourse. Yvonne Field Tottenham, London is founder of Ubele, an African diaspora-led social enterprise that supports communities across the UK through social action, founded in 2014 as a result of her Churchill Fellowship.

During the pandemic, Yvonne has been campaigning to ensure the voices of BAME communities are heard, including launching a national petition, conducting research and gathering case studies. She will use her grant to gather stories from BAME women leaders working on the frontline of their communities during the lockdown. She will develop this into an online platform of content to inspire others in the community, recognise the achievements of these women and ensure that their voices are heard. Yvonne's Churchill Fellowship investigated national Black leadership, the transfer of indigenous knowledge, and community enterprise development in the USA and New Zealand. Her Fellowship was supported by The Rank Foundation. 

View Yvonne's profile 

Find out more about the Covid-19 Action Fund winners 

Donate to our Covid-19 Action Fund