Start Date: 1994 –
End Date: On going
St Werburghs Centre
Tel: 07968 621079 / 0117 955 9676
Simi Chowdhry – Founder and Project Manager
To provide a culturally appropriate service to the deprived South Asian communities and other minority ethnic communities that empowers the development of their social-economic well being.
Aims and Objectives
To relieve the distress, sickness and poverty amongst South Asian people, minority ethnic groups who are of likely to be victimised.
To advance the education and training of professional people who can help prevent and reduce the incidence (incidents?) and fear in the South Asian communities and amongst other ethnic communities.
To address the inequalities of South Asian youth services and streamline community cohesion throughout our service directory.
To be recognised locally and nationally as a sustainable leader in South Asian community safety services.
History of Awaz Utaoh’s Development
Simi Chowdhry settled in this country in 1968 and was soon shocked by the lack of opportunities for South Asians in Bristol at that time. She trained as a youth worker in 1971 and became involved in working within her community. She went on to become a community worker with SCEP (Safer communities-Easton Project) a government-funded project based in St Marks Road, Easton. In 1993/1994 Awaz Utaoh grew out of the SCEP and developed into a Community Safety project in it’s own right.
Awaz Ataoh (which means Raise your Voice) was independent of SCEP and worked mainly with South Asian people affected by crime and social and economic deprivation and focused on issues concerning Asian women such as Domestic Violence, Abuse – both physical and emotional, Forced marriages and Victim Support. As an organisation it prides itself on helping people regardless of religion, gender or age.
Later the organisation broadened its scope as different needs within the South Asian community were recognised. This included Drug awareness and support, empowering people into employment, a Volunteer project and culturally sensitive support with issues such as failed arranged marriages and abuse within families.
Establishment of an Elderly people’s Day Centre
Service threatened by present government/council cuts.
Asian Women and Voting Awareness project
In 2003 The Electoral Commission funded an Asian Women and Voting Awareness project run by Awaz Utaoh. The project was designed to raise awareness in the female black and minority ethnic sector in Bristol about how South Asian women can become more involved in the decision-making process of their communities.
The project’s primary activity was a weekly workshop that ran for five months during the12-month project (April 2003 to March 2004).
Community Development Centre
Located on Stapleton Road the centre provided services such as weekly luncheon clubs, drop-in advice, 1-2-1 support and family based workshops. (This is now closed – due to lack of long-term funding).
Youth Project and Youth Diversity Festivals
In the early days Simi Chowdhry saw the lack of services for Asian youth at that time and she developed the first mixed, multi-faith Asian youth Service.
“I was a young woman myself and I saw that there were no facilities in Bristol for young people at all. I don’t think the authorities knew that young Asians needed any. They thought that we all lived in extended families; we didn’t need to come out of the families. So, no facilities were there, especially in Bristol. Absolutely nothing. I think we managed to create one of the most successful youth clubs at Sefton Park. That started the ball rolling and today we have quite a few Asian youth clubs”.
She went on to set up the first Asian youth festival on the Downs, a lasting achievement and great celebration of Asian film, music and food.
The 10th anniversary of the event took place in September 2009 in Eastville Park. (The Eastville Park Asian Mela – which means “gathering” in Sanskrit). This was an alcohol-free family event, with music, dancing and food. There were local and international bands, a “Bristol’s got talent” contest, stalls and henna tattoos.
This event was used to launch a new book More Than A Curry, which explores the Asian community’s contribution to Bristol over the years.
The festival is organised by Awaz Utoah, a project started in Easton 15 years ago to support Asian people in the city suffering from deprivation.
Founder Simi Chowdhry, of Stoke Bishop, said: “We are launching a book which shows the contributions Asians have made to Bristol over the years, especially in the 60s.
“People say we are just about curries but there is more to Asian culture than that. This is a youth festival but young people haven’t a clue about this.”
Mrs Chowdhry was awarded the Lord Mayor’s Medal in 2006 for the 40 years she has spent helping her community.
She said although the Eastville event is the only one in the area that specifically caters for Asian people, it is enjoyed by people from all cultures.
She said: “The whole of the city gets together to celebrate diversity, 60 per cent of the people who come are non-Asian. It is the only Asian festival in the whole of the South West where Asian culture is given a platform.”
More than a Curry!
More than a Curry! was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Awaz Utaoh.
Early in 2009, young people at Awaz Utaoh were inspired to start this project as they wanted to find out more about the lives of the early generation of South Asian people who came to Bristol, and to tell others about the impact they have had on the city and how they helped to form the city we live in today.
The main office is now based at St Werburgh’s Centre. The advertised drop-in hours seem to have been reduced to Wednesday mornings 10am – 1pm but there is a Weekly Support Group that runs at the same time at Trinity Arts Centre.
There is also a Healthy Living session (Look Good Feel Good), which currently takes place on Thursdays at St Werburghs Centre where people can learn how to cook and eat healthily or be pampered with a free massage, reiki or beauty therapy.
www.englandspastforeveryone.org.uk (Interview with Simi Chowdhry by Pam Sheppard)
Awaz Utaoh Annual Report 2004/2005
Awaz Utaoh Annual Report 2005/2006
Awaz Utaoh Annual Report 2006/2007
Awaz Utaoh Annual Report 2007/2008