Yaa is the CEO of the Hwupenyu project in Glasgow. The charity provides support for Black ethnic communities in Scotland living with chronic health conditions and aims to address health inequalities that Black ethnic groups face.
Founded in 2014, the Hwupenyu project directly supports people with a range of health conditions - including Diabetes, HIV+, High Blood Pressure, Mobility issues, Mental Health conditions, and Hepatitis – through providing information and advice.
Yaa explains the particular approach that the Hwupenyu project is taking in order to provide its support, “What we are addressing in our communities is everything to do with health, but we look at it from the cultural perspective. For example, when it comes to mental health, somebody would walk through the door, and maybe feel overwhelmed with the situation with the DWP, or home office fees, or not having access to the benefit system, or sometimes having to remit back home. These are the things that we look at from an African perspective, and seeing how it impacts people's health. We also run a food bank, and we also look at the kind of food in Africa. We are from different cultures, west, east, south. So we make that effort knowing that, for example, people do not like tinned soups or canned stuff, we'll make that effort to try and get fresh food or African food that we know they recognise. With people in the asylum system that are so stressed out, at least they see food they recognise, and this will help them as well, mentally, and health wise.”
The pandemic has also led the Hwupenyu Project to expand its services, “Currently, we are embarking on a new project that starts this month, which is on diabetes. Because of COVID, the Black community was really hit, and one of the underlying factors was diabetes. So it made people aware and people started coming to us. And some of them were struggling with GPs where they were not being given glucometers. So that's one thing we are looking at trying to give them glucometers, making them understand if they are pre-diabetic, what to do. And also talking about portion sizes, because a lot of African food is 70% carbohydrates. So that's one of the projects we started this year.”
Yaa also strongly believes in combining resources with partner organisations, e.g., referring children from their services to a charity that can provide more specialist support to them, and vice versa, '“One of the things I believe in is we all have our strengths.”
In terms of the future, Hwupenyu project is currently planning a strategy day with the board, but Yaa would like the organisation “to represent health for the Black community, we should be able to help people navigate the system, understand their rights, and not be afraid to go to the GPs, when you're not feeling well. So I think the most important thing is that we can represent a minority group in the health sector, and help them have confidence in any health issues. And also being able to refer them to the right organisations.”