Hamara at the PFA

We are thrilled to announce that Hamara, a community recognised organisation were honoured to be invited to the prestigious PFA (Professional Footballers Association) 50th anniversary awards last week! Hamara’s invaluable contributions to the community have not gone unnoticed, as they have consistently worked towards fostering inclusivity and empowering individuals of the community through sports.

This invitation serves as a testament to their dedication and impact, recognising Hamara’s Tireless efforts in promoting social cohesion and creating opportunities for the aspiring future. As they join the celebration of PFA’s milestone, Hamara’s presence promises to inspire and uplift, showcasing the power of community and the transformative nature of sports.

The likes of Bukayo Saka, Alan Shearer, John Barns and football manager Gareth Southgate and many more attended the event.

From the start, when it consisted of two members of staff working in a single office, the Hamara Healthy Living Centre has grown to become the largest ethnic-minority organisation in Leeds’ voluntary and community sector. In those early days, the centre worked on a single project to improve the lives of elderly people. It now employs more than 30 staff, working on projects to help children, older people, those with learning disabilities and others in the Leeds area looking for education and training opportunities, as well as delivering healthy-living projects. Hamara is an Urdu term that means “ours”, reflecting the founding principle that the organisation belongs to its community. Before embarking on any new projects, the team asks residents what they need. “We have come a long way,” says Project Lead Arnie Sajad. “From our flagship building alone, more than 10,000 people in our community access this centre and, since the pandemic, Hamara has supported more than 100,000 individuals through our city-wide work.” Based in a purpose-built £1.2 million centre in Beeston, the charity now plans to open a further site, which will include a sports hall and community centre. “We really want to expand on the service that we’re giving Leeds,” says Raheem Mohammad, Interim Director. “We want to offer so much more to those who are less fortunate and living in deprivation in the area.” Initial funding for the new sports hall came from the local authority, impressed with the work the Hamara Healthy Living Centre does with girls, older people and adults with learning disabilities, focusing on physical activity. Football, tennis, cricket and other sports help these groups to stay fit and connected with others – but the current building has reached full capacity. “The space we’ve got now is dated, and has no windows,” explains Mohammed Iqbal, Chairman of Hamara. “It isn’t the best facility to serve our community.” More than £2 million has now been raised through ten different funders, with £1.6 million still to go. Hamara is in talks with the Football Foundation about further financial support. “These projects can be challenging, like climbing a mini-Everest,” says Arnie. “A lot of people in our sector struggle with them because of lack of investment or lack of knowledge, but we have shown that, with perseverance and commitment, we can succeed. “I’m a big believer that communities should work together, and that together we are stronger. This building will allow us to bring together a lot of different organisations with the same agenda, which is to try and improve people’s lives.” The sports hall is set to open late summer 2024, with the aim of improving the wellbeing of residents in Leeds and the wider area through better physical health. Arnie also hopes it will start to generate income and make the charity less reliant on donations. “We want to become sustainable and have the opportunity to flourish,” he says. The new facility will include a five-a-side pitch that can be hired out on evenings and weekends. Its multi-use games area will also be rented out, and tenants in the building will contribute to the charity’s funding. “It will generate money that we can put back into sport,” says Arnie. Users can access the facilities for free or, in some cases, at subsidised rates, and this self-sufficient model is one that they believe could be emulated by other charities. “Sport is such a universal language,” says Raheem. “It has the power to bring people from all backgrounds together”. “This article originally appeared in 50 Years of the PFA Awards, published by St James’s House in August 2023 with an RRP of £39.95.”

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