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Scintilla star Ashraful graduates as homeless advocate

Emdad Rahman

SCINTILLA CC cricket star Ashraful Islam’s extraordinary achievements were celebrated at the Groundswell Homeless ceremony as the gifted opening batsman graduated as a Health Peer Advocate. 

Islam and his fellow graduates have completed two months of training and are now ready to start delivering Groundswell’s multi-award winning Homeless Health Peer Advocacy service (HHPA). The scheme helps homeless people access vital healthcare – delivered by volunteers who have been homeless themselves.

The event for new graduates took part at Kingsley Napley LLP in Farringdon and celebrated the new volunteers’ achievements as they joined over 100 past graduates of the HHPA programme – of whom over 40 have already progressed into employment.

Islam suffered a rare form of TB of the brain in the summer of 2016. With no family in the UK, the battling sports star fought the condition and is recovering well. He was featured by the BBC as he is receiving innovative new treatment which is monitored by an iPhone app.

Islam’s condition is rare and complex, and for more than a year he has been taking a combination of 12 antibiotic tablets on a daily basis. As part of the first ever trial of this method, carried out by University College London in collaboration with University College London Hospitals, he is involved in video observed treatment. This involves him recording himself taking his medicine on a smartphone and then sending the recording on a secure server to his health care workers, so they are aware that he is responding to the treatment.

Despite his ill health, the inspirational Islam is passionate about his community and is frequently involved in volunteering his time at homeless soup kitchens, fundraising and car washes for charitable causes. Islam is currently volunteering two days a week at the Salvation Army in London E14, where he works with NHS staff to carry out breathing tests to asthmatic service users.

The tenacious Londoner said: “I’ve worked really hard to achieve this, just like everything else in my life. I’ve always been a grafter and battler and this proves that with hard work and belief anything is possible to achieve. I’m glad my friends and family are proud of me and I hope others will be inspired to do the same.”

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Terry Hitchcock, Chair of Trustees at Groundswell, spoke during the ceremony: “Groundswell relies on many other organisations to pull off our advocacy services. Today marks a real achievement for this new generation of volunteers and it is some course they have navigated. I have no doubt this is the most extensive volunteer programme available to homeless people in London today and many of our graduates have gone on to achieve remarkable things. I would like to also pay tribute to the wonderful work of all our volunteers.”

Kate Bowgett, Director of Advocacy, outlined the Health Advocacy project. She said: “Homelessness is a huge problem and sometimes all it takes is someone to accompany a person to appointments to overcome issues. Our simple solution is the Homeless Peer Advocacy Project – to help get health problems sorted by advocating, reminding and making health appointments on behalf of needy people.”

Other speakers during the evening included Jane Cook, Kings Health Partnership Integration Lead & London Homeless Health Programme Clinical Lead. There were also presentations from Sebastian Jackson and Ricardo Lopez from Hope Gardens Hostel and senior caseworker Dennis Rogers, who himself overcame homelessness to become a member of the first cohort of graduates. He said: “I gave up drinking and turned my life around, and to see all these new graduates come through is heart warming.”

Groundswell’s 2016/17 achievements:
2,700 one-to-one appointments
1,000 health promotion sessions
21 new peer advocates trained
Winner of the 2016 GSK IMPACT awards

For more information about Groundswell, go to:
www.groundswell.org.uk

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