People left isolated or lonely during the Covid pandemic are being offered a lifeline as a project to bring them together expands.

SNJ Charitable Trust, based in Wolverhampton, has increased its Chat and Chai Bringing People Together sessions, with one now taking place every day.

Bringing People Together (BTP) is a network designed to connect people and was set up by the organisation Transforming Communities Together (TCT).

TCT, which covers Staffordshire, the Black Country and north Shropshire, set up BPT after the success of its Places of Welcome initiative, where members of the community are invited to get together at a venue. Many of these venues are now reopening after lockdown.

James Henderson, senior development worker at TCT, said: “Each BPT group is connected to a host organisation serving the community, such as the SNJ Charitable Trust. They all share the same values – invitation, welcome and mutual respect.

“Covid 19 changed the way that we interact with others and build community. Bringing People Together is an alternative and innovative way of getting people together. Many of us are feeling more isolated or lonely and are looking for safe ways to get to know people in our community. Many of us can’t or don’t feel ready to leave our own home. We want to make a real difference to people who are living alone or are vulnerable in other ways.”

Attending a Bringing People Together group means being part of a community, which we know can have positive impacts on your physical and mental health and your wellbeing, including improving confidence and happiness.

Bringing People Together groups started out in the Black Country, Staffordshire and northern Shropshire as part of a six month pilot project, but James said it was now able to expand to other areas, thanks to continued support from the National Lottery Community Fund.

The SNJ Charitable Trust, based within the Lakshmi Sweets & Restaurant on Dudley Road, Blakenhall, started a Bringing People Together group in November last year after discovering what a huge impact the pandemic had had on some communities.

They soon expanded to hosting two group sessions and now, as demand has grown, they are holding Chat and Chai sessions daily.

The sessions are: Monday, from 8pm to 9pm, Tuesday is Bollywood Dance and exercise from noon to 1pm, Wednesday from 6pm to 7pm, Thursday has groups in Hindi and Punjabi from 8pm to 9pm and a Let’s Get Men Talking group at the same time and Friday is a mums’ session from 2pm to 3pm.

SNJ founder Neena Julka said: “We are working hard to combat the loneliness and isolation that has resulted from the pandemic and lockdown. It has been wonderful to see so many people come together at these sessions and to see demand grow.”

The trust is also helping people in the Black Country to access computers as they found many people had a fear of digital technology and were unable to access health and care services remotely.

SNJ has now launched an appeal to raise money for the project, to cover room hire and computer equipment. The aim is to raise £2,300.

Anyone who can help should visit https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/digital-literacy-in-esol

For details of all the Bringing People Together groups, please visit https://www.bringingpeopletogether.org.uk/join-a-group