Secular gatherings to integrate and improve health

We’re supporting a new project that will run weekly secular assemblies to help combat isolation and tackle health challenges among the Portuguese community in Stockwell, Lambeth.

The project will be run by Sunday Assembly, a global group which takes the example of religious services to organise secular local gatherings that celebrate life and welcome anyone no matter what their belief. Gatherings often include uplifting songs, inspirational talks and a chance to come together over coffee and cake.

The group, which has been running since 2013, provides connections for socially isolated people, creates intergenerational friendships and improves confidence. Research shows that participating in Sunday Assembly activities can lead to a statistically significant improvement in wellbeing.

Through our grant of £15,500 Sunday Assembly will run ‘Celebra a vida’ (a Portuguese phrase meaning to celebrate life) to engage with Stockwell’s Portuguese community, and help them make new connections outside their community. Portuguese is the second most spoken language in Lambeth, with around 35,000 Portuguese speakers living there, mostly around Stockwell, or 'Little Portugal' as it's also known. Integration levels with the wider community are low, with Portuguese residents often facing problems accessing public services due to poor English language skills as well as isolation, particularly among the older population.

‘Celebra a vida’ will include Sunday Assembly’s trademark Live Better Groups, peer-to-peer support groups, which on this occasion will be led by a Portuguese-speaking facilitator to encourage social connections and create a supportive space for people to tackle challenges in their lives like stopping smoking, improving family relationships and job-seeking.  

This is the first time that the Live Better Groups have targeted a particular demographic and the lessons from this experience will be captured and evaluated to refine the approach. If successful, Sunday Assembly may extend its activities to other communities in Lambeth. 

Sunday Assembly will train local people to run the Live Better Groups once the pilot is over. 

Liz Slade, Chief Operating Officer at Sunday Assembly says: "We're delighted to be working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and with the Portuguese community in Stockwell. Sunday Assembly creates spaces for people from any background to come together, connect, and celebrate life and we’re excited about welcoming in the Portuguese perspective. Live Better Groups enable people to make change in their lives, and deepen their connections with others in the community, often creating lasting friendships."

James Murray, Head of Funding at the Charity says: "Bringing people together in such a positive and supportive can help reduce social isolation, building friendships and self-confidence which can have a host of knock on benefits. We’re working with similar groups to tackle isolation, for example, among older men in Southwark. Our challenge to the Sunday Assembly team is to see whether they are just as effective among our growing Portuguese community, and so test how effective this can be within our diverse urban communities."

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