Zinc Community Spotlight with Agnes Mwakatuma

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Why did you get involved with Zinc?
I got involved with Zinc because I was new to the world of mental health although I did have a passion for understanding mental illnesses & my own experiences. I felt like I needed to build a network of amazing people who shared the same passion as me, but also to build my knowledge on the different mental illnesses that are out there as well as the resources for people struggling. It was mostly for education — I wanted to learn more & meet new people.

What has been the greatest benefit from joining the Zinc community?
Definitely having more connections. Whenever I have a question or am feeling stuck in my own personal journey or with Black Minds Matter, I always feel that I have someone I can run and speak to. Zinc provides an endless resource of amazing people that you can connect with whenever you’re in need of something. Even if it’s just to catch up, having people that work in the same space as you and you can bounce ideas off of and check in on each other is great.

What do you need help with from the Zinc community?
Good question. Help with the 21k challenge — our latest fundraising campaign to find 21,000 long-term donors to support Blacks Mind Matter UK in 21 weeks. Since we started in June 2020 we’ve raised enough to fund 1200 courses of therapy, with 500 people already accessing their sessions, and 700 more who will soon be able to begin their healing journey. But the work we do is very much limited to the amount of funds we can raise at a time. If we can have lifetime donors or people who are committed to donating on a monthly basis, that can make a huge difference on the impact we can have on Black mental health and how sustainable the organisation can be. You can sign up to donate here.

Who has been most helpful to you to date?
I’d say Ella Goldner & Ellie Ford!

What has been the greatest challenge so far?
Trying to manage my calendar as we’re such a new organisation. It’s like being thrown into the lion’s den and everyone wanting so much of your time. Learning how to prioritise things that are important and creating other ways to make things that can wait, be delayed. There are so many people to speak to on a daily basis, it can become overwhelming sitting on Zoom for the whole day.

What do you wish you knew before starting Black Minds Matter?
I wish I’d known the importance of having ongoing donations coming in. If I could go back to when we were initially crowdfunding I would’ve set up the option for people to donate monthly then. It’s a lot harder to convince people to part ways with their money a second time round! When something is on someone’s mind it’s good to keep the conversation going.

What’s the change you’re trying to make in the world, your long term vision?
The accessibility of Black mental health and the resources available to the Black community, but also encouraging more non-Black people to get involved in the grassroots organisations that are helping the Black community. Sometimes it feels as though we are expected to use our limited resources within the Black community to make long-term change. It’s always more impactful when a diverse group of people come together to share expertise, time and funding towards grassroots initiatives.

What’s the last new thing you tried?
I never used to be big on working out — I used to hate even the idea of doing exercise. So the best new thing I’ve tried is getting a training plan from my gym and working towards the goals it sets every day. I now go to the gym everyday to do my cardio and strength training and it has really changed a lot for me. It’s also 45mins-1 hour that I get to myself and sometimes the first point in the day where no one is calling my name, which is nice! I know it can be quite cliche to say how important physical health is, but it really has changed so much for me. It has improved my mood, gotten me moving and out of the house more, plus feeling more relaxed and just generally healthier.

What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Not to be afraid to reach out to people — there’s more people out there willing to help than you’d ever think.

What have you read/listened/watched that has changed your perspective on your work?
Professor Stephani Hatch shared a really interesting paper when she joined the Academy on Zoom to give a talk at one of our Wednesday evening sessions. The paper was about the discrimination in the healthcare industry and that really changed my perception of the work that we do.

Black Minds Matter UK is an organisation dedicated to connecting Black individuals and families with free mental health services — by professional Black therapists to support their mental health. They are currently running their 21k Donor Challenge to find 21,000 long-term donors, who will donate £5 a month, to fund 1,500 courses of therapy each year for the Black community. You can find out more and donate here: https://oxfordshire.enthuse.com/pf/bmmuk21k-354b0

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