Meet the Propel Grantee

We chatted to Leza and Catherine at Connect: North Korea to hear more about their work and aspirations for their Propel funded work.

At Connect: North Korea, we are the only grassroots organisation dedicated to supporting the North Korean refugee community in Kingston Borough.  As Korean speakers, sharing lived experience, we are led by and for our disadvantaged minority community who lack the language, confidence and skills to self-advocate and access public services, particularly health, education and housing.

Through training and education, individual casework, community outreach and qualitative advice, physical and mental health support, we promote resilience, reduce social isolation and help our community to access the support they need to survive. We do not duplicate existing services but work in partnership with other local organisations and statutory service providers to help our community to better understand and access them. In 2022, we held 457 consultations, directly supporting more than 176 disadvantaged families to access foodbanks, healthcare, housing and benefits and survive the cost of living crisis.

The systemic issue we’re exploring is how health inequalities impact upon the wellbeing and resilience of our minority refugee community here in New Malden, why it happens, how it happens, what change is possible, driven by whom. We want to understand why our minority community is so poorly represented despite their obvious healthcare needs and test our assumptions that language, fear, stigma, digital exclusion – compounded by other more pressing socio-economic problems – deny our community access to primary and secondary healthcare services. Together with our community we want to explore what change is possible, what can be done at a personal, community and systematic level to tackle health inequalities, identify the key stakeholders capable of instigating change and how we can engage them and inspire them in this community led initiative. We want to explore the concept of a ‘community health champion’ based in, and from the local community, sharing lived experience/culture/language, acting as a first point of call for vulnerable individuals, supporting rather than duplicating NHS services, as a replicable/scalable grassroots approach towards tackling health inequalities.

With Propel’s support, we have organised and accompanied clients to primary healthcare appointments and provided sensitive and confidential interpretation of diagnosis and treatment plans. We have collected qualitative and quantitative data on client health needs and priorities, analysing this data at quarterly intervals to better understand the key problems faced by our community and to improve our programming. With our community volunteers, we have co-produced Korean language healthy living leaflets and posters, focused on eating, weight, ageing and smoking. We have adapted a key NHS community training programme into Korean language curricula and piloted initial sessions within the community to assess impact, learning and obstacles to delivery.

Long term, our aim is to empower disadvantaged North Korean refugees and asylum seekers to overcome poverty, inequality, discrimination and improve their life chances.  With Propel’s support, we will continue our journey towards a fairer society for all, by evidencing and amplifying the voice and experience of our marginalised minority community to highlight and address health inequalities affecting other  minority communities throughout the UK.