Jahswill Emmanuel: Walking with a BAME men's group helped me keep my mind focused

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Jahswill Emmanuel, chairman of Multi Ethnic Sports and Culture Northern Ireland

Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I wake up in the mornings and go for a 45 minute walk. During the pandemic, I found myself sleeping a lot as there wasn't very much for me to be doing and I was becoming very lazy within myself. I also noticed my moods changing - I was becoming more 'down' and depressed - so walking has helped keep my mind focused. When I return, I check in on the latest news and then shower and get ready to head to the office to assist members of our communities. Helping others is something I always look forward to.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I do not really eat in the mornings - I would have a cappuccino to help me waken up, followed shortly by a peppermint tea.


Costa coffee and a toasted ham and cheese baguette.

Evening meal?

Eba - a dish made from the cassava plant. It comes in powder form and we pound it with water to make it look like mash potato.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

Yes, I have been able to work from home, but have found it very stressful as everything was online and nothing face-to-face. I like to deal with people directly - you can understand how people are feeling so much better when chatting face-to-face rather than through a phone call.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

For me, my best and easiest meal was always African noodles - I add my own spice to make it spicy and it's ready in a matter of minutes.


Weekend treat?

My weekend treat would probably be a McDonald's breakfast where I would have a double bacon and egg muffin meal with three hash browns. In the evening, I would have what we call 'suya', which is shin beef cut up and grilled in the oven with suya spice.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

During lockdown I started walking daily which I found very therapeutic. I also organised online healthy eating and fitness classes during the lockdown which was part of our fitness project for youth. We took part in exercise classes online, taught by a fitness instructor.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Walking. I was also as part of a BAME men's walking group and we walked the Lagan towpath, went up Cavehill and walked around Redburn Country Park outside Belfast. I trained with my youth group, as well, meeting each week for two hours for football, Gaelic and rugby.


How do you relax?

I like to sit in a quiet room to reflect on my week and the weeks ahead. I also like to chill out on my sofa watching either Netflix or Yoruba movies on YouTube.


Teetotal or tipple?

I don't have too much to drink and don't drink that often. When I do, I like a Yellow Tail red wine.


What book are you currently reading?

Coaching and Mentoring by Eric Parsloe.


Best Netflix?

Anything that is action-based, although I like all movies featuring Denzel Washington.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

The ability to overcome adversity.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

About a five. Lockdown was a really hard thing for me, as I missed a lot of things, but, thankfully, I was still able to get out and deliver support packages to the surrounding communities. Now that restrictions are easing and things are returning to somewhat normal, I am happier that I can provide and entertain our communities again.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

My freedom to go where I needed to be and not being able to socialise with others. I really missed not delivering my projects and events with BAME communities, as they rely on our organisation for their own physical and mental health.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

When restrictions are fully lifted, I would plan to travel to Nigeria to visit family and friends. I had been planning to go before the lockdown but it was pushed back.


Biggest gripe?

I am easily annoyed when other people are not supportive of others and try to tarnish their efforts.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Yes - apart from helping BAME youth in becoming sports leaders, I am now looking at the contribution I can make to Northern Ireland development as a whole and am studying community development at Ulster University.


Any new skills or hobbies?

During the lockdown, I was able to achieve certificates in leadership management, coaching and mentoring and that motivated me to continue with my education, enrolling in the community development course at university. This will enable me to make a bigger and positive impact with our communities. I will also be progressing to the Uefa C diploma in coaching. Each Saturday I coach youths for a two-hour period in Ormeau Park.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I would like to see people rally round each other, assist each other and forget about culture and identity. During Covid, everyone assisted each other with no questions asked - everyone was in the fight against Covid. I would like this attitude to continue.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Yes, because it tells you that anything can change at any time. The only constant thing in life is change.

The first ever Multi Ethnic Youth Fest takes place this Saturday, October 30, at The Ozone Complex, Ormeau Embankment, Belfast. The festival includes a soccer tournament and concert, with Conor Marcus from The Voice Kids, as headline artist. Tickets are free of charge and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

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