Portraits of Welcome 2016
We met when we were doing our Master's degrees and are still friends. Don't believe the media narrative about people's perceptions of refugees and migrants. The average person on the street is friendly and accepting, and the UK is a very diverse place. Most people here are open and interested in who you are. Be yourself and, if you like it, share your stories!
I came to the UK as a refugee twenty years ago. A few months after I arrived here, my neighbours invited me to join them for Christmas; I would have been on my own otherwise. What made me feel welcome were the little things, those little things that are shared.
It's interesting the opporotunity that moving home has given me to start over, and edit my story and identity in fresh, and exciting ways. I have moved about four or five times in my life; I've lived in countries in Africa, Asia and now, Europe. Flowers at my bedside, warmth, the smell of garlic and a sense of familiarity and light jazz music — that is home. A place of comfort, safety and beauty, and a non-judgmental space where you can stare at the ceiling and know it's ok.
I was born in a British refugee camp for Polish refugees. I found that having the language to share your voice is an important part of joining the community. There is a support network here to help you with that journey. Let us hear your story so we can get to know you.
Elaine, Singapore — I love the diversity in London. When I'm on the bus - hearing different languages, seeing different faces - that richness is one of the things I find most beautiful about London. Welcome to the UK. I hope you find friends, safety, a community for yourself, and become part of this tapestry of London life.
Getting to know a new place, learning a new language, landing a job, making new friends...these are processes that everyone goes through. It's just a matter of time before you start feeling at home.
There is no one way to be part of British society. The people here have so much heart, and joy, and wonder. People here will help connect you to the community. Being in Britain doesn't mean telling each other how to be, but sharing who you are with others. With shared experiences, we avoid misunderstandings and judgement, and we build a community together.
The three of us come from very different cultural backgrounds. Hesho was a Kurdish Iraqi refugee, arriving at the age of five. Ellen is the daughter of refugees from Rwanda. Katie came back to the UK from a childhood in Latin America. We are all from different places but it is our differences that make our friendship so strong. We want to welcome you by doing something simple, offering you a cup of tea and a chat!
When I moved to Coventry for university, I didn't know a single person. I joined the local church group, and even when I didn't feel like going, I forced myself to go. It helped me make friends and connect with others.
What makes me feel comfortable here is that I can sleep in peace. I can walk alone at night with my handbag. There is no dust, no insects. Food, shelter and security are abundant.
With each of us having homes in two different countries, there are smells that help transport us, that help us to know we're home. Bukhoor is always a memory of Sudan my family has always carried with us. The smell of mum's biryani will always be a part of home for me. Moving to a different country doesn't mean you need to abandon your identity and conform. The scents become a part of shared culture, letting you know you're welcome.
Munira, Pakistan — My move to the UK from a village in Pakistan was a huge culture shock. My teacher was very helpful. She became another mother to me and encouraged me to work hard. I didn't even know how to write an essay, yet she gave me the courage to achieve. She made me realise that anything is possible. We who come from a third world country often feel like we can't compete but we have all the abilities to accomplish our dreams.
My grandfather came here just after the Second World War, invited by Her Majesty to come and rebuild the country. He is now 90 years old, has five children, twelve grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. When he arrived, he worked in a factory making nut and bolts to rebuild the East End. He realised that the food he was used to from India was not available, so he decided to do something about it and opened a shop to sell homemade food. The best thing you can do is to bring your food and recipes here. The UK loves food. We want to welcome you with food. Let's share some recipes!
Noura, UK — My father sought asylum in the UK after the Iranian revolution. This country welcomed him with open arms. Community here is about listening to each other's stories and treating each other with compassion and respect. I hope you find the same things here when you arrive.
Although I left Ireland 57 years ago, I still regard this country as my home. My family has moved back and I miss them. They're part of my identity! Family is my community and had structured who I am.
When I came here as a student nine years ago, I felt that I had come into a very multicultural society and really wanted to be part of it. I miss the food in Morocco and being around people who have known me my whole life. But London is my home now. My closest friends from university and from Morocco live here now, my values align more with London and I love being in a very multicultural environment where you get to meet people from all ends of the world.
We are so excited to have you come to the UK. We can't wait to be friends, to learn from you, and to be there for you. No matter how long it took you to come here, you are always welcome in the UK.
Zeynep, Turkey — Moving from Turkey at a young age, I was excited to experience England. My experience here - this ability to experience two different cultures and feel safe in both - has made me feel like a global citize. As an academic, I am connected to friends and colleagues from all over the world and being part of this one global community is an honour and a privilege. I hope one day everyone can have this feeling of inclusion anf belonging.