Portraits of Welcome 2017
"When I was volunteering in Calais, I remember preparing to teach a young man from Pakistan, expecting to talk about the English alphabet or something like that. But we ended up discussing Shakespeare, and he talked me through the periodic table and shared a saucepan of chai with me. We often hear that we have so much more in common than what divides us, but I think until you experience that, it just stays a platitude for most of us. We live in a society of people who don’t listen as much as we should. Without listening, I don’t think we can understand those who have had different experiences. If we seek to understand, we turn the idea of shared commonality from platitude to reality."
"Growing up in Manchester, my family was one of two Chinese families in the whole city and I often felt isolated. When you are a child and everyone is different from you, it is difficult to feel connected to the broader community. Once I grew up I understood that integration doesn’t just come from society, I also needed to make an effort to integrate, to become less isolated. I’ve since done lots of community work, with the elderly and young children, and teaching tennis. I like giving my time and experience to the community. There’s more to life than going to work and making money. The immaterial parts of life—feeling connected to something bigger than yourself—and the joy that comes with that adds balance to my life."
"I don't feel like a migrant, even thought I've only been in the UK for 10 years. I've always felt welcome in this country — partly because my background is quite similar to British culture. But I can imagine how difficult it can be for someone coming from a very different background. Welcomingpeople is the most important thing to help people to settle in. Inviting them to join local sports clubs, or helping them feel welcome at local events and introduce them to local people. Community is about people getting together and especially accepting others."
"I wasn't really conscious of how important cultural diversity was for me until I moved to Exeter for university. I really missed the diversity I had had growing up in Leicester, which is a very multicultural city. It can be dangerous if you're surrounded by people who all have the same upbringing as you. When you have people around you with different perspectives, it can make you question things you took as being a given, and opens you up your mind to different ways of thinking."
"I was in a market in Jerusalem last year buying flatbread and even though we did not speak the same language, people showed me around and invited me to see the oven using hand gestures to demonstrate what they were doing. The lack of shared language didn't stop them from sharing their knowledge and skills. I am a firm neliever that when differences come together, beautiful things happen, whether it be buying bread in a market, or — as I'm a software engineer — in things like broader innovations in technology and art."
"My parents told me stories of moving to New York from India in the 1970s. Other South Asians told them not to talk to African Americans and to kepp their heads down in order to achieve the American dream. There was an assumption that by associating with the African American community, you'd be stuck in a cycle of poverty. But once I began researching on my own high school, I found out that my parents were only allowed to come to the US because of the civil rights movement. In my own conversations with Americans of colour, I found the tension between these two groups to be ironic and counterproductive. If we acknowledge the ways in which our histories and lives are entangled, we can look at ways to support each other and tackle common systemic obstacles."
"I notice a real sense of community with the Bangladeshi families in my neighbourhood and the school where I teach, which I find inspiring. They often help each other's kids if someone is sick, they cook for each other and spend time around each other's houses. They retain their sense of culture but also integrate with the wider community. Many are my friends, and we go out, share the same space. I think it's important to recognise that communities do integrate and that's something we should welcome and can aspire to. In London, we live on top of each other and don't really know our neighbours, which is a real shame. But by opening up our hearts to each other, we can regain that sense of shared strength and beauty."
"My two daughters have a very rich heritage, but they are also so proud to be British. My grandparents are from Goa, India, but my father from Kenya, where I was born. We moved to the UK when I was 18. My husband's family is also from Goa, but he grew up in Uganda and arrived to England as a refugee from Italy, after Idi Amin's rule. My daughter has just got married to a man of Chinese descent, so we are continuing to build this heritage, adding another culture to the mix. Our community is made up of people who share characteristics because we are all people. In times of need, it is our instinct to help, but even beyond times of crisis, our differences bring us all up."