Alaine joins New Routes’ Team in Development & Comms role
25th January 2023
I am Alaine, I have worked at New Routes before, in this same job as a Strategy, Development and Partnerships Coordinator. I have also experienced New Routes as a volunteer Mentor. I would even say that I am part of the group NR exists to support, as I have lived experience of being a migrant to this country.
I was born in Rwanda, East Africa, and naturalised into the UK. I recently had to find the official documentation for my status in the London archives, and the relief of seeing the Home Office stamped certificate when it arrived was enormous – I understand living with the sense of vulnerable citizenship.
I have a very diverse family, living all around the world, with multiple stories of migration, of being asylum seekers, and of being refugees. Several additional nationalities have been fostered into the family too, including those with Somalian and Vietnamese heritage. Within my lifetime my close, blood family have experienced civil wars, forced migration, and horrendous periods in refugee camps. My Aunt died of easily treatable disease in a camp with poor conditions, and a I have a ‘missing’ cousin thought to have been forcibly taken into a militia.
I have relatives who have held power over countries, relatives who can’t afford to eat more than once a day, relatives who have been helped by and who work for the UN, Amnesty, government organisations and development charities. Some don’t have shoes while others wear Louboutins – we are a very mixed bag.
I also have experience of integration – through childhood to adulthood. I, personally, know how it is to not have English as your primary language. I know what it is to be separated from your family, culture, the country you grew up in, with a new climate (from the equator, to the cold!), and new rules… to try to make it in a society where you are seen as ‘other’, and where there are ways you don’t perceive that you fit in. To make your own way – a new route.
I chose to work within the not-for-profit sector, in; Development Education and schools’ work, around community cohesion, anti-racism and multiculturalism. My career has seen me become a technology teacher, project coordinator, layout designer, produce educational resources, and share information across platforms including socials, films, and digital games.
This is a time of exponential growth for New Routes.
It’s predicted that by 2050 a third of UK citizens will be non-white. The recent national census showed the shifting demographics of our population, even in Norfolk. Norwich has seen multiple hotels being given over to housing Asylum Seekers this year already, as well as the recent welcoming of Ukrainian families and ex residents of Hong Kong. Demand for integration services, support, and opportunities has never been greater. New Routes continually evolves. Since I last worked here there has been an increased emphasis on holistic wellbeing, on women’s empowerment, and now we are mindful of the challenges of the cost of living crisis and changes in /threats to asylum routes, processes and responsibilities. We continue to be innovative with the resources that we have – particularly space to hold so many people accessing English classes, community gatherings and activities. a few services have remained online, by demand. A new ‘free shop’ is running for our participants to acquire basic living necessities donated by the public – it’s such a vibrant, bustling, vital service, run almost entirely by the community itself. We want to encourage use of these services, and support from Norwich and Norfolk citizens to get involved too. We are reaching out to new supporters, new donors, new volunteers, new ideas and opportunities. We particularly want to get lesser heard voices amplified, to connect people who share more in common than that divides them, and to foster not just compassion but tangible, life improving outcomes for new-communities and individuals.
The UK’s asylum system is never far from our news headlines – a real pivoting point in politics and public attitudes. It’s a barometer of our collective conscience, priorities, and willing to see and treat ‘our neighbours as ourselves’ – to take actions rather than choose to be bystanders.
I am particularly interested in the interconnectivty of this world, alongside the ever decreasing boundaries between ‘local’ and ‘global’. I’m interested in moving forward in doing what I can, and I hope to welcome as many of you, Norwichians, as possible along the same path – to make OUR community: welcoming, empathetic, understanding, supportive, advocates, & allies, inclusive, contented and kind. We are already diverse, now let’s also be equitable through integration.
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