Immigrant in my city of birth
6th August 2020
New Routes volunteer, Sadhia Islam, shares what joining New Routes meant to her.
Growing up in Norwich I often found myself torn by my identity as a British Asian. What did this mean to me? I was defined by a term that I could not reach. I felt lost between the expectations of the culture of my roots and the place of my birth. Confusion led me to grow distant with my culture, to become paranoid by rejection and obsessed with acceptance.
School recreates society and I therefore saw no difference. I tolerated having food thrown at me. I tolerated jokes made at the expense of my dignity. I tolerated having my hijab being pulled by someone I did not know. A side comment, scream, or glare from a stranger came nothing as a surprise to me. Eventually you learn how to laugh, laugh at the stupidity, ignorance and hate.
I’ve always accepted this type of behaviour because surely everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As a child, I understood this exchange as my normality. How was I supposed to know any different? It took me years to understand that this does not justify hate in any way no matter what your roots are. Why should someone have to neglect their sanity for the approval of others? To suppress their character to mould into the expectations of people. Why has kindness become such an underrated quality to oneself and to those around? You may consider me naive but being met with a smile instead of hostility gave me immense comfort.
For me, New Routes was the first time that I felt a sense of belonging in Norwich. Although I was there to help people, it healed me in ways I never thought I needed. It restored my faith in people and how it was possible to live in a socially integrated society. A community in which we are able to celebrate one another’s values and develop the confidence to express our own identity. To feel embraced by friendship, love and comfort. To realise what a fine city Norwich truly is. I focused so much on the negativity that I failed to see how I was equally surrounded by beautiful, genuine and kind souls. Sometimes, the simplest forms of compassion, acceptance and respect provides us with the most strength.
NB. During lockdown Sadhia noticed that the children she was helping through the New Routes online homework club weren’t well enough equipped to be able to complete their school work. Enlisting the help of her university course, she raised over £700 to put together the home learning kits you can see in the photo below and to distribute them to over 150 children we and partner organisations work with. A HUGE thank you to Sadhia and everyone who donated money and time on this project.
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