Trafford reporter Ibrat Naeem shares her story of making Lancashire her home – and how giving time and kindness to others has connected her to the communities in which she has lived:
“I moved to the UK in 1973 as a child with my mother and siblings. We joined my father who was already living and working in the UK. We arrived in a small Lancashire town called Accrington and I joined the local high school. Given that English was not my first language the process of completing school was challenging as I was completing my education whilst simultaneously learning the language. We moved to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire for my further education. I managed to complete my education and attained my CSE’s and O’levels.
Upon completion of my education I worked for a local business as a cashier for approximately a year. I then got married and found myself back in Accrington and shortly afterwards started a family. My husband and I moved to Manchester whilst my children were very young and it was here that we started our new business together. I was a Sub-postmistress of a busy inner city Post Office for 18 years. Whilst working here I was keen to support the local community since through working at the Post Office I saw firsthand the deprivation and challenges that local minority groups were experiencing. In 2001, I started working for Women Working Together which is a local community group supporting BME women to become more active members of society. And now, 19 years on I am the Chair person of the group.
In 1998, my thirst for knowledge led me to enrolling in evening classes to gain further GCSE’s A-level’s and to complete my teaching qualification. With this completed I was able to go on to teach GCSE Urdu on weekends at a Abraham Moss College. I was also teaching English as a Second Language (ESOL) courses on evenings. This course was aimed at professionals such as policeman, nurses and community workers who required additional language skills to undertake their roles. I taught GCSE Urdu for 5 years and was honoured to support many local adult learners, the majority of whom had no qualifications, to go on to gain a GCSE. This qualification was not only a confidence boost but also a springboard to entering work for many.
My husband and I decided to wind down the Post Office business and in 2006 I started working as an Active Lifestyles Support Officer for Salford Community Leisure which was a part of Salford Council at the time. I continue to work here 14 years on. The main aim of our service is to improve older people’s health and well-being by delivering exercise sessions to improve balance and to help reduce and prevent falls. I have also provided One to One exercise sessions in people’s homes in particular for those who are not able to access sessions within their local community due to lack of mobility. Through this work I was nominated and achieved two community awards as the Heart of Salford Volunteer and group award in 2007 and 2010.
Through my work I have been fortunate to be involved in many other worthwhile community projects. This includes Time for a Cuppa, which is an annual fundraiser for the charity Dementia UK. International Women’s Day in which local women have an opportunity to come together to celebrate their achievements and learn about one another’s cultures whist sharing homemade food. Every October, I support the community in celebrating Black History month in which the achievements of local minority people given the challenges that many faced when they first arrived in the UK. I was also part of the active citizen’s project which worked to support exchange visits between members of different communities to enhance community relations. As part of this I was able to visit Palestine and learn about the three main faiths residing in the area: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We then had some Jewish people come and visit our community and shared our cultural food and customs with them. Another project I have been part of is the Salford Writing Lives project which was a creative writing project in which different faiths and cultures would write about their past life experiences and this was collated into a poem which was published.
In 2018, my family decided to relocate to Sale, Trafford to be nearer to my grandchildren. Since moving here I have joined a local multi-cultural group as well as volunteering for a long-term conditions group. Here, I provide exercise sessions as well as participating in community events. I have also joined a walking group; walking is a new discovery for me to look after my health – after work and children I had neglected myself – I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and once the pandemic hit – it made me start walking! We all look forward to it. It is the social aspect too, we all meet up after at a cafe and keep in touch, supporting each other through life’s challenges whether it is bereavements, ill health, retirement.
Through my experiences I feel my main life lessons has been the value of giving time to others and kindness has no price tag. There is no greater happiness for me than supporting and bringing happiness to others in world in which there are ever-increasing stressors. As long as my health allows it, I intend to continue my work as it is a true honour to support my local community.”