Zara Haq (Dhek Bhal) Interview

Interviewer: Kevin Phelmon

Organisation: Dhek Bhal

Date: 10/01/12

Interview: 0:16:47.6

KEVIN: Ok, what I want you to tell me first is um, about you first, um, when you were, when you came to Bristol and where you were born, you know, um, and why Bristol?

Zara: Yep, err, my name is Zara Haq and I’m err was born in a Singapore err and err that’s where I grew up and I err came to Bristol in 1977 when I got married and I have two children, a son and a daughter. And err, my son is now err 33 and my daughter is now 31 and she is married she and lives in Malaysia. And err I err I didn’t live in Bristol um, throughout when I, when I first come in 1997. Err, My husband was working in Kuwait and I stayed in Kuwait for 8 years. And when my father-in-law died we decided to return err to care for my mother-in-law who was quite frail. Ah, that’s the culture, the tradition, of the son to come and look after his mother. So we returned here in 1986 and um, then I tried to find services for my, for myself and my mother-in-law err and err because we live in Barton Hill when I arrive, we live in Barton Hill because my in-laws have been living here since along time, since 1954, since 1954 and err, so when I arrived, when we came back I tried to look for services. Err, and err, I came to Barton Hill, came to this few services here. All the services that I found were very Eurocentric. So I couldn’t err, send my mother-in-law to a day centre or a luncheon club ah, because it was inappropriate then um, I, my husband had came back and was taking sometime off work and was able to care for my mother-in-law. So I came out to Barton Hill settlement and did some voluntary work in the advice centre for 7 months and err, it was during err, that time that I came into contact with some Asian families who live in the high rise flats here as well as the neighbouring Eaton area, and I ask them actually what did they do, you know, in terms of their time? And they were saying there was nothing, they were very isolated, and ah, especially those people who live in Barton Hill, they experience a lot of racism. So were quite frightened to come out of their houses as well and there was nothing for them here. So I asked them how would they feel if we all got together and formed a self-help group and err, they were all very keen. So I thought, my mother-in-law was getting older and she didn’t have a good quality of life in terms of just, just staying at home and being housebound. And I thought I have to do something for her and also something for myself, you know. And then that’s how we all came together and developed this self-help group, yeah.

KEVIN: Going back to you again, um, when you first came um, maybe just tell me about the languages that you speak…


KEVIN: and then the um, the barriers that you saw here err, when you came, as somebody speaking a mother language and how you managed to cope into the English….

ZARA: Right.

KEVIN: English, English tradition.

ZARA: Yeah. In Singapore our first language is English you know in School err, um and you know and um, of course I’m a Pakistani so err we speak Punjabi at home and English as well like a lot of the err British born Asian do it here. And err, you know, so when I came ah, English wasn’t a problem for me so I could cope with the harmonist population and, but, it was, it was, Barton Hill was a working class area, still is a working class area. And there was a very sort of high poverty, high employment, and so the white people here they resented you know, the black people, so there was a lot of racism, even within the settlement. The people who attended the Day Centre, err, you know, I came, I came to the Centre and I approach them and I asked them, you know, could we have access to one day a week in here and they err, they we were very resentful and they said you know, why is that you just cant you just integrate with us? And I had to explain to them that I don’t have a problem because I can communicate in English but my mother-in-law and a few of the women, by that time we had contact from the neighbouring Easton area, I said they cannot speak English and also their dietary requirements, you know, you know is different to yours. And err, so it was what we have got or nothing, so is available or nothing. So they were very ah, very resistance to change and I, but I was very determined, you know that because I come from a very multicultural background err, you know, where we celebrate diversity, err and we celebrate all the festivals. And I, and I have never really experienced err, any racism in this kind of way, where, where I was born from. So I thought, I must do something, you know, I have got those skills and I’ve got um, and I think that I’ve, I’ve you know, I feeled, um, Um, I think it’s the passion as well, you know, as I’m very passionate, you know, and I think that everybody, all human beings ah, you know, you don’t judge them, they are all good people. For me I thought it was more about ignorance, you know, because the people here did not have much contact with ah, Black people and err, so that is why the unknown sometime is quite frightening, you know, also it is always taken in a very negative a, a, way. So I thought I need to educate them and I need to elevate the fears that these people have, you know and I, and I, gradually work with them. And I was prepared ah, you know, to face any kind of um, sort of, you know, I was, I have braced myself and prepared myself to face any kind of negative ah, ah, attitude from them because I felt in order to make changes, you know, you have to sometimes make sacrifices, you know. I’m not making a sacrifice but I thought I just need to be a bit more patient, bit more tolerant to people that do not know much about our culture. So I brought ah, I brought a wealth of knowledge, you know I think, and experience to people in here, you know, but it wasn’t easy, it was easy.

KEVIN: I bet it was easy.

ZARA: Yeah, yeah.

KEVIN: Ok, um, now. I’m gonna talk about the organisation.

ZARA: Yeah.

KEVIN: Ok, if you just give me a bit of the background and confirm again your position and your organisation to start with…

ZARA: Yeah.

KEVIN: and then tell me why it was set up? You, sorry, you have already mentioned why it was set up. Tell me what you do um, for the local community as an organisation Dek Bal?

ZARA: Right ok. Right err well, so like I mentioned earlier to you it’s like I just planted the seed and then gradually just branched out ah, and when women stared to come again.

KEVIN: So, so start, start with,

ZARA: Yeah.

KEVIN: say the organisation is called…

ZARA: Ok, ok.

KEVIN: Dek Bal, sorry.

ZARA: Yeah, yeah. The organisation that I work for is called Dek Bal and Dek Bal means err, looking after. And my position in the organisation is ah; I’m the chief executive so I have overall responsibility ah, to ah, running the organisation but accountable to our board of trustees. Ah, and we employ about 42 people and the, and the reason why we were set up was to, ah, was to fulfil a gap, ah, ah, you know, ah, that main stream provision wasn’t able to deliver to our community so like day care provision, ah, and support groups, ah, and all kind of things, education because new people have come newly from the South Continent and they wanted to integrate in the community but language was a barrier, you know, ah, like I said, you know, the, the, the fear was on the both sides. Not just the homoginist, the white British people, it was on the side new arrivals from the South Continent, not knowing, you know, and thinking that, you know, should, do we have to give up our culture, our identity and assimilate with this society because a lot of Asian People and Black People, they value their culture and their identity. So they didn’t want to assimilate they want to integrate, so it was um, a lot of that. So we say no, we have come together and um, you know and um, and provide services for ourselves, you know, and, and look at all their needs. So we started doing some literacy classes to improve um, ah, the language skills of some of our women so that can communicate, ah, you know, with their friends, with neighbours and participate actively in their, in their children’s school as well. You know, in their children’s life, because you have parent’s evenings, then the school tends to say oh, that Asian parents don’t turn up and how are we going to then engage with them, so you know. So, so I said to parents that’s its so important that now you are here to say you need then improve so that you have communication and you know, to communicate, you know, to have the language, the language is a tool, you know, and if you do, cannot communicate then you miss out because information and all that. You never had information in, translated in languages err, that time, you know, in the 1980’s. Its only recently when the race, race, racial, race, racial, race relations act that ah, came about. I mean it was around there, but proactively it was implemented much later you know. You know it must have been after the St Paul’s riots and all that, yeah, yeah. So yeah, so we did, so we established lots of services and all these services there were about 8 projects that we establish from ah, gay care provision to sitting services err, giving carers a break, youth project, ah holiday play scheme, err, you know, ah, support group for young mums and then there was crèche provision for the under fives, outreach services to all the people that lived on their own through our volunteer scheme um, and ah, and then a children youth liaisons service that was funded by the children’s fund to help, ah, you know, with the attainment level with our children so that they, because a number err, of Asian children, especially Pakistani, Bangladesh were not doing so well in school. And err, so it’s about, you know, giving them that um, the support so they can achieve and aspire to better things in life, yeah.

KEVIN: How much of your mission statement do you think; think you’ve achieved since you were set up?

ZARA: Ah, yeah, our mission statement is about promoting the health and social wellbeing and we have done that, you know. Our services like I mentioned to you before was ah, from cradle to the grave. So we supported people all throughout, you know, yeah, from the time they were born, right until the time they, they die. But because of funding cuts and all that we decided to give up the projects, you know, we said, that err, we were not getting full funding. You know, there was, ah, and we though, ah, we, and I had to spend so much time in trying to raise money, to try to ah, run the project, ah, you know, and full recovery costs. And the Council gets all the credit and we thought no, we told the Council we are not willing to be exploited anymore, you know. I dare you give the full recovery costs for the running of the organisations, if not you can take back your money. So we decided to return the back money. And we shut down some of the services that we work with children and young mothers. And the reason that we did that was only because when we were established there was no other organisation that was supporting err, children and young people, you know. But ah, ever since then a number of organisations have branched out and we thought there are, you know, is not like as so after Dek Bal there’s nothing else for them. So they, we signed posted them to those other organisations and said you can access those services from those organisations.

KEVIN: Ok, ok, we want to talk about BME organisation in general. What do you think um, has been the benefit of different types BME organisations that have existed with being Bristol? Do you think, what do you think has been the um, the benefit to the community? Do you think it’s of any benefit at all?

ZARA: Of course, definitely, because…

KEVIN: Start, start with, I feel BME has…

ZARA: Oh, all right, ok yeah. I feel BME organisation err, the established monopoly of BME organisation err, has bee err, a very positive thing. Ah, and I keep telling the local authority why we have so many BME organisation is because all of us are fulfilling a need, a gap, in mainstream provision. That is the reason that we have been established and it’s also about having a voice ah, within society. And you know, if you don’t have and you don’t network with this other BME organisation, then you will just be alone voice. So together we come and we you know, we have the power, we have been given the platform to speak. So it is very, very important and also we all have a lot of wealth of knowledge and experience and skills and err, you know, we share that, you know.

KEVIN: Thank you. Ok. What do you see, um, in this, especially in this economic climate, what do you see is the future of BME organisations? And what do you think BME organisations could be doing to survive?

ZARA: Right.

KEVIN: So you could start with,

ZARA: Yeah, I, Yeah…

KEVIN: I feel….

ZARA: I feel ah, because economically because there is a lot of ah, you know, challenges a head of us because of all the cuts and everything we need to work collectively together. We need to actually know and not duplicate services, ah, because I think a number of number of organisations have been set out where there has been duplication of services and it’s sad because those organisations, ah, you know, are not, do not get a lot of money so they cannot provide um, ah, services for all, and also in an effective way. So I feel that is important for us to come together, work collaboratively and see where there are gaps and then fulfil those gaps, you know, yeah, and a, and, and, and yeah, and, and, and to make sure that the race agenda is right at the top you know, yeah, to keep that going, yeah.

KEVIN: Ok, how would you personally um, define heritage?

ZARA: Ah, for me, for me, heritage is because when people ask me Zara where are you from? And I don’t just say that I’m from Singapore, you know. I go right back to my roots, you know, my parents were in India, you know. So for me that’s very important where my parents came from. So parents were born in India and my grandfather, my father’s dad, he moved to Singapore and then my mother’s dad moved to England in 1894. So for me a heritage is all about, it’s about my identity, who I am, you know, yeah. So yes, it’s very important and it’s um, yeah.

KEVIN: What do you think your personal heritage um, aside in this area, your own personal heritage? What influence do you feel your heritage has donated to the area that you work in?

ZARA: Yeah, I think, it’s a, it’s a, my, a, my upbringing because I was born Singapore.

KEVIN: Say, start with…

ZARA: Yeah, I think, yeah, I think,

KEVIN: my personally heritage.

ZARA: I think my personal heritage has influence by ah, because, I, I you know, being brought up in Singapore in a very multicultural environment and um, err, and my parents they have instilled some good values in us. So I feel, I, I, you know, I, I’ve, you know, I been able to share that, you know, with people who I work with and the, and, and the people who we provide services to. And ah, so I,I think I have influenced that; you know, a lot of that, yeah.

KEVIN: That’s it.

ZARA: That’s it, answer the question?

KEVIN: That’s it. Yeah it was.