Having lived in the UK since the age of 2yrs, Vaqar grew up in London and then moved to Manchester, but found moving and settling in Dundee a bit more difficult as she had left her friends behind and felt isolated. Read how joining the DIWC gave her a sense of purpose and belonging in the community.
A feeling of being different
“I was born in Pakistan and my parents came to the UK when I was 2 and I was brought up in London and then later moved to Manchester. I moved to Dundee in 1994 for my husband’s work.
In London, my brother and I were the only brown people in the entire school. I felt like people viewed us in a different way – I think that’s a difficult thing to understand at such a young age. We dressed different, ate different foods so I did feel a bit different from everyone else. I remember staying for school dinners and one time I had sausages the same as everyone else. I went home and told my parents, the next day my dad wrote a letter to the school saying not to give me any meat. The differences were in how I dressed as I covered my legs and the other girls didn’t and how my mum dressed differently from the other mums too.
When I was younger I wanted to be an air hostess. I wanted to travel and see the world but my parents didn’t think it was the best career choice for me. When I was older I trained to be a hairdresser which I’m not too sure they were particularly keen on either. I feel like they would have preferred me to be a secretary or receptionist. Perhaps I had a little rebellious streak in me!
I do visit Pakistan fairly regularly, My heritage is Pakistan, yet when I go there I’m treated like a foreigner because I’ve spent most of my life in the UK. That was a bit difficult to comprehend when I was younger. I felt a bit like: “where do I fit in?” But as I grew older I realised that home is where the heart is so I identify the UK as home.
Moving to Dundee and the changes I had to make
Moving from Manchester to Dundee with my children was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. I had a slight idea what Dundee was like because I had visited my husband there a few times before our family moved up but I was still apprehensive.
My kids settled in fine, they went to school and made friends but I felt really isolated moving away from all my family and friends. I found myself walking around feeling completely alien with no one I knew and trying to adjust to the difference in the accent as well.
Finding a sense of purpose with the DIWC
One day I met this Asian lady outside the school when I was waiting to pick up my son. We got talking about where she worked and she told me about DIWC. The very next day I was at the centre! It’s been about 16 years now that I’ve been coming here.
I started off as a learner in the cooking class and I feel like I’ve learnt so much from the centre including how to use a computer here and went on do to desktop publishing. My cooking skills have improved tremendously. I have also learnt how to ride a bike here.
I love coming to the centre and I felt very much at home here, very comfortable. I never thought that I would one day end up working at the centre, but now I am here it feels absolutely amazing. I just feel so blessed. The centre has been a big part of my life and it never feels like work.
I still volunteer for the centre with the Bazorg group which is the over 60’s group.
I am part of the fundraising group which helps to raise funds for the centre as the centre is a voluntary organisation. I feel people don’t realise that we still rely on funds to run the centre. The centre couldn’t help all these hundreds of women if it doesn’t have the money.
I find it so sad that some people still don’t know about the centre and what it can do for them. Sometimes I feel like going up to people when they’re doing their shopping and telling them all about the centre.
Since I started working here I just find it so amazing. The day just flies past as do the weeks! I’m not really looking to the future because every day I just feel so lucky and so blessed to be here in the present and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
I feel happy now as being part of the centre makes me feel part of the wider community. Working at the centre gives me a sense of belonging as I have met so many people here and it gives me great satisfaction that I am maybe able to help other women who are isolated.”
Vaqar Salimi #womenofdundee