Diversity advantage shines through our COVID-19 response

Diversity advantage shines through our COVID-19 response

When Coronavirus hit, I was not prepared – this scenario was something that had never crossed my mind outside of films or hypothetical debate.  I had heard of what was happening in China and later what was happening in Italy, but still, I have to admit I was not fully prepared for what was going to happen in the UK, and more importantly in Bradford where I live and work. People with more foresight around me were beginning to make big changes and offer guidance which alerted me that something was about to happen that would change the way we live.

My first concern was for my children and their wellbeing and safety, and sharing care with their Mum, who is a doctor. I called her to ask what plans we needed to put in place. All of a sudden COVID-19 became a reality to me and my life. This was a good few weeks before lockdown and since then the new normal has become my routine. Currently, I am working from home and home-schooling – being isolated and needing support simultaneously – while also providing support to others and continuing work.  In this position, I was so thankful to be in Bradford and be part of Team Bradford. This was when our strengths really shone through. The diversity of the district showed its very real advantage.

First of all this was a global pandemic. Living in Bradford we felt more connected to the world and how people were responding. Our finger was on the pulse and we knew what was happening, where others had come from and where others had gone.  We had the intelligence from a range of nations at our fingertips: to learn from and build our response. This gave us an advantage. Our district has many needs and having a rich and diverse population both geographically and professionally gave us an immediate advantage in responding to those needs. This was no more evident than in our response to providing families with culturally sensitive support. In addition, cultures were able to share support interculturally; meaning people got support that hadn’t even crossed their mind. Places where communities are more connected began to benefit those in more isolated communities.

This was all taking place around the time of major religious festivals including Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi and Ramadan. Being in our district meant we were still able to feel the ability to recognise and share in festivities throughout our diverse networks. Personally, I was able to celebrate Easter with my kids, and also share in Ramadan with many Muslim friends while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.

I feel deep in my heart for people who might be stuck in a less diverse community, longing for the cultural support and opportunities we have so richly in Bradford.

Not only have we benefited from different cultures, our youth has been magnificent in leading our way through an enforced digital revolution, sharing their technological expertise and know-how. Before COVID-19, I was a bit of a technophobe. Now, I struggle to see how we can go back to searching for parking and organise catering to hold meetings when Zoom or MS Teams are at our fingertips and I can attend a Board meeting in my pyjamas.

This response gives me real hope for the future of our district: the resilience that diversity brings has helped us overcome the challenges brought by COVID-19, and will surely help us rebuild and move forward together. Now is the time to celebrate and draw on our diversity-advantage and work together to make a new normal.  This time has shown me how lucky I am as well as damped my fear of change. The future for my kids looks bright, and I think about the treasure at the end of the rainbows they paint. I think about how lucky we are, and how advantaged we are to live in such a diverse district which shines through a permanent kaleidoscope of people.

Matt Henderson
Project Support Officer