Celebrating Black History Month 2021: five questions with Miriam Robertson

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Celebrating Black History Month 2021 we speak to an inspiring group we’ve supported for over a decade. Find out what North Somerset BME Network is doing for Black History Month, who inspires founding member Miriam Robertson, and what makes her proud.

"It has been a very difficult time for vulnerable people for whom English is not their first language as everything has gone online or over the phone."

-Miriam Robertson Founding Member North Somerset BME Network

North Somerset Black and Minority Ethnic Network (North Somerset BME Network) provide a community for all to engage with, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or age. They promote social inclusion and equality providing education, information and support to all BME residents in North Somerset.

Five questions with Miriam Robertson from North Somerset BME Network

By Charlene Lawrence,  Engagement Officer at Quartet Community Foundation

1). For those who may not have heard of you before, tell us a bit about your organisation?

“The office is based in Weston-super-Mare at the Centre of Equality, Diversity and Culture where we hold most of our activities and services.”

Find out about their regular services

·         A weekly free English Class for BME individuals who wish to improve or have very little English. Every Wednesday 12.30 – 1.30pm.

·         A weekly safe space for women at the offices in Orchard Place for them to learn English and to socialise and get important information regarding services available.

·         A weekly Wellbeing Café for people to meet and to learn about different services and topics through talks by speakers from a host of agencies and organisations from the voluntary and statutory sectors. Saturdays 12 – 1pm.

·         A drop-in for people who are isolated, or in need of information or support. We also offer signposting and support for issues of discrimination, housing, immigration, benefits etc.

“Also, our organisation offers opportunities to many volunteers to become involved and help in various capacities and roles to give them confidence and to make them feel valued and proud to be of help to the community where they live.

“Serves as a drop-in centre, for a coffee and chat.”

2). How has the pandemic affected your organisation and the people you support?

“It has been a very difficult time for vulnerable people for whom English is not their first language as everything has gone online or over the phone.

“Also social distancing and lockdowns has meant that issues of isolation, depression and mental health have risen.

“Concern still around whether the office is safe enough. We have masks, disinfectants, alcohol hand wash etc.

“We’ve lost some of our volunteers but they are slowly coming back.”

North Somerset BME Network is based in central Weston-super-Mare

Proud to be part of an organisation with committed volunteers

"I'd like to mention some of the volunteers... including Sayd Ahmed, Alison Bancroft, Ian Noah, Karen Lee, Carmela Kellaway, Zeina Banks, Semra Eser and others who give their time."

-Miriam Robertson Founding Member North Somerset BME Network

3). This year’s theme for Black History Month is ‘Proud to be’, what is your proudest achievement both personally and for the organisation?

“For the organisation was receiving the Queens Award for Voluntary Services.

“For me personally is to have been able to resume case work.”

4). Who or what inspires your work?

“Our volunteers – seeing volunteers and clients getting empowered by learning, volunteering and being with us.

“Our clients – seeing them having their issues resolved and blossoming slowly as they start being able to fully participate in the community and to access services they need.”

5). What will your organisation be doing to celebrate Black History Month?

“We’re involved in a programme of activities including:

·         The opening of the Chat Room at our offices (recently opened by the Mayor of Weston-super-Mare)

·         The creation of a Black History website

·         A Black History Month exhibition at our offices

·         An event to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

·         A week of events to mark Black History Month.”

Quartet Community Foundation would like to thank Miriam Robertson of North Somerset BME Network for helping us celebrate Black History Month, and for sharing insights into what makes her feel proud, and inspired.