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INTERVIEW WITH RUKIA

Tower Hamlets Resident

Q: Please tell me about yourself.

A: My name is Rukia. I grew up Tower Hamlets, I went to primary and secondary school here. I live with my mother, but I come from a big family. I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters, and lots of nieces and nephews. I come from banking background. In fact, I worked in the sector for 16 years. However, I was not satisfied with the banking sector as its more sales focused in making money rather than customer service.

I started working in the community thanks to account3. Back in 2013, I went to a job fair where I met some staff from account3 who encouraged me to apply for a role advertised for Beside Mental Health Community Project. I was interested in the opportunity to work in the community but was unsure what I wanted to do and if I had the right skills. All I knew was that I wanted to work with people and help people. I applied for an admin role for the ‘Beside’ Mental health community project who were based in account3, as I enjoy supporting people and helping them with their ongoing struggles with mental health. I co-facilitated different groups, such as a cooking club, and organised outings for our members. I was admin and my main job was to support both facilitators and members. In 2016, we got ‘Beside’ members involved in the ‘Loneliness’ project with was done in collaboration with account3. Unfortunately, beside closed its doors in 2016 due to insufficient funding. I ended up working in the community for ‘Mind in Tower Hamlets & Newham’ and as of recently I started working as project worker for the Leap project. My role is to support individuals with lived experience of mental health accessing our Peer Leader training and development, which enables them to then go on and lead their own community group or workshops. The Leap project has been very successful and many of our Peer Leaders are currently running their own community groups such as, Cycling, Self-Care Women of Diversity support Group, Poetry, Walking group, Men’s support group and many more.


Q: What are your aspirations and challenges?

A: I am a person that loves to give and see positive changes, by lifting people up and promoting hope. I like to see people smile and be proud of their achievement despite their struggle with mental health. I am proud to be part of the MIND team. I want to continue to inspire, motivate and help people to live their lives to their fullest. I want to see the best in people, be part and make a positive change in their lives. I love to see people thriving and I go out of my way to support and help them to achieve their goals.

I have always had a very positive outlook in life, even when it comes to challenges. I do not see them as something negative. Rather, the challenges I face motivate me, they do not push me back. Challenges enable me to excel.


Q: How do you feel about being part of Tower Hamlets Women's Network?

A: It is great to have the Network and women connecting within the borough. I think it’s fantastic that there is a place for women of Tower Hamlets to uplift. empower and motivate each other, to share ideas and experiences.


Q: What do you like about living in Tower Hamlets?

A: I love the diversity of the borough and the transport accessibility. I have always enjoyed living in TH, as it is close to the city and many local places of interest. I enjoy travelling but I always come back to Tower Hamlets. It is my home. I particularly enjoy walking around Shoreditch and Brick Lane and looking at the different artworks. What excites me is that LBTH is always changing and evolving.


Q: What do you dislike about Tower Hamlets?

A: I do not like seeing disused land and that most pieces of empty space are used for new blocks to be built. There are some amazing old buildings, but I am not fond of modern builds. To be honest, I find them ugly as they do not fit in with the rest of the architecture. I really do not like the amount of Chicken shops there are in the borough. They need to get rid of most fast-food places, which offer very unhealthy foods.

I do not like the rubbish and dirt, that you often see on streets. People should be more responsible, as this is their neighbourhood, their living space live. Yet, they drop their rubbish on the floor and are not responsible for cleaning up after themselves.

I also do not appreciate the indifference of some people, particularly when issues impact us and everyone around.


Q: What changes would you like to see in Tower Hamlets?

A: I would like for house prices to be cheaper so people can afford to buy. Although Tower Hamlets looks nice and everything seems so accessible, there is a transition. I have seen communities leave. Majority of people from the Bengali community have moved outside of the area, as they probably cannot afford the living costs in the borough, which have become very expensive, especially renting.

Currently I don’t work with young people, there are no spaces for them or programmes to attend. More money should be invested into youth programs to engage them socially, after all they are the future.

Especially in Bethnal Green Road, I would like to see a variety of different shops, that particularly cater to women, such as inclusive clothing shops, and local independent coffee shops for people to enjoy coffee while chatting with their friends. Not just fast food and grocery shops, which are very predominant in the area.


Q: What is your message to the women in Tower Hamlets?

A: Continue to thrive and take opportunities to empower yourselves with resources that are available in Tower Hamlets and always be your best authentic self.


Q: What is your message to Tower Hamlets Council?

A: The cost of living and rent prices withing the borough need to be reduced. TH Council needs to invest more money into the community, especially for young people and women. They need to be given more opportunities. There is too much youth crime, and something needs to be done about it. The Council needs take in consideration providing a safe space for all residents. Immediate action is needed for people facing housing issues, such as their heating not working. They need to invest more to keep the streets in TH clean. However, we do not want empty words and promises, we need actions.

There needs to be more investment in mental health in the borough, such as Mind in Tower Hamlet & Newham. We are very valuable to the community, as a mental health charity, we work hard to support our vulnerable clients and therefore more funding is needed to continue our fantastic work.

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