This Black History Month, KeepingWellNEL Wellbeing Advisor, Ilhan, shares with us her story, including her heritage and culture and why wellbeing is so important to overcoming health inequalities in our communities.
“I have been living in the UK since 2013 and it was a long journey to get to where we are today. I was born in Somalia is 1990 and soon after me and my family had to flee a civil war that broke down due to tribalism. We had to escape through Kenya and my parents and extended family went through a huge ordeal, fighting for their lives and leaving what was ones their cherished home. At that moment Somalia’s people went into survival mode and everyone fled to whichever country would take them in as Asylum seekers. At the time Holland had taken us in and we are forever grateful for the life we built there. We lived in a camp where we were safe, but the uncertainty of what the future held and the possibility of not returning to Somalia was difficult to accept. Both my parents and grandma suffered from PTSD and struggled to understand what had happened.
Eventually we got accustomed to a new life in the Netherlands and adapted to living a new country. It was challenging for my parents and grandma to pick up a new language and integrate into the Dutch culture. They emphasised the importance to us as children to balance our cultural customs with integrating into a new culture. Me and my older sister Nimo were babies when we moved so whilst speaking Dutch was the norm for us, it was nice that we spoke Somali at home. Though we were accepted with opens arms by most in the Dutch culture, we also experienced racism and that always made us feel separate in some ways. Both my parents struggled mentally, my father had received help for PTSD from the war and thankfully got better. My mother still struggles with her mental health, and it made parenting quite difficult for her but luckily my grandma always stepped in and she lived with us her whole life.
In 2001, my dad started seeking citizenship for the family in the USA. He always dreamt of a better life for us and better education, something he felt was quite limited in Holland at that time. My mother tried moving there with us but she didn’t like it and felt mentally it was better for her to return to Holland, she then moved to London to be nearer her aunties and uncles and found a place to live in north west London. In 2012 after finishing university, I decided to I move to the UK to support my mother. My sister eventually joined me in 2017 and now four of us are here in London and my dad and other two siblings are in America.
Whilst caring for my mother I decided to balance finding my ideal career and landed in recruitment for several years. Though I gained a lot of skills from that profession, I’ve always wanted to be in the mental health field and support people who struggle with their mental health, especially those from the BAME community. I am able to use my experience with my mother to help other’s going through a similar experience and support them with their needs. I cherish being in a profession that promotes inclusion and diversity; therefore, I joined KeepingWellNEL as a Wellbeing Chat Advisor.
Each of us is unique and building on resilience and improving our wellbeing are key to overcoming health inequalities in our communities. I hope Black History Month continues to raise awareness of the social injustices and health inequalities we face as black people across the world. I am proud of how far we have come and aspire to continue to promote health equality, unity in communities, and the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“We had to escape through Kenya and my parents and extended family went through a huge ordeal, fighting for their lives and leaving what was ones their cherished home.”
“I’ve always wanted to be in the mental health field and support people who struggle with their mental health, especially those from Black and minority ethnic communities. I cherish being in a profession that promotes inclusion and diversity; therefore, I joined KeepingWellNEL as a Wellbeing Chat Advisor.”