Selina Stewart (BEACh & Friends Group) Interview

Interviewer: Vita Terry

Organisation: BEACh & Friends Group

Date of interview: 18/10/2011

Interviewer: Please tell me your name and your role in the organisation?

Selina: My name is Selina Stewart, and the organisations name is BEACh

Interviewer: Where were you born?

Selina: I was born in China, Guangdong Province.

Interviewer: When did you first come to England?

Selina: I first came to England in 1957 until 1961. The reason why I came here was because I married a Scots man in Hong Kong. We got married in 1957. I came here first to live in Bristol, and then the family went back to Hong Kong. I had a baby, called Sam. We went back to Hong Kong in 1961.

Interviewer: When did you return back to England?

Selina: I returned back to the UK in 1969 to stay for good. I now live in Bath now.

Interviewer: How many languages do you speak?

Selina: I speak English, and in Chinese I speak three languages. We have our own dialect, and Cantenese, and Mandarin.

Interviewer: Which language did you speak at home?

Selina: We spoke Cantonese at home, because I was born in Guangdong, so its Cantonese dialect

Interviewer: Which language did you and your husband speak?

Selina: Me and my husband used to speak English.

Interviewer: How did you feel living in Bath?

Selina: I lived in Bath because I bought a business in Bath. A woveing shop on London road. And I ran the business for 14 years, so from there I met a lot of people, Chinese and English customers. I am quite comfortable and happy to live in Bath. I have enjoyed my time living in Bath.

Interviewer: When you first came to bath did you join any organisations?

Selina: I did not join any organisations at first, because at first I was busy in the shop, with the business. But in-between quite a lot of people who could not speak English came to me for help me. And I also helped the police in Bristol, and in Bath, as an interpreter. Sometimes in the police station and sometimes in the courts. Because in the 70’s it was very difficult to find people to do translating work. I have got a Chinese friend whose husband, he is English, he is a policeman in Bristol, and he knew that I could speak both languages. The first job that he asked me to do was in Bristol.

Interviewer: How long have you worked for BEACH?

Selina: Actually I started to form the group BEACH because over the years I came to Bath in 1972, and over the years I got lots of people who came to ask me for help. To see the doctor, documents, interpreting, so it was a lot of work. And then I thought we must have an organisation to help more people in Bath. I was one of the founders. At first a couple of friends came together and we thought we need to have an organisation, but where to start. Luckily someone from the Racial Equality Council, I think his name is Raj, he approached the Chinese first. He approached a Chinese restaurant, and then he met Catherine Wong in Fairfield House. The senior citizen project in Fairfield house, and he said the Chinese population in Bath is quite a big community so why do you not have an organisation. And that time we were thinking of starting an organisation, so I spoke to Catherine who worked in Fairfield house. And she said funny enough I was just approached by Raj, so how about we get together and we talk about it. At first we gathered six people and went to Catherine’s house and we talked about it, and we all agreed we should start an organisation in Bath. When we start to talk about it, it was about 2003.

Interviewer: When you started the organisation what did you want to achieve?

Selina: The purpose when we set up the organisation, we wanted to break the barrier, like language and we wanted to help people to blend in with the local people. We wanted to help people, lots of people came here, older people who cant speak English.

Interviewer: Who is the organisation for?

Selina: We have Chinese and also have friends. I think now we have over 90 members, and at least 20-30 English people, and they enjoy our culture too. Because we have two important events. One is New Year and the other is the Moon festival, and lots of English people come to join us and enjoy the activities.

Interviewer: What services do you provide?

Selina: BEACH helps people, translating, interpreting, to help with the forms. They come to the office, we help with filling in forms and reading letters.

Interviewer: Have you had a big involvement?

Selina: I have had a big involvement in the organisation. I myself help with the place and cooking food.

Interviewer: Do you think BME charities have had a good impact in general in Bath?

Selina: Of course I think the BME charities have had a big impact in Bath. I think they have done a great job to help the minority groups. From my experience with the Chinese at least they have helped to break the barrier of activities and language and culture, to help lots of people to understand the English culture as well. I think they have had a great impact on the people.

Interviewer: What do you think the future will be for BME charities?

Selina: I worry about the future because a lot of funding is being cut. I feel that we have done a lot to plant a tree and we water it and we look after it, we fertilise it, and now the tree is having no water and no fertiliser. It is dying I am afraid. I think it will effect a lot of ethnic minority charities.

Interviewer: How has your personal cultural heritage had an impact on society?

Selina: When I first came to Bath, I had a shop, and contributed Bath and society. And I helped the Chinese, interpreting, read the forms, writing letters. And then after I gave up the shop I went to join Fairfield house Black and Ethnic Minority Senior citizens association, and I was the management committee member. And I was the Chinese representative, so if the Chinese had any problem and needed help they come through me and I organised things to help.

Interviewer: Are you sad that you are moving back to China and leaving these organisations?

Selina: I am very that I am leaving these organisations to move back to China. Because for myself this is my second home country, and I have lots of old friends. They all feel sad for me to leave and me too. Because I live here in England for over 40 years, and met lots of friends, and I enjoy helping people.

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