Veronica Mathabire (Racial Equality Council & The Zimbabwe Women Together in Plymouth) Interview

Interviewer: Bill Sheik

Organisations: Racial Equality Council & The Zimbabwe Women Together in Plymouth

Date: 19/2/12

Interview: 19:12

BILL: I’m just going to be sat here and ask you questions.


BILL: I’m just going to be sat here and ask you questions, ok.


BILL: It’s best if I sat here, that’s fine (recorded interference). Interview at 11th of January with Veronica…

VERONICA: Mathabire.

BILL: Sorry, um, interview is Bill Shake of Plymouth University, starting at 11 past 11. Thank you for participating in this project, were interested in talking to you about your personal experiences and history within the BME voluntary community sector. This interview will focus a little on your background and then go into your initial interest and involvement with the BE, BME organisation. Finally, I will end by asking you some questions about your opinion of the future of the BME and volunteer and community sector within your area. This interview should last around 30 to 45 minutes and anytime you want to stop, please feel free to do so.


BILL: If there area any questions you need me to explain more or you do not want to answer them, please let me know…


BILL: And I’ll skip over to the next question.

VERONICA: Thank you.

BILL: Any questions before we begin?

VERONICA: Um, not at the moment.

BILL: Ok, right. Um, would you like to tell us where you were born?

VERONICA: Um, I was born in Zimbabwe.

BILL: Um, when did you come to England?

VERONICA: Um, I came to England (Interference and noise); I came to England in April of 2000.

BILL: Um, why did you come to England?

VERONICA: Well, when I came, the main purpose of my visit ah, was to come for a holiday and then um, and, and, and, you just to visit family and then I’ll, it was just for about a month or so and err, I decided to go to, to University, which at the time was, um, I couldn’t get a place so I decided to enrol into an HND course.

BILL: Ok. Um, where do you live now?

VERONICA: Um, I live in Plymouth but when I came to England I was living in Bristol.

BILL: Is that where you did your HND course?

VERONICA: Yes sir.

BILL: Um, how many languages do you speak?

VERONICA: I only speak TEAL fluently.

BILL: Ok and what are they?

VERONICA: That’s English as additional.

BILL: Um, which ones your primary language that you speak at home?

VERONICA: Well, I kind of speak both really because I come from a mixed race family so you end up speaking both, so yeah.

BILL: Um, what was it like growing up in the neighbourhoods you lived in, ones from Zimbabwe and currently in England?

VERONICA: Well um, Isambard was the neighbour I lived err, was just a multicultural neighbourhood and um, everybody knew everybody and you know, you could go next door and borrow sugar that kind of a thing. Um, but unlike here you know, you can’t do that kind of thing, you have to know your neighbours. Well, it’s different, when I lived in Bristol, you know, you knew your neighbours and you know, you, you have a chat and you know, on the streets and the bus stop and maybe in Church. But here in Plymouth it’s a bit different, you know, you hardly know who lives next door to you.

BILL: Ok, um, what was it like in Bristol?

VERONICA: Um, in Bristol it was alright because everybody was quite friendly and everyone was quite neighbourly and quite helpful since Bristol is a, a quite a multicultural community itself so you know, you didn’t feel out of place at all.

BILL: Did you know about the BME when you arrived?

VERONICA: Um, I did know about other groups err, you know, like the Zimbabwe um, community group that, that’s there and the MDC, MCD group because you know, they used to have lots of activities that were going and um, I was involved in some you know, recreational activities with other groups, you know, like um, there was a Badminton group and you know, you had much multicultural people in the groups so you know, it wasn’t just um, a group that was joined or that only worked on British people; it was a group that was open to anybody who liked playing sports. So I was involved in other groups, just not BME groups but groups that involved everybody in the community really.

BILL: Ok, um, what organisation do you currently work for?

VERONICA: Err, I volunteer for About Time, I teach English on a Friday and err, also I volunteer for Racial Equality Council, I do voluntary work on a Tuesday afternoon.

BILL: Ok, and, and your role is being a teacher?

VERONICA: Yeah, you know, its just conversational English because err, when people um, newly come to the country they cant go and register at colleges so you have to, you know maybe make do with the courses that we offer them at About Time because they can come and they don’t pay, all they have to do is come for a meal and if they want to stay for lessons. But the only thing is that they don’t get a certificate for the lesson because it’s mostly, you know conversational and teaching people how, you know, to do the English alphabet because Some people come to countries that don’t err, learn, you know like when you look at people who learn Arabic, there alphabet is totally different to the way they do it hear. So it’s trying to teach people how to um, you know, what to say when they go to the GP, what to say when they go and see, err, maybe, err, somebody for advice, you know, conversational style.

BILL: Ok. How long have you worked for that organisation?

VERONICA: Err, I’ve volunteered for them, I think this is the second year now.

BILL: Ok. And how long has it been around for?

VERONICA: Oh, for quite a long time now. Err, since I came to Plymouth it’s been going so they’ve been going for quite a long time.

BILL: Um, what’s the purpose of the, um, the purpose of the organise, organisation?

VERONICA: Err, with About Time the main purpose is you know to um, teach people how to speak English and also um, try to involve people in um, given the skills that they have because they have what they call Time Band so because most of the asylum seekers can’t work as you know, all they do is voluntary work so if you know that so and so has a skill that you might need or I have a skill that I have that I can offer to somebody, you go and bank your skill, you know, you go and maybe do gardening for somebody and when you need something done you just go to them and just say I need something done in the Time Banding can do it for me. It’s just trying to involve the, the locals together with asylum seekers to Bank and be on time and you know, share their skills with somebody.

BILL: Ok. Um, what communities or groups does it service?

VERONICA: Well, everybody really. Anyone who wants to learn English or anybody who wants to teach English so it involves people from the communities err, you know, from the Plymouth community, anybody, the locals and the asylum seekers who would be relocated to Plymouth.

BILL: Ok. Um, why did you join it?

VERONICA: Well, because I wanted to give back to the community and err, since I, myself can’t get paid work, you know, I just oh, I thought oh well, you know, since I’ve got the training um, I did a PTLLS course with Open Doors and um, with that PTLLS, a PTLLS course, it prepares you to teach err, to teach, you know, you know adults. So I’ve been doing that and making use of the qualification that I’ve got.

BILL: Ok. Um, what needs do you see this organisation fulfilling for the community?

VERONICA: Well, because err, most of the grants for ESOL lessons have been, have been cut down now and there’s a need in the community for the English lessons because you find that a lot of people err, who have been sent to Plymouth have little knowledge of err, English and they will need to be able to speak English in case they get their um, um, in case, in case they are granted err, the stay in the country or even if they are not granted but still they will need to be able to communicate to whom ever, to who ever is offering them, them services or when they need support, they need to be able to explain what they need.

BILL: Ok. And what types of events does your organisation put on?

VERONICA: Um, with About Time they’ve got different parties in the summer. They got summer parties and around Christmas time they also have parties and because err, it’s a multicultural group, you know, they allow people from other groups to come and do whatever events that they do and they don’t really say it’s a Christmas thing because some people don’t really celebrate Christmas so to them it would be just a party. So when they have any like, what some people might say, oh were having Easter, they will just have a party, not Easter because not everybody celebrates Easter. And err, when we look at err, the Racial Equality Council they have the respect first of all and err, err, with the other group that I’m involved with err, err, a woman’s group called Worth As Well, err, they have different activities for woman, err, multi, you know, all women in the community really who can come in and share your skills, be it making beads or just going for walks or trips with their children but it’s a women’s group and err, you know, there’s a mother and women’s group involved with it as well. We’ve got a training sessions for the women and we’ve got different activities of where we go and maybe cook for different events that are held in the, in the Plymouth community. The Eid refuge week or err, other parties for asylum seekers and refugees or if are cooking for um, oh gosh what’s it called? For Start you know, they’ve got their cultural kitchen on a Friday, sometimes you go and offer our services to cook Zimbabwean food so the people can you know, learn about the food and the culture in my country.

BILL: So you do work with other organisations as well?

VERONICA: Yeah, well quite a lot of organisations, yeah.

BILL: Um, what involvements do you personally have in these events?

VERONICA: Um, oh because err, with um, most of um, the groups that I work with, I’m a volunteer so I tend to take you know, a lot of um, volunteering activities in them so I might do one of myself and maybe in a day work with maybe 3 or 4 groups and volunteering my time doing whatever they, they ask me to do. And if it’s with my group that I founded in 2009, I try to err, get the women together and have the women do certain things with other people in the community so they can see err, what Zambian women do err, in their countries so they can learn about our culture.

BILL: What was the group you founded?

VERONICA: The Zimbabwe Women Together in Plymouth.

BILL: Um, what do you think of BME volunteer community organisations in general?

VERONICA: Well, I think in this present climate we are kind of suffering a great deal because you know, the funding situation and with your government there’s um, um, in place right now because you know all the resources have just been cut down so we suffering quite a great deal. And I’m just hoping in future you know, other opportunities are open to us, um, err, because as it right now I think most groups are going to suffer because we don’t have you know, a place to meet. You know if you don’t have a place to meet, how can you meet really and if you don’t have enough funding to hire a place where you can hire a place where you can go and meet on a regular basics, groups are going to suffer.

BILL: Ok. Um, did you find the BME quite useful then?

VERONICA: The BME groups. Oh yeah, they, I found them quite useful because there isn’t any other platform for us to come together and meet if it weren’t for those BME groups, I don’t see any other groups in the community that can um, that are quite welcoming to us, outsiders to come and join and take part.

BILL: Um, what impact do you think these organisations have had on the area where you live?

VERONICA: Well, I think you know, every area where you move to and when people see new people, there not that welcoming because their afraid and there usually afraid of what they don’t know. But if you put yourself out there in the community and err, let yourself known; I’m sure your cultures with your people in your community and you know, remove the stigma that they had in their minds. You know you find that, err, people are more than err, welcoming to people who come in and err, you know, they just, it just removes the stigma around, you know, that, that has been um, going on in the communities. Because you know, when they see somebody they just think oh, you know, when like somebody comes to you and they hear that you’re from Africa, the first question they ask you is oh, so do you run away from monkeys everyday, do you run away from lions, you know, that kind of a thing and you’re thinking well I don’t live in a jungle. So they’ve got this thing in their head that you know, when your from a certain err, area, err, no, a certain um, country you’re supposed to be living with animals or you don’t have any buildings and somebody will come to you and say oh, so when did you start wearing clothes you know, as if maybe by the time you go to Heathrow, Gatwick, that’s when somebody get you know, a pair of jeans to wear or something like that. They don’t know that you know, you live err, in a, you don’t live in a primitive um, um, country because you know, it’s just a stigma that people have and the fear that’s instilled to them about us by the media and that’s what they have in their heads.

BILL: So the BME’s quite welcome?

VERONICA: Yeah, yeah. The BME community are quite welcoming but it’s just you know, for, it’s up to the BME groups to go into the communities and err, teach people and show people and educate people about you know, where they’ve come from, what their capable of doing and err, you know, what they can offer.

BILL: Um, how would you actually define heritage if you had to?

VERONICA: Heritage, well I would define it as um, you know, the culture that beneaths the back, the families of people really.

BILL: Ok, um…

VERONICA: The people, the history and culture.

BILL: And what impact do you think that your personal cultural heritage has had in the area you live in?

VERONICA: Well, in the area I live in… Well, I’m still looking at that (laughter). Well, because you know, the way we were brought up, we were brought up to except people for who they are and it’s quite difficult you know, when you’re living in a culture where people don’t except you, so it’s quite difficult to except people who are not excepting you, you know. So um, you know, were trying, were still trying, err, to look at it, you know of getting ah, a way ah, around people, you know, in accepting us really. Were still have to learn and maybe educate the other people about so that they don’t fear us.

BILL: Do you do talks in local community centres?

VERONICA: Ah, what we have done, we haven’t done talks as much because, it, it ah, comes down to funding. But what we have done is do one to one with other community groups ah, it, when we started off the groups in 2009, ah, ah, I wrote letters to different community groups, I went there, introduced our group and invited err, some um, leaders from other community groups to our meetings to introduce themselves and also tell them what we do and what we are about.

BILL: Ok. Um, what do you see as the future of BME volunteer community sector?

VERONICA: Well, with a, with a enough support, you know, I see our self really flourishing in, in the community and I see ourselves, you know, doing more in the community, given the resources that we need.

BILL: Ok. Um, I want to thank you for your time. Um, do you have anything else that you want to say or add?

VERONICA: Um, well I want to said, well you know, um, concerning BME groups, especially in Plymouth you know, it would be really um, be beneficial to us if we had um, organisation like the City Council consulting us you know, where our lives are concerned really because um, I remember last week we had um, a meeting with err, one of the members from the David City team you know, people like us, we had a meeting with Kevin McKenzie and you know, just talking to him, you know, he just brought out err, something that really surprised us, you know, because these different consultations that are done concerning the BME groups and I was really surprised with, I was really shocked we he come up and said “oh sometimes we have to make decisions on your behalf, you know, without either bothering to consult us”. So it seems like a lot of things that happen in the community in the City Council and everywhere else, without anybody bothering to consult us and make decisions about us without even knowing what we really need.

BILL: Um, um, thank you for that. Um, the final report will be made in summer 2011. I hope you’re be able to use it, in your community and your community benefits. Would you know anyone else who would be interested in doing an interview?

VERONICA: Um, I have um, asked a few people and hopefully they will contact you.

BILL: Ok, ok, thank you.

VERONICA: Thank you.

BILL: Err; time is 11:29 and 19 minutes…



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