Learning from Making Migration Work

Published by: Teresa Norman

Published on: 27 Feb, 2020

Learning about migration at the Making Migration Work Event on February 5th, a joint venture with Union Chapel.

Hearing the stories of fellow migrants often inspires and comforts those new to the UK. From every story there is something to learn. This was the goal of the recent TGIUK event where there were many tales of success and connection, giving hope and inspiration, and a new piece of wisdom. 

We have stories in the press everyday about migration numbers and the difficulties migrants face. These are both real and challenging but in the midst of this, we forget that there is another reality, there are people migrating to the UK, who are enriching all of our lives: introducing new businesses, new food and new music – to name just three categories.

Why should we celebrate these people? Well, we learnt much at the Making Migration Work event, a joint venture between TogetherintheUK and Union Chapel and here we are sharing our learning.

Opening Address of the event

We learnt from hearing the stories of entrepreneurs who had set up flourishing businesses in the UK that if you start off as a migrant, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else.

Why is this? Well, to start with, you have to learn a new language and then you have no network to support you or platform underneath you. The opportunities that are there will only become clear to you over time – no one is going to point them out to you.

And when you do find them, you are going to work really hard to make them happen. Your experience of migration will most probably have made you self-reliant and determined.

We heard stories of how people had started working as a security guard and ended up setting up international businesses, of how someone had gone from being a cleaner to a lawyer and how Dr Moses Woldelassie had found his own method of learning a new language and has now set up a business in Artificial intelligence.

Diverse Crowd Attending
The very attentive audience at the event

We are far from reality TV here, we are in the territory of long hours, no weekends and an absolute determination to do what it takes. And you are going to see the world in a different way, you are likely to be more innovative in what you do. We heard from one speaker at the event about the opportunities there are, with millions of people migrating around the world for businesses serving migrants.

One of my favourite examples of a migrant seeing the world differently is Charly (from Cameroon) , who finding that his publisher would not promote his brilliant self-published book ‘How I won my war’ went out into the streets and sold it himself. Once a homeless person had told him how to do it, he was away, selling 17 a day. You need to see the world differently to have another approach to it.

Of course, its not just the entrepreneurship that we need to value. It’s also music and food. There are several refugee entrepreneurs setting up catering businesses and it means that an event like Making Migration Work, we are not handing out tired sandwiches and canapés, but delighting everyone by offering glorious Syrian mezzes. (from the Damascus Chef). We are going to find that supporting refugees is going to change corporate catering very much for the better in the future.

Vietnamese Boat people
The Truong brothers sharing their story

We also learnt the importance of kindness. The Truong brothers told their incredible story, of how 40 years ago, their family was rescued from the South China Sea and came to the UK. They are here today because of Captain Healy Martin who picked them up and took them to Hong Kong. They are flourishing now partly because of the support they received from the Ockendon Ventures and at Making Migration Work, they wanted to tell their story and share their gratitude for the support their family had received.

Richard Roach Prose

And of course, there is the music and the poetry. We heard from a wonderful Nigerian singer, Ogo who wrote her own song about migration for us, ‘Where we are is home’ and from a poet, Richard Roach who wrote beautifully of the joys and sorrows of migration, combining wonderful English with patois.

We also really enjoyed Anthony Ant’s wonderful combining of rap, singing and dancing with his song ‘Sunday Night Dynamite’. This art form is really astonishing, combining spoken word poetry, singing and dancing.

So why an evening when we don’t campaign or ask for any change? We just want to enjoy that we are TogetherintheUK? Many reasons:

  1. There are many people with very inspiring stories who have no platform. By running an event like ‘Making Migration Work’, we provided a space and an audience
  2. We have so much to learn from people who see the world differently
  3. One of the most profound learnings that came out of it was the importance of hope and kindness
  4. We need inspiration in these difficult times and the inspiration is easily found, by understanding each other a bit more, by being curious about each other and finding out what someone has overcome to be the person they are

You can find out more about the event and the stories by going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQNfPZeDt1w.

To find out more stories about migrants coming to live in the UK, go to https://www.togetherintheUK.co.uk. And please consider subscribing.

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