By Ruwaida Adam – Mohammed, Co-Chair of the Co-op Rise network
My name is Ruwaida and I work in the Food team as a Process Project Officer, I’m also Co-Chair of the Co-op Rise network.
I’m really proud to be part of the Rise Network. It was created to promote the benefits of diversity and inclusiveness at work by enhancing the cultural empathy and understanding of Co-op in educating colleagues about cultural and religious events.
This week is Loneliness Awareness Week and Co-op in partnership with the British Red Cross are releasing research into the experience of loneliness in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, an area where there is very little research. There are some great insights in the report.
A finding that I’ve found really interesting and totally relate to is that despite many people from BAME backgrounds being part of large communities, simply being with other people does not protect you from feeling lonely.
I was born in Somalia, raised in Dubai and am currently living here in the UK with my husband and two little boys. I live in a busy community and am surrounded by people. On paper, this means I probably wouldn’t have instances of loneliness but that isn’t true – I’m sure most people, regardless of ethnicity, have periods where they do feel that way.
The community I come from is very family orientated with any excuse to come together, because most of the community’s families are far away or separated in one way or another. By coming together momentarily we almost forget that we are lonely or miss our families back home.
In some ways, I believe that BAME communities almost think to suffer from loneliness is not in our DNA as we have a strong network around us. This is true to some extent however, when I had my sons I had a feeling that I couldn’t describe and only when I returned to work from maternity leave that I realised I’d been feeling a little lonely – and being back in a work environment helped me feel less so.
The Rise network has really helped me as it is a social community of support. It provides a safe place for people like me from under-represented minorities to speak frankly about experiences. This can help them to achieve more in their career at Co-op and also talk about the everyday things that are affecting us from language barriers to loneliness – nothing is off limits.
My advice to all colleagues is that if you’re feeling lonely please talk about it. No matter what your background is, we’re all human and can feel lonely at times. The Employee Assistance Program LifeWorks can support you if you’re experiencing loneliness.
Through our work with the British Red Cross we’ve raised more than £6.7m, to tackle loneliness. This has allowed us to set up British Red Cross services in locations around the country, where we’ve helped thousands of people who are lonely to reconnect with their community.
If you’re a BAME colleague, you can find out more about the Rise network here.