A Salford housing association is putting diversity at the core of its work and has joined with forces with a local Middle Eastern support group called Doosti Salford to mark Refugee Week 2021.
Ladies from the group, which offers a support network to Middle Eastern communities in Salford, came together and celebrated on the Broadwalk, Pendleton, with some spontaneous and intricate Persian dancing.
Many Middle Eastern Salfordians who make up Doosti Salford are refugees, and they wanted to share some of their customs, culture and music traditions with the people of Pendleton.
Pendleton Together, who manage just over 1,000 properties in the area on behalf of Salford City Council, organised the event as part of their FREDIE programme, which celebrates Fairness, Respect, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement as being part of the organisation and community.
The event included a series of individual dances which, after engaging with multiple passing children and adults, resulted in a colourful and energetic group dance.
Safieh Eskandari, spokesperson for Doosti Salford and who was leading the dancing, said: “Doosti is a Persian word for friendship, and that’s what our group provides.
“For refugees coming to Salford from the Middle East, or anywhere, it can be a daunting experience. You leave behind loved ones to find sanctuary, but you also need to find your place in your new home.
“Doosti Salford not only offer people a place to belong, we also work with other communities to share aspects of our culture. Dancing is great because everyone of every nationality and background love to hear, watch or take part in it. We enjoyed our time on the Broadwalk and were so pleased everyone joined in.
Gareth Wilkinson, Customer Involvement Manager at Pendleton Together, said it was important that we faced the the future together: “Pendleton Together’s name describes exactly what we’re trying to be; an organisation that not only provides homes, but a community that includes everyone.
Mr Wilkinson added: “The theme for Refugee Week 2021 is “We cannot walk alone” and we’re not intending for any of our residents or their community to do that; instead, let’s dance together”.
Members of the housing association have taken much inspiration from words spoken by Martin Luther King nearly sixty years ago. On August 28 in 1963, he said: “I have a dream today… And they have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
Julie Blagden is the Operations Manager to Pendleton Together and chairs the FREDIE steering group. The Steering group were nominated for the FREDIE Steering group of the Year at the FREDIE awards 2021, but sadly didn’t win this time.
She said: “Pendleton Together has always been about including everyone, but by signing up to the FREDIE principals, we’re able to show that we’re really doing that and, hopefully, gain independent recognition. We also involve everyone (we have staff, residents councillors and officer on our steering group), so we get real feedback on how we’re doing and can make realistic plans for improvement.
“I’ve always been passionate about making sure that everyone has the best opportunity in life and it’s great to see the staff working with residents and many others to make this a reality.”
Pendleton Together hope to get accreditation from the National Centre for Diversity in the coming months.