What has been Camden Somali Cultural Centre’s role in the pandemic and what inspired you to get involved?
Ubah: In normal times, we have so much going on – including advice and information services, a supplementary school for children, and a parent and toddler group. Everyone was shocked when lockdown began and we had to adjust quickly.
As well as dealing with people’s urgent needs relating to lockdown and our normal work, we worked with Camden Council to disseminate information to the Somali community. We fed into the wider advice network – the pandemic has impacted health, housing and finances so there’s so much need.
We helped share the government’s You Are Not Alone domestic abuse awareness campaign – I was asked to be a community spokesperson because lockdown increased the number of domestic abuse cases and affected our community as well as others. We featured on African and Somali TV and local radio, in English and Somali language. It was important to spread the word about the help available even in lockdown.
John: Our information and advice service had always been face-to-face because this is hugely important to the Somali community. We rearranged ourselves to offer services via phone and email. We’ve started our in-person appointments again, and they fill up so quickly because people do want to see you – I’ve known some people in the community for many years.
Rukia: We had lots of calls in lockdown where people didn’t understand that we couldn’t just visit, so it was very difficult.
Is there an organisation or group you would like to see recognised for their support for people in Camden during the pandemic?
Ubah: The Kosmos Centre is doing fantastic work by staying in touch with people, adapting and keeping their services going. They’ve been very supportive.