There has been an awful lot in the press for quite a while now, about immigration, and more often than not, there are negative connotations attached. Now, I don't want to get all political, because I actually think there are several different issues at stake, two of which are; those that are already here, and those that have yet to arrive. Should the government make changes to the immigration rules? Probably, but for those that are already here, this is home.
I live in Bristol, and I love the crazy mix of people and cultures that make up the city. Just walking along Gloucester Road, the main walking route into the city, there are countless different cuisines wafting up my nose, tempting me to try something new, and shops full of foods I've never heard of and couldn't hope to pronounce correctly. They are lots of other cultural influences within the city, at various times of year, that all help make the city a far more interesting place and creates a colourful, welcoming environment to walk around.
There is a strong history of immigration in this country, dating back to the 1830's. People will always have opinions on the level of immigration that is right or fair, and the motives for people travelling to our country to live, but those that are already here are people, with families and jobs, friendships and relationships. Their children attend our schools and, in a lot of cases, have no idea that they have roots anywhere else. It was reported in The Daily Telegraph that Polish youngsters in British schools are raising the bar and boosting their English counterparts grades, despite, in some cases, speaking little or no English. This has been attributed to a strong work ethic, which they have brought with them from their homeland. What interested me about this study is what else they could bring to our schools. Children learn so much socially from being at school and the increase in pupils with english as a second language gives them the opportunity to learn acceptance and tolerance, something that is often lacking in our adult society. In the recent television programme Britain's Biggest Primary School, the teaching staff had such a difficult challenge, with a high turn over of immigrant children coming and going. This could have been detrimental to all the pupils, but the teachers turned it around, placing new arrivals with pupils who were already settled and creating an ethos of friendship and teamwork that was a joy to behold.
I always think we can learn a lot from the innocent, straight forward thinking of our young people. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could put aside the politics and see each other as people, like the children did in that programme. I don't mean to oversimplify, I know it's not possible in all cases, but it would be a great example to set, if we said hi to our Polish neighbours, without thinking any further about it. Maybe learned a few words of Polish, or, failing that, do what my husband did. Many years ago, in his old job, he was required to take deliveries and the lorry drivers were often from Europe with little or no English. It was sometimes a challenge to work out what their native language was. On one occasion, after several minutes, trying out different options; ' Romania?' 'No.' 'Latvia?' 'No.' He eventually hit the nail on the head; 'Polska?' he asked. 'Yes!' the driver replied. Hurrah! Except, my husband speaks not one word of Polish. But he does know football. 'Ah, *Kazimierz Deyna!' exclaimed my husband, in a flash of inspiration. 'Ah, Bobby Charlton!' came the reply and a common ground was reached. It's easy to make people feel welcome, you just need to use a little imagination.
|*A famous Polish footballer, so I'm told!|
This article was written by a Polish man living in the UK, and is one of many on Lebara's communities section of their website. As well as providing cheap mobile phone coverage abroad, they also provide a hub for people who are living away from home, as well as working to ensure developing countries receive basic necessities for a better life. They've recently begun hosting competitions on their website and currently have one running for an ipad mini! You can enter below.
This is a sponsored post, in association with Lebara, they do amazing charity work and are well worth checking out, honest!