Resilience

Wellbeing is a general term that has increasingly entered our everyday conversations. The Resilience artworks explore a deeper, more personal view of what wellbeing and the term “strength” means to individuals, with intent to serve as a reminder that we all have our own view of what it means to be well and resilient.

Working with participants of the Zfit Community and members of the public to understand their impressions of wellbeing and mental health through the topic of ‘Resilience’; following one-to-one interviewing, Emma visually portrayed their perceptions of “Where do you draw your strengths from” through the medium of body art.​
The Resilience project was funded by the University of Leicester’s ‘Health Matters’ community engagement project, thanks to the generosity of the Edith Murphy Foundation.​

Recognising the differing health needs of Leicester’s diverse population, ‘Health Matters’ runs community-specific campaigns of current and important health issues under the banner of ‘Wellbeing Matters’. A major focus lies in supporting better mental health and wellbeing by providing a space for open dialogue and helping to reduce stigma.

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Zeenat Sinay
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Zeenat

Emma: So, I’ve just asked everybody to introduce themselves at the beginning so something about themselves, who you are, just introduce yourself!
Zee: My name is Zee. Err, I head up Zfit which is a women’s health and well-being – I think it started off as a fitness/Zumba but it’s kind of evolved a little bit into a sort of health and holistic well-being organisation in Leicester. I also…err…work at the job centre. I am a single Mum. I think that’s me.

Emma: Why did you want to take part in this project? Why did you wanna do it?
Zee: [clears throat] Erm, it all kind of started when I saw the artwork at the African Caribbean centre and the pieces that I saw just told such a story, and i…just thought well you know- I… had well I’ve erm. Zfit’s been going on for about 8 years now. It wasn’t just about me it was more about what I knew of the ladies of Zfit and I just thought, you know what? Err, something like this would be so good…for some of the women of Zfit. Just cus they’ve got so much, th-there’s just so much there to tell and for the world to know about. So, then I tried to find out who was behind the project and well, you know it was someone that actually came to one of my classes! I thought you know what this is just meant to be, this is just destiny, so. It was just, the the paint- the paintings drew me. And I just thought, I wanted to be part of this. I don’t know how, I don’t know how it’s gonna evolve or, where it’s gonna take me but, the woman of Zfit and, we just need to be involved in somehow.

Emma: How do you describe strength?
Zee: Strength is a combination of your physical…it’s not actually it’s not even physical. It’s internal. Strength is an internal reflection of…how you deal with the circumstances that you’re in and, and what life throws at you. It’s how you react to circumstances, is strength.

Emma: And, what do you feel resilience means?
Zee: It’s your ability to keep getting back up when you get knocked down.

Emma: Who is the most resilient person you know?
Zee: My Dad. Yeah, my Dad without a shadow of a doubt.

Emma: Why is he?
Zee: My Dad met my Mum when he was very young, fell in love. It was a mixed religion marriage so he had a lot of battles, right from the onset back in the 70’s. And erm…he had a lot of resistance and he had me as well, quite young. They were both quite young. But as soon as they both had me, my Mum she got postnatal depression and she couldn’t cope with being a Mum. She went through quite a traumatic experience after that, with the medical profession, which meant that she, literally in herself was gone so…my Dad literally from the woman that he loved, he knew for 3 years…was left with a woman that was a shadow of, well she wasn’t who she was but he’s been caring for her ever since. For 40 years. His whole life he’s devoted. When it comes to mental illness, it’s a massive stigma. So, he’s basically had no support from his family or anybody. It’s only just really in the last few years that people have started to come out and talk about, to help and support people who are going through it. But back in the days I was growing up and when my Mum got ill. It was just completely hidden, especially with our culture. So, it was just me and my Dad. So, I grew up caring for my Mum, so I-I did all the work during the day and my Dad would come home from work and, and that was his life. When he retired, from morning to night he, he just cares his whole life. And whatever life throws at him, he just keeps getting back up.

Emma: Do you think you are a resilient person?
Zee: I would like to think so yeah, well I hope so.

Emma: Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Zee: Yeah. Yes, yeah I had to be, I had no choice. [laughs] Had no choice in that matter, growing up cus I-I kind of grew up without a Mum. Dad was obviously busy looking after Mum so it was kind of, erm, I just had to grow up didn’t I? [laughs] Just kind of happened.

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve needed that resilience and strength?
Zee: I think you turn that question on your head and say is there a time that I’ve not needed it. Err, I’ve needed it, at every point of my life. Whether it be, as a child growing up, going through puberty, uni, marriage…being a Mum. Not, you know, bringing my daughter up. Yeah, I-I don’t actually remember a time when I’ve not needed it.

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve not been strong?
Zee: I think…[sighs] as I was growing up. I was a carer, my Mum relied, I had to do everything for her. So, I had to do all the physical, I had no choice because I had this human being. I might have been 6-7 years old but I still had that responsibility. I mean somehow, as kids you just, you just adapt don’t you? Resilient, that’s all I knew. So, up until I was 21 I had my Mum who just relied on me, all the time. So, I-I had no choice to be resilient and soon as I got married. Literally within the year, I had Lashana. So, there I had another human being who just completely was reliant on me because I was a single Mum for a lot of that time. So, throughout my life, up until…say…the last couple of years when my daughter’s kind of grown up a little bit and she’s becoming a lot. Cus I, I wanted to give her everything that I didn’t have. I wanted to make sure that she, she never, err, she never suffered in any way, shape or form the way I did when I was younger. So, there was no scope, room, o-or, there was no space for me to be anything but strong. But I would say, as she, kind of turned to the point where she started to become an adult. It almost felt like because she wasn’t relying on me so much, and there wasn’t these human beings that wou- because my parents were there but Dad was taking, was taking over a lot of the care for Mum so. It was weird when I hit 40. It was like, a bit of a train crash. It was a bit like, oh my gosh. You know, now I look back and I think, yeah I had a moment. I had a few moments where it just all, erm, things at work were not working out. I had a bit of a moment.

Emma: Where do you think you draw your strength from?
Zee: My faith. My faith has really kept me going. It’s what helps me rationalise my life. In terms of the way it’s kind of, panned out. So, a lot it’s my faith, my daughter, my parents, the woman who I help, who rely on me as well.

Emma: Have you ever been given any advice or support, which helped you draw more strength?
Zee: Yeah I have actually. I’ve been, the earliest I remember was when I was, when I was a kid was, my teacher…from primary school, Mr Hayton [laughs]. And as he used to really help me kind of get to grips with the situation I was in because obviously it wasn’t “the norm”. So, I think, during my childhood it was really good teachers that helped me. My Gran. Throughout my life, my Gran’s been there. She’s been my backbone. She’s helped me through everything. So, she’s been pivotal in drawing strength from. My friends. Yeah my friends have been there as well. Kind of, more as a kind of, just to…help me just to kind of get through the day to day stuff. The day to day stuff.

Emma: Has it been interesting with doing Zfit in terms of, culturally…I’m gonna say religion but not in your sense, in the whole like actually in terms of what people see?
Zee: Yeah, it’s been, been such a journey because you know it started off as a Zumba class and then I started getting more and more qualifications and we started adding more, more kind of classes onto the timetable. As my understanding and knowledge grew, I knew I started to understand that you cannot keep doing the same activity and using the same muscle groups in the same way because you’re gonna get people injured and, it’s not safe. Which is why I tried to choose, it took me-it takes me a long time to choose a programme, and then bring it into Zfit because I do a lot of research around that…to make sure that we are utilising different muscle groups and they all complement each other, so that the women that come to my classes, meet their goals in the most safest and most effective manner. But what that did was, when I started to go out to different areas, was…people started following me around. So, all of a sudden you’ve got people from one end of town, coming into another end of town that they wouldn’t normally come into, meeting with a whole bunch of ladies that they wouldn’t normally see on an everyday, in their everyday lives. And because Zee’s always late, they have to mingle with each other. I don’t do it deliberately honestly but I could say that! Say it’s all part of the plan, honestly [laughs]. I know I have an issue with lateness [chuckles] but they have to mingle with each other. All of a sudden they started to know..you know they like, th-thy there might be, there might be someone who obviously, there is a lot of stigma in Islamophobia and all this kind of stuff that’s going on. I’m not saying that, it’s not about Islamophobia. There’s a real…people have an interpretation of what Muslims are. And Muslims have probably a fear, on the side. So, all of a sudden you’re, you’re getting all the mingling going on and all of a sudden I started to see that friendships were forming, and all of a sudden…it kinda dawned on me that, in this environment between the hours of 5.30 and 6.30, when we had this class, there was no religion. There was no black culture, or cultural distinction, physical ability, age, colour. We were just women that we were facing the same daily struggles, that all connecting and helping each other, for that one hour through life and it was so beautiful if that’s the right word to use. It just was, and it was just like magic. So, um that’s when I started to do the events. I know people would think that these events were just all a bit of a laugh and fun, but they were…they were a chance for women to come, kind of get together away from the from the classes where you know, and get to socialise with each other, get to dress up a little bit, feel good, feel nice and you know all the hard work they’ve been doing. All the, you know, they’d work towards it, wearing the outfits and we’d have awards and they’d feel good. But essentially it was integration. It was all these women integrating and, and understanding actually you know what? We’re not all that different. You know, we’re all facing the same challenges. We’re all up against the same kind of insecurities! We all have the same insecurities, whether it be whatever colour we are, whatever religion we are. And we’re all facing the same battles, we all moan about the kids, you know and we moan about the husbands and, we’re not all that different. Regardless of what we believe, and what colour we and what size or shape we are. Makes no difference and that’s what Zfit is. That’s what it became.

Click to watch Interview with Zeenat

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Model: Abeer Kholghi
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Abeer

Emma: Ok so first thing I’m gonna ask you is to introduce yourself.
Abeer: Uh yeah, I’m doctor of ambiocology. I have a PhD in cancer chemo prevention from University of Leicester. And then, I’m currently running a non-profit organisation. When I completed my PhD in Cancer Prevention, I set up a non-profit organisation to increase awareness of cancer. Course the community I’m trying to deliver awareness seminars, healthy eating workshops, exercise. All this stuff which is proven to reduce your potential risk of developing cancer.

Emma: Amazing! Anything else you want to tell us about yourself?
Abeer: Actually, I moved here- I moved here in 2009. I was working as assistant lecturer in University of Benghazi, Libya. I’m not sure if you know where’s Libya it’s next to Egypt in the Middle East. When I moved here I was funded by the Libyan Government to do a PhD in cancer prevention so when I go back to my country I can benefit my community and things. But things went wrong in- when I was nearly finishing. The war happened in Libya, Libyan Civil War in 2011 which was difficult for me to go back which was a very hard time. Uh yeah.

Emma: Wow. So, how do you know Zee?
Abeer: I know Zee when I first started a project funded by Sport England. Then I was searching for a fitness instructor well known in the community to run- to do the fitness thing and aerobics and Zumba. Then I came through Zee, then when I also first started I was working with Zee and another instructor working in University of Leicester. And then, Zee was very popular within the community. The Zee session was full of woman and then this is what I’m targeting now. So, that’s why I made that project as a pilot project and then I applied for more funding from Sport England and I got it. Now I’m working with Zee for the full project because she’s very popular within the community. A lot of ladies come for her personally and then um, yeah. So, I also I was able to run a project with Zee with a very discounted price for example because it’s funded by Sport England and doing a session for only £1. And even if somebody can’t afford to pay the £1, we just offer it to them for free and then yeah. So, I’m running it now twice a week in Highfield area, which is a highly deprived area of Leicester. We’re running a fitness/Zumba class too.

Emma: Brilliant. How do you describe strength? What’s strength to you?
Abeer: Strength. Strength. To be strong whenever you face any barrier, any problems. To be strong to face…just to be strong I think. Be a strong person, this is what it means to me. In situations to be strong like taking decisions, the right decision yeah.

Emma: What does resilience mean to you as well?
Abeer: Resilience…no it’s different. I think resilience is different than strength. Strength is to be as a strong person, taking decision, taking very strong. But resilience, you can cope with the problems, I think this is- I don’t know if this is right but this is what resilience means to me. If you can cope with whatever problem, you have it’s completely different. For example, I feel I am a very resilient person because I- everything happened I’m still there I’m still surviving so. Yeah, whatever happened you’re still there so I think, some people don’t have that resilience that’s why they go into mental problems. I know a lot of people who couldn’t face their problems. I think from these people we can consider their resilience is a bit low. So, they can’t and they don’t have resilience, yeah.

Emma: Who is the most resilient person you know?
Abeer: I’m not sure. I’m sure a resilient person, maybe my Mother? Maybe, maybe my Mother.

Emma: Why?
Abeer: My Mother is Egyptian and then uh, she’s not from Libya. She’s married to a Libyan man. It’s completely different culture, different thing and then she was very resilient just to stay there in Libya for over the years, now for 50 years. And then just- she was, she was resilient just to stay there and grow her kids and my Brothers and yeah. She was trying to cope with the community there, she didn’t even know the language, it’s still Arabic but completely different. And then, she suffered a lot they were- you know when you’re an Egyptian they consider they’re a low economic country regarding to Libya. So, they- she faced a lot of bullying there. And then, bullying all the time because they just feel the Egyptian is just something that’s not good. It’s like low standard and then she was very resilient and then she suffered a lot just to grow us up. I think she’s very resilient, yeah.

Emma: Wonderful. Do you think you’re a resilient person?
Abeer: Yes I am resilient but not strong person. I can make decisions quickly I can but yes I still think I’m resilient. Whatever happened, whatever things were not successful in my life, things I always cope with it. Yeah, always try to find the solution for things. Always searching.

Emma: Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Abeer: No. I think I am resilient since I moved to the UK. I changed. I wasn’t resilient that much but here, completely different personality I became when I moved here. Everything has changed the thinking, everything, everything! I completely changed, completely yeah.

Emma: Can you think of times where you’ve needed resilience and strength?
Abeer: I think that time during the Libyan war in 2011. When my family’s house completely destroyed, with all my child memories and things has gone suddenly. And then the upraising came in my city and it was really…they destroyed the country, weapons everywhere. War, everyone was interrupted that war. And then, it was every day in the news. It was very hard for me. I was hanging out in the city centre, I was crying just thinking, “what can I do here?” because I- the Libyan even the Libyan government were- who funded me were having a problem because they stopped the fund. They took the fund from Libya and the fund was stopped. I found myself with my son, alone and then thinking what can I do? There is no fund, there is no home, there is no nothing. So, I was resilient. I was resilient, I thinking, I was going to lawyers, going through things, thinking but always there, idea come up always think. So, it was really hard. Even until now I can’t go back. It’s not- the war is finished but Libya became a torn country. Weapons everywhere it’s not safe, can’t even take my son there, they kidnapping people then ask for money to give your son back or things. So things become very bad there. So, my problem there is I can’t go back until the situation gets better. Yeah this is the most time in 2011 and 2012. I really needed to- I needed to be resilient.

Emma: Amazing. Where do you draw your strength from?
Abeer: I think from my Son, from my little son. When we moved he’s amazing, amazing! He’s always my only friend. Even when my husband was going away and he’s always next to me. He came here when he was only 8 and now he’s nearly- haven’t finished 18 yet. But he’s still my friend, he’s still naïve, he’s still nice and then…yeah. I think he’s always relying on me. He always in everything, even in his GSCE’s and everything. He relies that I can find the solution for him, for everything. So yeah. So, I think from him I always think that I need to do something for him. I need to help him to get to the right place to be.

Emma: Has anything ever come in, advice or support which helped with that strength?
Abeer: I think…I think money always gives you the strength. If you have more money it gives you strength. So, I think money always- if you get some money, more money for example I think that gives you more strength at least financially you’re ok. So, yeah I had from best friend- childhood friend during the war. And then now, she was born Libyan in my country and then- but she’s Egyptian. She’s now a very famous movie star in Egypt and then I remember that during the war when the Libyan stopped fund everything. She transferred into my account a very big amount and then she supported my nearly for two years. She gives me the strength. She gave it to me so it’s like- she’s still my friend until now. Closer friends since primary school but she has a different career and then she’s one of the top celebrities in Egypt. Then she gave it to me as a gift, which at least financially I’m not worried. And then yeah. I became more financially independent even after this amount from my husband.

Emma: It’s fascinating because you’re so independent now.
Abeer: Yes. I’m applying for indefinite leave to remain which is just permanent resident here, which is a very big step in my life. Then I prepared all my documents and everything, and I’m writing this alone. I didn’t ask a lawyer to do anything for me, I think that I can do revise everything, the reference number. I prepared my application but I will tell you I’m not strong enough to submit. Every day I need to submit, I go back. Why? I need to be strong so I’m not a strong person. I wish to submit but I’m scared. Scared from the decision but I was talking to my older sister and the she said, “You should submit. You should get their decision, to know what you’ll do.” So, I’m going to apply early first week of February and then hopefully I’ll get a positive decision which will give me more confidence. I can do things if you have indefinite leave here to remain. I know in a year’s time after that you can be British as well. So it’s been a long journey at least, I just need to have permanent residence. Nobody will chase you to leave the country. “You should leave, you should leave!” Where to go? I can’t leave I’ve completely integrated here now. I can’t leave so. It was lovely to hear the ladies ask me to do a wellness seminar and things in the area. I talked to them saying I’m very stressed right now, I can’t do any talks because I’m doing my visa, I’m preparing my documents. So I can’t believe how nice, she told me they’re all happy to write a petition for me to stay! Because I’m doing a lot in the community. So it was really nice. I need to submit.

Emma: Do you think your health is connected to strength and resilience?
Abeer: Definitely, this is a proven- this is something that’s proven by science and everything so mental thing and emotional is linked to health, definitely in health and diseases as well. So, it’s not only- a lot of diseases is linked to for example, diabetes. Some of the hormone which is released during anger and things which is affect the insulin which can make you develop later diabetes type 2. So, it’s not only the diseases as well, yeah.

Audrey from the Resilience exhibitionAudrey from the Resilience exhibition

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Model: Audrey Young
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Audrey

Emma: So, just gonna get you to introduce yourself.
Audrey: My name’s Audrey. I’m Leicester born and bred so, I’ve been here all my life. My parents are Guyanese which often gets forgotten that it’s part of the Caribbean. Guyana is in South America and it’s um, at the top, next door to Venezuela which is in the news at the moment so people should be able to recognise Guyana. Used to be British Guyana so it’s quite well known. I am—How do I describe myself? I’m a bit of a poet. I love my music. I was brought up listening to a lot of old music like Nat King Cole, Tom Jones, all of those- Jim Reeves. So things like Nat King Cole, it’s like one of the things I remember is uh, one of the songs says, “Pick yourself up, shake it all off. Start all over again.” I love writing poems, I’m a peoples’ person. I love being around people, especially kids because I love to be a big kid myself and I can do a lot of things with kids, I’m very expressive and I like to bring the best out of people. I like to have fun because that’s what life’s about. I’ve written a poetry book which I’m gonna get published quite soon. So, in a nutshell, who’s Audrey? Audrey is, I’m the black Audrey Hepburn. [winks] So never mind ‘Breakfast in Tiffany’s’, it’s Breakfast in the Caribbean.

Emma: Nice. And um, is that your job? Is that what you do every day, you poet by trade?
Audrey: No. My job is- I work in insurance. I’ve only just recently had that job so I’ve not been in it long, but poetry is something that I use to express anything. If I’m going through a bad time, I can write in down on paper. And I think- I got that idea from when I was young, just very young.

Emma: Just so that people know because the projects obviously, brings lots of different people together so I’m just asking how they know Zee as well.
Audrey: I met Zee through international Woman’s Day. I think—what it was I think I saw some advert an-and I was like “Oh I wanna do that!” and I just met her and…we kind of clicked. I have this kind of sixth sense and I kind of use it with people. If I get good vibes [nods whilst winking] then I will let you in, but I won’t let you in fully. You get a click to the gate, until I you know get accustomed to you and if then you’re ok and I find yeah you’re honest, then I’ll let you through the gate into my little corner. I can remember it quite clearly. It’s like Zee and me just hit it off.

Emma: How do you describe strength?
Audrey: Strength to me is how you deal with people. My father always taught me if somebody’s angry with you, don’t be angry back. Kill them with kindness. So, it’s not…it’s not- it’s how you deal with that person because that person will remember. If you’ve shown them kindness and not been horrible, they will remember that. I always show kindness regardless of whatever I do. Show good because you only pass through this world once and people will remember that. If anything they will remember if you’ve shown them kindness, especially if they’ve been at the bottomless pit and you’ve—it’s like you’ve gone and gone and bought them a card that’s positive. They’ll remember that.

Emma: Little magic moments. What does the word resilience mean to you?
Audrey: Resilience. Powerful word, it is but then if you break it down and do the phonetics, re-sil-ie-nce. Because I kind of look at it in the music sense [gesturing out with hand] re-sil-ie-nce, away of strength growing. That’s how I look at it because, you know life is full of challenges and you- you’re born, you go through the stages of being a child, you’ve been taught all the steps by your parents or your career. Then you get to be an adult and you get challenges. So to me different challenges will make you stronger as you get older and age. That’s how it looks it to me. I look at it as a step, you know climbing up.

Emma: Nice. Who is the most resilient person you know? Sorry, makes every sit and go [gestures confusion]
Audrey: Resilient. I’ll say myself because- but the thing is I get that from my father. And you know when you’ve got someone who’s brought you up and you clash, and we clash. But you see the problem is because you taught me, you brought me up your way and so if we get in a disagreement we clash. Because if he puts his foot in 10ft I put mine in 10ft more. And that’s, I think that’s where I get my strength.

Emma: Nice, good one. Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Audrey: I think I’ve grown—I think I’ve had to be because when you grow up on your own, you have certain challenges that you have in life and you have to deal with them. And I think coming from the background that I’ve come from, I’ve always been taught people are people. It’s not about colour of skin, people are people. So I treat people as people. I didn’t grow up with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles or Cousins so I adopted people. To- you know so, I’ve got adopted aunts, I’ve got adopted fathers, adopted second fathers, mothers I’ve adopted them.

Emma: Can you think of particular times where you’ve really needed resilience and strength?
Audrey: Certain cases at work, I have. Yes, definitely. When you’re in the workplace and there’s certain things going on and you’re hearing particular things. Cos like I said I don’t like gossip and the thing is, community in Leicester’s very small. So people need to be very careful of what they say but I kind of- if anybody tells me anything they tell me in confidence stays with me. They can have that guarantee it stays with me because I wouldn’t share it with other people. And then obviously when people have been not well, they’ve gone through personal experiences with family, it stays with me. I’ll just find something positive I’ll say to them, “look don’t worry it’s gonna get better. You’re just going through a rough time in life”

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve not been so strong?
Audrey: Yeah I can. Because we’re all human. I think when you lose somebody and you kind of think, “OMG I just talked to that person last week” and then you sort of get guilt complex like I wish I kept in contact. But it’s putting things in perspective because at the end of the day, we are born and we know we’re gonna die. So, if you use that, those two concepts cos obviously, I’ve got a Christian background so I use those two concepts. It’s kind of, I look at what did that person teach me? And I try and live you know, that little bit of legacy and I think I have memories, I have photos and I have the words that they’ve given me. So, to me that’s a legacy. So I kind of hold onto that and that’s what keeps their memory alive, and I think well that’s what I have to do to keep their memory alive and pass it onto other people.

Emma: Lovely. Where do you think, you draw your strength from?
Audrey: My poems, my music. My music is my [clicks tongue] my medicine, my cure. Put my music on and I’m gone. Poems that I’ve written. Things that people have sent to me but I think my music is my strength.

Emma: I think this one, you’ve kind of answered this one but maybe there’s something specific you wanna say so, have you ever been given any advice or had any support which helped you draw more strength?
Audrey: Yeah, you know when your parents give you advice, you don’t use it at the time but I store it, then I use it when I need to. So you know we’ve got a lot of Guyanese phrases and- they’ll use and it’s- when you’re a child you don’t understand because you’re like a little human. You don’t understand why and it’s only when you get older, then you realise and a lot of people will say “oh..oh you’ve got a child, you’re being just like your father you can hear yourself” you know, but it’s it is strange when you think certain things that they were saying to you, it comes back to you but then at the same time you don’t wanna admit they were right. Because to me certain things of the older generation, I don’t think are right because it depends on the degree at which they’re doing it. Yeah so, there are some things I don’t agree with and so I don’t use them but others, I will use them.

Emma: Do you think strength and resilience are things that occur frequently in community around you?
Audrey: It should occur a lot in the home but what is happening now, I think because of the mobile phone, social media. It is, it’s not occurring as much I don’t think because that- those social media is actually isolating people. Social media I think is a coward’s way out because people use it to bully, and that isn’t good. They can be anonymous and that’s not good. You know when I was growing up people would say things different to your face and you either disagree or whatever, you use your fist or whatever. Nowadays it’s on the mobile phone and to me, a child or a person can be in a room and that is going on in there and the parents or adults might not even know what’s going on. So I think society had changed a lot and I think social media, it’s got a lot to answer for. It can be used in a positive way but you know, you gotta have a bit more control over it.

Emma: Mm, do you think that health is connected to your resilience and strength?
Audrey: Yes, it is definitely it is. Because obviously depending on how strong you are, it may affect things like anxiety. It may affect emotion. It might make you tearful. It depends on what the situation is. Obviously if it’s death there’s gonna be a lot of emotions there. There might be guilt. There might be tears. There might, you know you might feel angry. You know because some people kind of lose their faith and they think “why? It’s not fair.” And I think there’s not a lot said about death and I think we need to talk about it more because it’s a natural thing that’s gonna happen. You don’t know how and you just don’t know when. And people don’t talk about it enough.

Emma: Hmm, that was really interesting. Got loads of ideas, Audrey so that’s great.

Read a poem by Audrey Fiona Young

LIFE FOR ME IS A ROLLERCOASTER
BUT THERE IS DEFINITELY A STAIRWAY
THAT’S LEADS TO SUCCESS
EACH STEP IS AN ACHIEVEMENT IN MY LIFE
THAT PUSHES ME UP HIGHER TO MY GOALS

I DO NOT KNOW WHEN MY TIME WILL BE UP
IN THIS WORLD
SO I NEVER STOP LEARNING OR HELPING
PEOPLE
I AM A SURVIVOR, A FIGHTER WHO BELIEVES
IN MYSELF
I AM FIONA YOUNG
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR LEGACY?

Click to see Interview with Audrey

resilience exhibition

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Model: Joanne Stoute
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Jo

Emma: So, the first thing I ask is just for you to introduce yourself and this doesn’t have to be anything formal it’s just to get to know you.
Jo: Ok.

Emma: So just introduce yourself.
Jo: My name’s Jo, Jo Sault. Recently turned 50. So, I came back to Leicester yesterday from my holiday after celebrating my big 50th and I love in Leicester. I’ve lived abroad as well when I was younger, lived in Trinidad and Tobago then I came back to Leicester. Went to school and college in Leicester.

Emma: Lovely, now if you wanna tell me about your work or family?
Jo: Yeah! I’m currently single. Got lots of nieces and nephews and I work as a PA, a personal assistant for a financial services firm. I’ve been there for just over 12 years actually. It’s quite busy, very varied job and so my pastime is travelling, Zumba that’s where obviously, I met Zee. Also, socialising and just enjoying life really!

Emma: This is not to be like a Wikipedia answer, this is for your interpretation so there’s no right or wrong. Don’t feel like this is some weird test basically [Laughs].
Jo: [Laughs] No, no!

Emma: It’s just to get people’s perspective and idea on things. So how do you describe strength?
Jo: For me strength is being positive…um…being you know, your mindset where you obviously got to carry on with life and learn from others as well. Having faith, faith is very important as well most definitely. I’ve never given up on anything.

Emma: What do you think resilience means to you?
Jo: Resilience for me is…yourself, how you cope with life in general. Balance work, your social life and all of that. So, it’s you know not everyone can cope with some factors they face in life. Life is never straightforward is it? Sometimes you’ll have good times, sometimes you’ll have bad times so it’s learning to balance that and not sort of going downhill. So, then you find ways to keep your strength up really.

Emma: Who is the most resilient person you know?
Jo: Oh my gosh, that’s a difficult one. In terms of like personal or?

Emma: It can be anything.
Jo: So the most resilient person would have been my Mum because she had a lot to cope with. She’s no longer here, but obviously she had to cope with bringing up the children after her and my Dad divorced. And then she was working as well, abroad so for me she was quite a strong-minded person. Who’s obviously helped me to be that way as well so I’d say yeah my Mum really was my- you know, most resilient person I knew.

Emma: Do you think you’re a resilient person?
Jo: I would say I am. I’m very- I’m an emotional person but very resilient because, you know I’ve had to face quite a lot in my life um, so yeah I’d say I’m quite resilient although I’m a soft person, I’m able to deal with stuff and you know, try and handle things to the best way I can. You have to- you’ve got to in life sort of find your strengths and carry on.

Emma: Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Jo: No. I’d say the older I’ve gotten and things you’ll face with in life does make you… know you either become resilient in life or you go the other way where you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Some people suffer from depression, they can’t get out of it because they can’t cope with certain factors, things that happen in their life. So, yeah I’d say for me as time has gone on I’ve become resilient.

Emma: Can you think of times where you’ve needed resilience and strength?
Jo: Many times, about 8 years my Dad- well it’ll be 9 years in August but before that it was quite hard because my Dad found out he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. So, he was diagnosed with that and obviously I was by his side and then I needed to be strong for my dad. I had to find the strength from somewhere to you know obviously help him with his problems really. So yeah, it was quite a tough time. And obviously, I still had to carry on, I had two jobs at the time and trying to balance that and looking after my Dad as well.

Emma: Next one is can you think of times when you’ve not been so strong? Probably something on those lines what you were saying.
Jo: Yeah, I think the times where I haven’t been strong are obviously after the passing of my dad and then also reality sets in after you have the funeral and everything. Sometimes it’s how do you cope with life? You know you just wanna head to your bed really. So yeah there was times it was quite sad and you know, dark but you find the strength to come out of it.

Emma: Where do you think you draw your strength from?
Jo: I draw my strength from life in general, you know from what I’ve been through in life. I think it’s thought me as a person to look on the positive side and appreciate life because life obviously is not a rehearsal, you don’t get another chance. So, for me it’s about living and enjoying my life. That helps me to cope with stuff and also exercising, staying a positive person and doing good.

Emma: Have you ever been given any advice or received any particular support you think helped you draw more strength.
Jo: Not really, I think just having you know good support around me as well like my nieces and nephews, my very close friends. You know, all that has helped really because without good support around you, you wouldn’t be able to have the strength to carry on with life really. So I think that’s quite important to have like you know good support around you and also your mindset as well.

Emma: Now I say the word community but you can think of this as society as a whole, you can think of it culturally, you can think of it like how it applies to you. It doesn’t matter it’s your interpretation so. Do you think strength and resilience are things that occur frequently in the community around you?
Jo: I would say yeah definitely strength and resilience because for instance if you go like when I attend Zee’s class, the Zumba class. You find strength in that you know you might be having a bad day but by going to her class it picks up your mood because you’re meeting different people within the community. So all that does help definitely.

Emma: Yeah. So this one’s probably quite an obvious one [laughs]. Do you think your health is connected to your resilience and strength?
Jo: Yeah because without your health, you know for instance, there was a time where my immune system was so low I was catching all sorts of viruses and stuff. So definitely yeah your health is quite important, you’ve got to look after yourself. I think it’s all about getting a balance as well really but you have got to look after yourself you know, rest and stuff. Mind you having said that on a night out on Saturday no one’s getting rest! [laughs]

Emma: Is there anything else- and this isn’t me asking for you to give advice but just anything else you’d say about resilience or strength?
Jo: Yeah I would say, like I said before in terms of resilience and strength it’s important to be positive in life. Don’t always look on the gloomy side because if you look on the gloomy side, you’ll never get out of that dark place and obviously, it’s important to have I think also like a focus in life. Something to focus on like, you need structure as well. Structure is very important, it’s important to go to work and within that you’re meeting different people and occupying your mind as well. Exercise is so important as well, I believe because that helped me most definitely through bad times. I’m just living life and being positive. You’ve got to enjoy life, be nice while you’re on this earth.

Emma: Yeah that’s lovely. Really nice, thank you.

Click to watch Interview with Jo

Laurane for the resilience seriesLaurane as part of the Resilience series

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Model: Laurane Webbe
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Laurane

Emma: So, the first thing I’ll just get you to introduce yourself. People just tend give like their name or a bit about them like, whether that’s to do with work or family or anything. Whatever you want to about yourself really. So can you just-
Laurane: [Laughs]

Emma: introduce yourself! [laughs]
Laurane: Well my name’s Loraine Webb and erm, I’m 58 years old. I work part time. The reason I work part time is because at the age of 55 I was allowed to retire so, I work for the NHS as a community mental health nurse. I retired in 2015 and then went back to work in part time, 2 and a half days a week. So, I do 20 hours a week working in the community as a mental health practitioner.

Emma: Do you want to say, you can say anything about your family or anything?
Laurane: Yeah. I’m not married, I’m single actually so have an immediate family you know. But I have siblings and my father’s still alive and my mum died 12 years ago. So- but we’re a very close knit family and I do have quite a large extended family as well.

Emma: Yeah that’s lovely. It just gives us an idea of who you are as a person, that’s lovely. So, how do you know Zee?
Laurane: Zee right. So, I know Zee form attending some of her fitness classes. I’ve been attending them now for about I believe 4 years coming around to 5 years I’ve been attending classes. I do enjoy going to fitness classes. I do fitness twice- well Monday to Friday 5 days a week but some of them I always see in other classes elsewhere actually, yeah. Yeah so, I would miss it if I didn’t do my keep fit classes actually you know so. It’s a way of being very- keep yourself very healthy and yeah so. I do enjoy the exercise yes.

Emma: How do you describe strength?
Laurane: Strength is within you and building on it really. Building on your inner strength and erm…in everyday life. It’s more like, I class it as building confidence with it as well. In strength, it’s very important to build upon it and you know, it helps you throughout life.

Emma: I’ve got the word like erm, what do you think resilience means?
Laurane: Ooh [laughs].

Emma: Because some people it’s not the same as strength, resilience means different things. So, what does it mean to you if you hear resilience? What do you feel like?
Laurane: Mind in the spirit, in the yeah. [laughs]

Emma: Do you think you are a resilient person yourself?
Laurane: Well I like to think I’m a strong person to- I try be positive in life rather than look at the negativity and you know to gain- you know to be positive try and gain as much strength through erm. So, if anything happened for instance I would say I try my best to stay strong. You know, something sad that’s happening in life, losing my mum was a big thing and losing my nephew was a big thing as well. So, you know I like to think that erm, I was strong for my family throughout all these things that did happen.

Emma: Yeah. So, can you think who might be the most resilient person you know? Who do you think that is? Can you think of anybody that’s good at bouncing back?
Laurane: Good at bouncing back. Yeah I’ve got one or two- yeah I’ve got a brother in particular who’s good at bouncing back yeah. I like to think that I can bounce back as well into, yeah…into getting on with life.

Emma: And for my next question, have you always been resilient do you think?
Laurane: I think…I think I’m one of those who put on a brave face to a lot of things so I just carry on, as normal even though I’m…you know things have hit hard. It’s a matter of just getting on and carrying on. I’m not one of these that become quite weak and let anything bother me in any way.

Emma: That’s good.
Laurane: And they, even at work like to think that I can still get on and do my work and I mean I don’t take sick time or anything like that. I’ve always been there for a lot of people as well. Yeah.

Emma: Sounds like with the work you do that you would need a lot of resilience.
Laurane: Oh, yes. Definitely.

Emma: I can imagine. Can you think of times you’ve really needed that resilience and strength? Is there key times- you’ve mentioned losing certain people at points. And then as the times it didn’t work when you’ve really needed it.
Laurane: Yes. There are times I mean, what’s helped is erm, you know like for instance at work are super-efficient to offload, you know what you’re going through if any time has been a difficult time. So, you’ve got that as a back-up and a reflecting back as well, as to what happened at that point. Reflecting back brings back inner strength to carry on. Yeah so, that’s been quite a positive yeah.

Emma: Can you think of times where you’ve not been so strong? Is there any, a point where you were like oh I wasn’t so strong then. Do you know what I mean?
Laurane: Yeah erm, suppose the two close people to me you know, passed yeah. So erm, if I have to present something, stand up in front of 200 or 300 and give a speech. [laughs] That’s probably the time when I think, ugh. Then when it’s done I’ll feel like I didn’t do too bad after all! [Laughs]

Emma: Brilliant.
Laurane: Or you know times when there’s been, I’ve had to take an exam and so yeah I think it’s been quite a struggling time.

Emma: Where do you draw your strength from?
Laurane: Staying positive really and getting on with things, doing the exercise. I think doing things like you, you keep fit, you exercise helps with the mind. It brings that strength in it gets rid of that negativities as well, that’s yeah. So, that’s where I’ll say I bring my strength from. Yeah and also talking to people with experience as well in life. I tend to get on well with older people so I tend to you know- they give you so much encouragement and experience about life and that’s where I draw my strength from as well. Taking ideas from you know and following it through.

Emma: This might be quite applicable then because have you ever been given any advice or support which helped you draw more strength?
Laurane: Yes. Yes, from the older generations yeah. For instance, I became a chair of a group and I had the person who ran the group, who was chair previously. She’s got lots of experience and she became like a mentor to me. Yeah and that’s where I draw my strength from, from her. To carry on and you know I can turn to her at any time now, pick up the phone and say how do I deal with this? How do I- can you help me with this? She’s there like my mentor in a way.

Emma: Do you think that strength- this could be now I say the word community I tend to see as like a societal thing. It could be a world thing; it could be cultural thing or it could just be about your community. You take it as you want it basically. So do you think strength and resilience are things that occur frequently in the community around you?
Laurane: Yes…I find that with our culture, people are quick to bring people down. So, you know you have to stay strong in our culture and try and be positive because there’s a lot of negativity where if they see somebody doing well they don’t like it and look at the negative things to throw back at you. It’s about staying strong through all that and having the strength to stay strong through it all.

Emma: And this one- do you think your health is connected to your strength?
Laurane: Yes, yes…well I’m going to say touch wood I don’t suffer with anything so far but you know, health wise my health has always been good. I think it’s the fact that I do what I do, the fitness classes and trying to eat healthier diets as well.

Click to watch Interview with Laurane

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Mark Rawle and Pauline Rawle
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Mark

Emma: The first thing we kind of get people to do is to introduce themselves, a bit about themselves.
Mark: Hi my name’s Mark Rawle, I’m from Leicester. I’m 39 soon to be 40 [chuckles] but erm, yeah I’ve had a football career for what 11-12 years professionals and non-league, which I had to move away from Leicester for that. So I was away from Leicester about 5-5 and a half years which was good growing time for me to be away from out of the- I call it the fishbowl, the Leicester fishbowl. So, yeah it was good so that’s where I am. Oh I got a son, 13 year old son at the moment yeah. At the moment? I’ve just got a son! [Laughs] Get rid of him next week! I rented him. [chuckles] Ugh yeah I got a son, 13 years old. I’m engaged as well, got engaged a couple years- getting married next year and yeah. A lot of close family as well so yeah that’s ugh, that’s probably about me.

Emma: How’d you get involved with the project?
Mark: So, yeah I got involved with the project my Auntie Pauline contacted me and asked me if I wanted to get involved with this resilience study project that you’re putting on. She gave me a little run down on what it’s about and said, yeah ok, got some time. It’d be interesting to be involved in and come and see what it’s about. Try new things, see what’s going on, yeah.

Emma: How do you describe strength?
Mark: Strength obviously, there’s physical strength the straightforward type, but then obviously though you’ve got…erm you need strength, in the last situations you know? Things aren’t going quite right, how do you put it right? Can you- do you crumble? Do you, do you- how do you hold yourself together…to get yourself through scenarios/situations? You can have strength from yourself, gain strength from other people, your family, your children, your friends and people around you. Or you- just people you may come across via social media or something, you share their…what do you call it? You empathise with their story and you can get it where certain things that people say might just resonate with you and can give you strength.

Emma: What does resilience mean to you?
Mark: Similar. It’s having the grit you know to be able to get, again to get through situations and like staying strong and coming back again when it’s- you’ve not been- it’s not been going right you coming back like, I’m gonna try again or I’m not moving from here. I’m staying right here you’re not gonna shift me. This is where I wanna be, this is what I wanna do, or this is where I wanna get to you know so, yeah. That’s probably my best description of it.

Emma: Brilliant. So, who is the most resilient person you know?
Mark: Ooh, most resilient person I know? It’s crazy when I think about it it’s probably Pauline, my Auntie Pauline. She…aside from myself but yeah probably her you know she’s gone through quite a bit. Me as a young nephew have had to step up and be there for her at certain times and you know, she might need a little bit of reassurance sometimes. I find myself in that position where I’m giving to her on the phone or face to face and like she’s going, “yeah, yeah you’re right, you’re right” sort of thing you know. Yeah she’s…she’s fairly resilient.

Emma: Do you think you’re a resilient person?
Mark: I do, I do. Not through scenarios I’d love to- like to be in sort of thing but I’ve just found myself that I’ve had to, had to be resilient and be strong erm…to get myself where I need to be sort of thing and I’ve been in some tough positions, tough situations but yeah I feel good where I am now. From where I’ve been and what I’ve had to go through yeah.

Emma: Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Mark: Erm, I don’t, I don’t… [blows out long breath] have I always been resilient? Early days I don’t think I really had to be and then I had to find out that, you need some resilience here Mark! Need to sort yourself out. Erm, because nobody else is gonna- nothing’s gonna happen that’s just gonna make things ok you’ve gotta either ride out a situation or do something to get yourself out of it, one of the two. So, again I wouldn’t say I wasn’t resilient, I had to grow to be but I didn’t know I had to be. And then I had to deal with what was put in front of me and so yeah.

Emma: Can you think of times where you’ve needed specific like times where you’ve needed resilience and strength?
Mark: Erm, well two main times, they kind of coincided with each other. One was when I was coming to the end of my football career if you like, coming to- I retired a few years ago now but coming towards then end of that. Getting injuries, then coming back from injuries then having to make the choice of not going back to it. It was hard you know because now everything…everything I was doing was Monday to Friday- sorry Monday to Saturday was football. Like, I’d be going there most of the time and then you come out of that, then it’s right you’ve gotta get a job, you’ve gotta work. You haven’t got this income anymore you’ve gotta do this. So just dealing with that- I mean it’s…to other people who aren’t involved in that kind of scene it doesn’t seem like much because “oh it’s just a game of football though” but if your whole life is kind of evolved around that…to then go and change. It’s quite a big thing and having to go and find something else to go and have an interest in or to earn money from and whatever. So, that was that but then the other one was erm, during that whole period of time I ended up splitting with my son’s mum. He lives down in Essex and I’m in Leicester. So, it was around about that time where I’m having to workout making sure I’m seeing him and travelling up and down the motorway making sure I’m there for him. How to manage that you know on a regular basis to make sure he knows because obviously, you know there is this thing, especially black man. They have kids all over the place and then just disappear, don’t see them and that. That’s kind of a…kind of a thing and I’m making sure that that’s not where I’m- that’s not who I am and that’s not what my son will have to go through with that. So, yeah it was- it was erm, it was tough but again got through, worked it out whatever it was. No money, no car at some points having to get coaches and trains and stuff down to pick him up to come back. I made sure I kept that contact you know and make sure I’m on the phone to him regularly as much as I could. But yeah it was a tough time, it was.

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve not been so strong?
Mark: Erm…alright when I say not being strong I think I let certain scenarios get to me a bit more and I didn’t handle them how I wish I would have handled them. So I’d say that was- would be erm…and that could be again the whole split up sort of period. It was you know the communication between the two, getting sucked into being you know nasty and this, that and the other. I sit back after and- I mean the one part which I was really, really upset with myself kind of you know, I had to apologise afterwards. I actually got on social media and I think I put something up there you know about my business like, “ugh when your ex tries this, this and this”. Put something up and it weren’t too good, she saw it and then- or she got informed that it was up there. She saw it and was at me and I was like [exhales] you what? Nah that’s not me. Apologised. Nope I shouldn’t have done that, took it down and all that stuff and that’s the only time [claps hands in frustration] I’ve ever done that, and for me, I let myself down in that respect you know because erm…that again that’s not who I am and not what I’m about. You’re better than that. Don’t get sucked in to that kind of thing.

Emma: Have you ever been given any advice or support which helped you draw more strength?
Mark: Yeah.

Emma: So, have you received any advice that’s helped you?
Mark: Erm, I can’t specifically say there are people or there’s specific pieces of advice that I’ve been given by other people, but I know there’s been you know different people around me…different people around me who have helped me, just chill a bit more you know? Probably actually, probably my fiancée Lauren. She- she just told me not to get in- like again with the back and forth with my ex, she said, “why you getting involved? Why- just don’t argue?” and I, “Yeah but she’s saying this.” [shakes head] She’s gonna say you know just leave it. It’s not- there’s no point. After a bit I was like you know what let me just try that, and now I just purposely don’t get involved in it. So, I always tell people yeah again anyone else I speak to I’m like, “look…try to reduce the levels of stress in your life whichever way you can.” If it’s a- why you erm. You have to- you have to basically accept people for how they are.

Emma: Where do you draw your strength from?
Mark: Definitely my son. Definitely him like…everything I do everything I’m trying to do in my life now is to make sure- I gotta make a better life for him that I don’t have to go- he don’t have to go through the same things I had to go through you know. I’ve tried to build a you know erm, a good base for him. You know try and give him information, knowledge as much as I can and as much as he can take in at 13 years old because 13 ya know? But as he grows I try to give him info and just create a better, a good life. So, I draw a lot of my strength and from him…mainly. Outside of that it’d be, you know again family, my family around me, my mum, my brother and then outside of that I’ve my uncles and my aunties, I got cousins. We are a tight, tight group

Emma: Do you think your health is connected to your resilience and strength?
Mark: Definitely. Definitely, definitely, definitely. I know when- I’m not gonna say, I haven’t a, I’m not saying depression but I know I was definitely very, very down in a bad place and during that time it was hard to…to function properly, I was all out. I put on weight I was like- it was weird because I was skinny then I was fat at the same time. [laughing] I don’t know how that works! It was weird, I’d come back home at certain times because when I was living away from Leicester. I’d come back home, this is when I was really I was stressed, I was really stressed. But people were looking at me going, “What’s, what’s wrong with you?” and I felt fine, I thought I was fine. But now when I look back at pictures from that time my face is all gaunt and everything I’m like, “wow! Is that what it was like?”. So, once I…I think erm, in terms of your personal health yeah they’re definitely linked in. Because once you start feeling better physically erm, you feel better you can start your- I don’t- is it the chemicals in your body, kind of your brain? They start making you feel a bit more positive so yeah, definitely there’s a link.

Click to watch Interview with Mark

Click to read Interview with Pauline

Emma: So this is just to introduce yourself.
Pauline: Right my name is Pauline Rawle Born and bred in Leicester and I live and work as a nurse, senior nurse in the community. I’m a mother of three children. Well, two boys who are now in their twenties and a daughter who’s nearly 18 so not quite children but sort of adult age. And I love sports, love people and like socialising.

Emma: Lovely and how do you know Zee?
Pauline: Wow…Zee, gosh. Through Zumba and fitness work. I started going to her classes probably four to five years ago and Zee has been a great inspiration to me and I used to play netball for about forty years I would say. I decided I wanted to stop playing netball but I wanted something else to challenge me and I just happened to come across Zfit, and started attending her classes and haven’t looked back! Certainly, very extremely challenging but also great. Great for fitness and also great for social…socialising and also networking, so yeah.

Emma: How do you describe strength?
Pauline: Gosh strength. I personally think strength is a physical, as well as an emotional, spiritual, psychological sort of…it’s a holistic concept for me because even if I’m physically strong, but emotionally or mentally I’m not…then I wouldn’t consider myself strong. So, for me it’s about being a holistic being not just one particular element or another. It’s like you could put a lovely face of make up on and appear to really strong and with it but actually emotionally you’re not. So, for me strength is physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological.

Emma: What does resilience mean to you?
Pauline: Resilience means to me oh… I think for me, being resilient is about having an inner strength. It’s about being able to overcome barriers that perhaps ordinarily you wouldn’t be able to. And it’s about defying perhaps what other people would expect you to achieve or not to achieve. So for me it’s about giving yourself that extra inner push and having resources to draw upon to be able to overcome whatever barrier it is your facing. I’ve had to be resilient all of my life growing up. From…being a black girl in Leicester city in the 70’s wasn’t an easy place to be, racially. Also, choosing a career pathway, you know at school you’re told perhaps you can’t achieve much because you’re, you know you can’t do O Levels because you don’- you’re not able for whatever reason they deem you not able because they put you in a category or a box. But then you have to still look beyond that to actually achieve what you want to achieve in life. So even though there have been lots of obstacles I still think I’ve had to draw upon perhaps my inner strength as well as resources around me, family, friends, my church to actually draw strength and courage to be able to go for the things that I actually really want to in life. Against odds and all the expectations, yeah.

Emma: Amazing. Who is the most resilient person you know?
Pauline: Wow. To be honest with you, when this opportunity came up and we needed a male [laughs]. I actually thought of my nephew Mark who you’ll interview next because I’ve watched him grow up and he-his Mum is my sister so, she’s raised him and his brother single handily. It hasn’t been easy for them. He’s become a professional footballer and gone through the whole process of, you know, playing for different clubs and having to come back down again to the real world when the career was over and again that takes tremendous strength and resilience and courage. He’s had his up’s and downs I just admire him you know? Because- I’m proud of him as well because I’m his Auntie and I think he’s wonderful. But I think he’s just amazing and he just keeps going, and considering he’s not had perhaps his own father figure which I’m sure he’ll tell you about. He’s just the most amazing hands on father you know that I could admire or see in action. He’s never stopped being a really good father to his son as well which I really really admire. A lot of men…for whatever reason take a backseat and perhaps don’t want to parent their children but he, he goes that extra mile of the way and I admire him for that. I’m really really proud of him, I don’t tell him very often but I am proud of him.

Emma: Well he knows now. [Laughs] Can you think of any times when you’ve really needed resilience and strength?
Pauline: I have needed resilience and strength I think most of all through parenting. My Sons are 27 and 25 now and when I was doing my degree- I did my degree in community health studies and I [laughs] I went to university when they were 8 months old and 2 and a half. I have to get through a degree course whilst parenting and bringing them up. Then I had an extra element which was very challenging , was their diagnosis. Both boys throughout that course were diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties so, it was having to navigate my way through…all the consultant appointments, trying to push to get a diagnosis. Then once having a diagnosis well actually what does this mean now? What’s this gonna get for them? Make sure they have the best education, the best chances in life so I think that combination of being married and doing a degree, and parenting children with special needs has been perhaps one of the most challenging areas I think in my life. And the most protracted because it isn’t quick fix, you know…

Emma: It’s a lot. Can you think of any times that you’ve not been so strong?
Pauline: I haven’t been perhaps as strong as I would have liked to have been, perhaps through the marriage and having to go through all the sort of parenting issues and the disappointments that come along with parenting children with autism because a lot of things aren’t your own. For example, you don’t take sleep for granted. When you’re parenting children, who have no concept of day or night. Your sleep isn’t your own but you still have to go to work the next day and I think sadly through that whole process you almost feel, em- sleep deprived as a result of trying to work, parent and function. I just didn’t feel as well supported as I should’ve been through that time and I think I definitely wasn’t…strong in myself. I think I got quite ill. You know, felt quite stressed, sleep deprived, tired, disillusioned. And so, I don’t feel as though I was at my best during that time when the children were a lot younger, sort of primary school ages. Definitely wasn’t ver-very strong. But I kept going to a degree but it wasn’t an easy time.

Emma: Hmm, doesn’t sound an easy time. Where do you draw your strength from?
Pauline: I think for me I’ve- I’ve got a Christian faith and so for me even if I haven’t got friends, family, anybody around I always draw my strength from the Bible and prayer taking time out to reflect. I’ve found that lots of people would let you down during your lifetime, you know people come and people go in your life. Erm, but I do find the one constant is my faith. You know even when I’ve doubted and perhaps I haven’t been as faithful or as good as praying and reading my bible as often as should. I felt as though the presence of God has always been with me and his grace has always been there and his forgiveness. So, even though I’ve perhaps done things that weren’t what I should have been doing at the time or I felt discouraged. I always feel as though God’s love has always kept me and has always been there to forgive and also to walk with me, a bit like a-an invisible partner [laughs]. So yeah, certainly my faith is definitely key to what keeps me going through all the highs and lows.

Emma: Brilliant. Have you ever been given any advice or had any support that you think has helped you draw more strength?
Pauline: Yeah, I think support wise I remember having…some counselling. Whereas the person wasn’t actually giving me any advice like you, “do this, do that”. But it was just a safe space to actually offload all your emotions and sometimes I’d go and I’d just be so upset or I’d be irate or angry and it was just a safe space to be able to say right here’s all my rubbish today [laughs]. I’m gonna put it down and I’d feel better for offloading. So, whilst it wasn’t direct sort of em…advice. It was great having a safe space to offload. So that helped me emotionally. I’ve also had advice from my sisters. My eldest sister is key to the very very strong person and there’ve been times when she has just upfront, “You need to do this! You need to do that!”. I’d be like “oh I’ll think about it” but actually her advice has been so key and so right she’s actually, she’s a li-a life saver I would say. So, there are times where she’s very strong with, “I think you should do this and do it now!” and she wags her finger. I’d resist her at first but actually she’s right. [laughs]

Emma: Nobody wants to be told that though do they. [laughs]
Pauline: No, no. [Laughs]

Emma: Do you think that strength and resilience are something that you see and experience frequently in your community?
Pauline: I think strength and resilience is something that I’ve experienced throughout my youth in particular in the- especially in the Afro-Caribbean community. In the sort of 60’s-70s, when my parents first came here and settled and we were all finding our feet, getting to know each other. We were literally like a community we had to stick together. Erm, and so it was normal for example to walk down the street and acknowledge an elder, say hello even if you didn’t know them by name. So, I think I’ve drawn a lot of strength from the local community and likewise when it comes to sort of parenting and family, we don’t sort of keep ourselves to ourselves we are a community. We will raise each other’s children if you like. So, the community means a lot. Definitely means a lot and I think we’ve helped to develop each other, support each other. Even now people come up to me and say “can I have some advice around careers?” you know, “I’m a nurse, I’m struggling. I want to go up the ladder but I don’t know how to.”. So, we do tend to sort of reach out and look out for each other because we haven’t had that, in the past no one sort of helped us as it were so we try and help each other.

Emma: Do you think your health is connected to your resilience and strength specifically?
Pauline: Yeah, I think my health is connected to my resilience and strength because for me my health and wellbeing is supported obviously by my spiritual wellbeing. But exercise is really key for me and I train a lot, several times a week and it gives me that sense of wellbeing, that sense of achievement. It’s also like a medicine t-to my physical body as well as to my soul and to my happiness. Even if I can’t run I’ll go for a walk and just take in the trees and listen to the birds singing and…yeah I’m a bit of a tree hugger anyway so I tend to, you know. People go, “oh where are you going on holiday?” and I’m like oh I sit in my back garden and just, look at the flowers! I’d be happy doing that. So, for me being outdoors, being active, appreciating the environment around is really really key definitely. And exercise, I’m not a happy bunny unless I exercise. [Laughs]

Emma: Hm hmm lovely. That is all my questions!
Pauline: Thank you for your time.

Click to watch Interview with Pauline

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Pam Sidhu
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Pam

Pam: Hi, I’m Pam Sidhu. I am a mindfulness teacher I’m also a life coach. I’m trained in the mind basically, that’s my background. I’ve been doing this since 2001. How we use the mind, how our thoughts actually work just fascinates me. I’m also a holistic nutritionist, my day job working on the radio. I have my own show every afternoon at one of the biggest British/Asian regional stations here in the UK. I’m at Sabras Radio and my show is at 1-3pm Monday to Friday and I love my music! I love connecting with that deeper part of ourselves, that inner peace part. That’s me.

Emma: Wonderful, that’s a lovely intro that’s loads! [laughs]. I’m just giving people context of how you know Zee, she’s organising it.
Pam: I know Zee because Zee’s been hosting some of the workshops I’ve been doing here in Leicester. She hosted the first workshop I did here in Leicester because I’m actually based over in Derby. So, she hosted a workshop for me recently, which was a mindfulness and NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming ) and it was all about setting people up in the new year with the right mindset, practising mindfulness and also to focus on what we want to come about in 2019.

Emma: Lovely. I’m kind of getting people to describe certain words so I understand their kind of perception of the word. So, what does strength mean to you?
Pam: Strength to me, first thing that comes to my mind is inner strength. Having that inner strength to get through out days, get through life. And what is coming to my mind right now is inner strength means not reacting to our circumstances because we can’t always change what’s happening around us, but the one thing where we do have our own power, where we do have our own strength is how we react to it in our mind. So, I find that if I keep myself in the moment and don’t react and shake things off. Whatever’s happened shake it off, come back into the moment. That’s my inner strength.

Emma: Lovely. The word resilience, what does that mean to you?
Pam: Resilience to me, it means something very similar as well. It’s about getting ourselves so strong inside that when the wind blows we don’t get knocked over. Again, it comes back to circumstances life is full of ups and downs. You know, there’s always things that can happen that are outside of our control but building up that inner resilience in ourselves is what’s always fascinated me because I found, years ago when I started off on this inner journey that you could get two people with the exact same circumstances that would react completely differently. So, for me that started an education process in like, why is that? What’s actually going on internally with people that’s different? And I actually feel that I’ve cracked it.

Emma: Nice. So, who is the most resilient person you know?
Pam: That would be my husband. He’s very resilient. He has had similar training as myself, we’re on a similar journey, a similar path. He is my biggest supporter, always supporting me on but also my biggest critic in a positive way, positive way. Always helping me improve- upgrade my mind!

Emma: Hmm is he sort of like- is he a support to you? Does he pick out things like, does he call you up if something’s not on a-
Pam: Yeah so for example, when I first started working in the media. When I first started working on the radio he was the one saying to me, you know what you’d be perfect to go on the radio, just go for it! He encouraged me every step of the way. When I first went on air if there was something that wasn’t quite right he’d say, “you know what maybe you could do this a little bit better this way” or you know, “this might sound better if you did it this way”. So, yeah.

Emma: So, do you think you are a resilient person?
Pam: I think I am yes. Definitely.

Emma: Do you think you’ve always been this resilient?
Pam: I’ve always been resilient. I think I’ve always had this strength in me. But then circumstances did happen in my life which knocked it out of me a little bit. And then I- once I started on this journey, I’ve just grown that strength back and got myself back into balance.

Emma: Just going on specifics, can you think of times that you’ve really needed that resilience and strength?
Pam: Yes. Yes…um so, do you want me to give examples?

Emma: You can, whatever you’re happy with.
Pam: So, there’s times where I’ve needed that resilience and strength when I’ve had things going on with my business in the past. I’ve had things maybe going on with family members. You know, as they say you can choose your friends but you can’t always choose your family and you can’t always choose your circumstances. Sadly, you know, when faced with family members even passing away. That’s something that we can’t control and grief is something that is very very real. How do we get past that? How do we grow past that? How do we continue here even when our loved ones might have left? So, for me I think times like that have actually- I’ve got through it and I’ve got even stronger because when bad things can happen…but then you know what? I always think of it as, “Are we going to sink or are we going to swim?”. You know, we’re gonna keep going and I find that if we can keep going we come through it even stronger and more of a- an even more improved version.

Emma: Hmm yes. Specifically, can you think of times where you’ve not been so strong? Is there any points where you’re like, “ah that knocked me off, that was one of those things”?
Pam: Yeah, just as some of the examples I gave earlier is times when I’ve not been that strong. More so in my younger years and I think because of the way the mind is and how they way I understand my mind is, I would listen to other people. So other people would say, “Oh you must be feeling like..” such, such a thing and it would be something negative and then I’d take that on and think, yeah I should be feeling like that. But maybe I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t taken that on and this is again what got me to study the way the mind works. I realised we actually have a record button where if we give something our full attention, we press record on that button and whatever it is, whatever that learning is. It goes in and is stored in the subconscious mind. This is why Freud said we’re puppets of the subconscious. So, when I learnt this I started to go back and look at my recordings and look at what I’ve actually recorded. What’s my stuff and what’s other people’s stuff? And start to actually separate that.

Emma: Yeah. Where do you draw your strength from?
Pam: So, I draw my strength from this inner power. That’s how I would describe it, a universal power. I do that from practising mindfulness and from using different NLP techniques, different things that I’ve learnt along the years. It’s like I’ve got a tool box and no matter what’s going on I can pull out a certain tool and use what I need to get my thought back into alignment and then bring myself back into the moment. Because I’ve found that when I’m in the moment. When my thoughts aren’t troubling me, everything’s ok. So, the translation, I’ll give you an example of that when I learnt the translation of ‘worry’ in Latin means to choke because when we’re worrying we could be choking what’s actually inside us. When we can clear our mind and just be here now because often, you know, I’ve found that in the past before I learnt this I could be stressing about something that had happened a long time ago. It wasn’t happening then in that moment of time and in this moment, everything is perfect. You know, unless of course unfortunately you’re living in a war zone or something like that but right now we’re really blessed because everything is perfect here. So I draw my strength from being in the moment and even simple things like, looking at a tree and seeing the beauty that’s there.

Emma: Beautiful. Have you even been given any advice or support which helped you draw that strength specifically?
Pam: Definitely . I have done a number of different courses, a number of seminars and took something from each different one. As there’s that saying, when the student’s ready the teacher appears. So, I’ve had so many great teachers that have taught me so much and have given me the right golden nugget of wisdom that I’ve needed at that part of my journey.

Emma: Brilliant. Do you think that strength and resilience are things that occur frequently around in your community?
Pam: Hmm…I think it’s uh- that’s a good question that one. Strength and resilience is something that occurs in my community. I think it’s down to individuals. Down to individuals, again bringing it back to what I said earlier of what recordings is in an individual’s subconscious mind, which could have been picked up from their parents and how their parents dealt with things. So, when I’m looking at the immediate people around me there’s a mixture. There’s a mixture of people that are very good at- they’re very resilient to the circumstances for example, like my Mum. She’s always taught me and she’s always been one of these where she won’t get caught up in things. Even as a child she said to me, “you can create heaven or hell in your mind, right here right now.” And you know, I don’t think she even realised what she way saying to me but that was like the best advice ever.

Emma: And the last one. Do you think your health is connected to your resilience and strength?
Pam: Definitely. I think there’s a huge mind and body connection and I think as we move forward science is gonna uncover this even more. I always tell myself that I’m feeling healthy, I’m feeling strong, I’m feeling well and I find that it does have an effect on my body.

Emma: Lovely. Is there anything else you wanna say about strength and resilience? Is there anything personally that you would…I don’t wanna say give people advice but along those lines, is there anything that you believe strongly about health and resilience?
Pam: I think for myself, health and resilience is all about living in the moment, about education our minds and it’s important for us to understand how the mind works. So if you imagine like you’ve got an iceberg and the tip of the iceberg above the sea is the conscious, and they’ve proven scientifically we only use between 5-7% of the conscious mind. Only 5 and 7%! The rest of it is just the subconscious which is beneath the sea. So, a lot of the times when people might be feeling not great it’s just because of what’s stored in the subconscious and we do have a choice. We can get back in the driver’s seat and take control of that. Often we just need to find the right guidance, the right teacher to educate our minds in the right way. We’re here, we’re in the moment, we’re immersing ourselves in the present moment and I think the present moment really is the best present that we can give ourselves.

Emma: That’s lovely. Thank you.

Click to watch Interview with Pam

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Shamin Issa
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Shamin

Emma: So, the first thing I’m just going to ask you to do is introduce yourself and this doesn’t just have to be your name, it can be a bit about you, anything about you at all.
Shamin: Oh, ok. My name is Shamin Issa, I’m married to Dean and I’ve got 4 kids. I’ve got 3 girls and 1 boy, and I got 6 grandkids.

Emma: Big family! [laughs] What do you- are you a house wife? Do you-
Shamin: I used to word- my husband has got his own business so I help him out with his business. You know?

Emma: Lovely. What business is it?
Shamin: He- car mechanic. He repairs cars so I do his paper work, I do it at home. So I can look after my grandkids as well you know?

Emma: Very busy. [laughs] Basically. How do you know Zee?
Shamin: I know Zee through one day a leaflet came through my post you know. So, I read it and it said Zumba you know and it was- the Zumba was taking place near where I live you know. So I said oh I’ll have a go, let me go have a look how it is you know? That’s when I went to the first class, that’s when I met Zee you know. Then I enjoyed the class and I started attending her class. That’s how I know Zee.

Emma: Lovely. This is not like, a test so this is not a Wikipedia answer. This is not like I’m giving you points on answering a question, it’s just your perspective of it.
Shamin: [Nodding her head] Yeah ok.

Emma: So however you see it basically, what you think you should be saying. So how would you describe strength?
Shamin: Strength? [frowns whilst shaking head] Um, strength is like…how I describe myself as working slowly and then building up your strength you know? From scratch, slowly, slowly then you build up your strength up you know? That’s how I describe myself you know. Yeah.

Emma: What does the word resilience mean to you?
Shamin: [Raises eyebrows and tilts head] Hmm. I don’t know. [laughs]

Emma: I can give you the definition if you want-
Shamin: Yeah yeah please.

Emma: and then you can describe how you’d apply that. James is gonna get it out again. We had this the other day and I was just like, it’s an interesting word because it’s not a word you hear every day, at all. Like- and it’s quite an interesting idea so it’s like you know- oh [talks to crew member] get it up. I can remember kind of what it say but I’d rather give you the proper definition rather than me give you my interpretation-
Shamin: [Nodding] Yeah, yeah.

Emma: -and you just say my interpretation, that’s not the idea. [laughs]
Crew Member: So- we’ll just go with the first one because the other one’s- so, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness. So, slightly different from strength and it’s your ability to recover quickly and get over things. There is a second which I think- the ability of a substance or object springing back into shape. Elasticity. So I suppose- yeah that’s still relevant.
Shamin: I think mine is to build up and come out of the shell and build up…build up your strength you know?

Emma: Who is the most resilient person you know?
Shamin: Zee! [laughs] Yeah, Zee.

Emma: What makes her so resilient?
Shamin: Because she’s helped me through my journey, and she doesn’t judge people how they are you know. No matter what colour you and all that, we are like one family. She’ll help you out if you going through problems you can talk to her and she’ll help you out you know.

Emma: That’s lovely. Do you think you are a resilient person?
Shamin: Not really! [laughs]

Emma: Wh- why is that do you think?
Shamin: I don’t know I don’t think that I’ve got the ability like the way Zee does you know and all that. So, I don’t think so. [chuckles]

Emma: Erm, do you think you’ve always not been that resilient? Or, do you think it’s something that you have been in the past? Have you not always or was it just always you don’t think you’re resilient?
Shamin: Might have been in the past you know? Then half way then give up [laughs] Yeah, you know in the past you know not- [shakes head].

Emma: Why or when do you think it changed? Didn’t feel as resilient?
Shamin: I think it’s changed when I- when my kids were growing up and all that you know? Then it’s like uh…taking them to school, drop them uni and all that it’s like I didn’t have time for myself you know? I was always on the go you know.

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve really needed resilience and strength?
Shamin: I think the time which I needed was when my kids were growing up you know and others were going to school, others to the primary school, university. So it was like from here to that place, from this A-Z and coming back and then home. Then next morning it’s back to the same thing you know? And all that.

Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve not been feeling that strong?
Shamin: Yeah the time I felt not strong was when I lost my sister. When she had cancer and we remained- we very close you know, we lived in this- in Leicester. We were very close, we did everything together. Then when I lost her I feel like I went down you know? Like I’d lost everything I didn’t bother like that. I don’t- I don’t want to do anything now you know because I was like missing her a lot you know. We did everything together and all that.

Emma: Where do you think when you have a bit of strength, where do you draw it from?
Shamin: I think by meeting different kinds of people and I got involved in charity work and all that you know, with cancer and different charities, homeless people and all that. That’s when I got my strength I say there is life you know? You can get on and all that by helping others and all that. Yeah.

Emma: Have you ever been given any advice or you had any support that you really can remember, helped you draw more strength?
Shamin: I remember my Mum telling me that we are not old, you’re still young you know. You can still be yourself, you’re a very strong woman you know and all that. The way you are you can do it. Whatever you chose to do, I’m sure you can do it you know. Don’t go down, I want you to go up and all that you know? To my mum talking to me you know.

Emma: That’s lovely. When did she tell you that?
Shamin: She told me about 5 years ago you know. She goes, I know you very well and I know you can go up there you know and all that. Yeah.

Emma: The word- I’ve used the word community here but you can think of it like society, culturally like anything you want it to be but, do you think strength and resilience are things that occur frequently in the community around you?
Shamin: Yeah it does. Yeah around you yeah it does, I know different communities and all that you know? Different communities, different opinions you know? So, you learn that way by mixing with different communities, you learn how other communities operate and all that you know.

Emma: Yeah. Is there anything in particular you think? Is there any one example, or one group or one thing that you think has really shown you lots of strength and resilience?
Shamin: It’s one group like when I joined Zee, you meet different types of people you know. You meet Indian, African-Caribbean, English, Hindus, Pakistani and all that. It’s like when you meet up and how you get involved with them you know, you become friends with them and all that. That shows, yeah there is people who are different and you can still be friends and be one you know. You don’t have to like…leave them out and all that. You can still be one, be the same and all that you know.

Emma: Do you think your health is connected to your strength and resilience?
Shamin: Yeah my health is connected to my strength since I joined Zee. I think I’ve got the strength and all that. I’m on the go all the time and all that you know. Before I would be sitting, all day sitting watching telly, doing nothing, being lazy and all that. Since I joined I want to do more and more, do more and more and all that you know.

Emma: Do you think your health is just your body or is it something else as well?
Shamin: My health is my body, how I feel…you know? How- day to day how I feel and all that. How much can I get on and all that you know.

Emma: Is there anything else you’d say? And this Is not my asking you to give advice but if there’s anything else you can think of that’d you’d like to say about strength or resilience, or even health and wellbeing. Anything that you’d like to say about it that you think-
Shamin: Well I’d like to say that in our community you know, they think that they might be 40-45 they think that you can’t do things you know? They all they want to do- just want to sit, watch telly and all that. Think that they’re too old to go exercise, too old to go do this and all that but I think that no matter what age you are you can do it. If you’ve got that determination to do it, you can do it you know.

Emma: Lovely. Yeah I have a really nice idea for something you said quite early on actually. That was a really nice one that I think will really work for you.
Crew Member: We stopping?
Emma: I think so, unless there’s anything else you want to say about it? I think I’ve got some good stuff. Is there anything else?
Shamin: I think having like my grandkids you know it brought me- when I used to go the summer when they have the sports day. I’d be watching them and they say the parents can join in and I’d be watching that and oh, I wish- I was like shy to join in you know. I’d look there and think if I join in they might think something of me and all that, but since I started going to Zee I’ve opened up a lot. When I go to watch my grandkids have a sports day, I’ll join in you know and I have fun and all that. My grandkids are always looking forward for me to go there and say, “Nanny are you going to come we’re having sports day on this day” and I join in and have fun and all that you know. I’ve come out from the shy shell now I’ve opened up, now joining with different kinds of people and all that you know.

Emma: Yep, yeah yup that’s confirmed what I’m gonna do so that’s good! [laughs] No, that’s really good. Yeah, that’s it really I think?

Click to watch Interview with Shamin

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Sheetal Parbat
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Sheetal

Sheetal: Ok. Hi Emma. I’m Sheetal, I’m 42 years old. I’m a mummy of two, a part-time working mummy. Erm, a very busy person on my feet all day. I don’t know what else you’d like to know about me? [laughs]

Emma: You can tell us anything. You can tell us like, what you do as a job anything, anything you want to.
Sheetal: Yeah. I work for NatWest bank. I’ve just moved to another branch locally working part-time as I said. Working around my kids so I can pick them up, drop them to wherever they need to go after school. Also, I’m a housewife as well as a working mummy.

Emma: That’s fine. Yeah that’s absolutely fine! How do you know Zee?
Sheetal: How do I- I know Zee from Z-fit. I joined Z-fit in 2012, been with her since then. She’s been- yeah a lovely instructor and she’s become a friend as well.

Emma: Yeah that’s just to get an idea basically for the whole project because obviously, Zee’s bringing everyone together. Erm the first kind of question is how do you describe strength? Sheetal: Someone that supports you, erm someone that looks after your interests. Someone that will help you achieve your things. Someone that’s there for you and will see you through it.

Emma: Is there anything else you can think of? Any words come to mind?
Sheetal: Erm, can’t remember what I said earlier now. Erm-

Emma: Is there someone that supports you?
Sheetal: Yeah, someone that supports me, someone that looks after my interests, erm. Can’t remember what I said sorry. [laughs]

Emma: Yeah that’s fine. In the same way what does the word resilience mean to you?
Sheetal: Should have looked that word up innit? [laughs]

Emma: Anything like, this is not a like dictionary test [laughs] it’s what it means to you.
Sheetal: What it means to me.

Emma: Yeah
Sheetal: Again, similar I think. Similar to strength I think. Someone that inspires you to do things. Similar to strength really yeah. Someone that will support you, help you, that will be a backbone really. Getting you there wherever you wanna get.

Emma: Nice. So who is the most resilient person you know?
Sheetal: I think everyone will probably say this well most people would say this but I’d say my family. My husband, my kids erm, I’d say Zee as well because she has supported me.

Emma: Do you think you are a resilient person?
Sheetal: I can be, yes.

Emma: Can you think of times that you’ve needed resilience and strength and what they are?
Sheetal: When I’ve needed them?

Emma: Mm hm.
Sheetal: As in like when I’ve someone to help me, support me?

Emma: Yeah if you want.
Sheetal: Yeah. Yeah the support really, the support someone there to listen to me, to all my rubbish that I go on about. [Chuckles] Erm, yeah. Sorry I shouldn’t have said that! [Laughs]

Emma: [Laughs] Do you think you’ve always been resilient? Are you- through your life do you think resilience has always meant the same thing? Have you always been this way?
Sheetal:
No. No, it’s only been in the last few years. I wouldn’t say I had a health scare or whatever but it kind of affected me? So at the time, I didn’t realise I was going through this issue until I was approached by somebody and that made me understand like, look you need to sort yourself out.

Emma: Have you- oh I’ll ask this one first so, where do you draw your strength from? So when you’re being resilient when you’re having to be strong, where do you get it from?
Sheetal: Again, as I said it’s from my family and a dear friend of mine. Yeah they’ve- my husband supports me. He knows my limits, if I’m sad he knows why I’m sad. If I know…if he- if I don’t do something he knows why I won’t do it. My kids, because of them they give me the strength to carry on. They smile, I smile. They laugh, I laugh.

Emma: That’s lovely. Can you think of times when you’ve not been as strong and resilient? Even if you just describe the difference in like mindset of that to now. That’s enough so.
Sheetal: When I’ve not been?

Emma: Hmm. [nodding]
Sheetal: Erm, maybe when this all started yeah. I’d say I was a happy- well I am a happy person I am, but it’s just certain things that will set off my mind. But yeah, before that just a normal person. I’m not saying I’m not normal but [chuckles]

Emma: Do you think- I’m going off script now. [laughs] Do you think that then your resilience and strength is very much to do with your mind?
Sheetal: Yes. It’s all mindset. It’s all mindset. [nodding]

Emma: This is an interesting one because like, you don’t need to give specific words but it can be general if you can’t think of specific things but have you ever been given any advice or support which helped you draw your strength out or give you more strength? Is there anything, advice or support specifically like examples almost?
Sheetal: I think if you are told something and you’re not happy with it. Firstly, you’re gonna get anxiety, you’re gonna be depressed, you’re gonna be unhappy. I’d say go and get the support you need. Speak to somebody, talk it through with a friend or a colleague or, you know if it’s related to your health got to a health professional or anybody that can help you. Because it may not be as bad as you think it is. Yeah.

Emma: Definitely just talking to people.
Sheetal: Just talking to people. [nodding head] It’s the right remedy.

Emma: Do think this is more like to do with like ideas around about society and culture and like a community. Do you think that strength and resilience are things that occur really frequently in your community around you?
Sheetal: I don’t think people are aware of it. I don’t think people are aware that they need the help, they need the support, they don’t realise this. Yes, it is to do with community, maybe to do with religion I don’t know. But yes, I think it does happen in families, religion erm, society where they don’t wanna come out with it.

Emma: This is a random question because with all the other question but I left it to the end because I basically talked about, do you think your health is connected to your resilience and strength? Are they together in the way they work?
Sheetal: Yes. I’d say it is.

Emma: That’s good. Ok it gives us something to work from.

Click to watch Interview with Sheetal

Concept design and Artwork: Emma Fay
Models: Vanisha Narsing
Photographer: David Wilson Clarke

Click to read Interview with Vanisha

Emma: So, the first thing, I just get people to introduce themselves and when I say introduce yourself, just a bit about you in general. Doesn’t have to be formal but it can be like just anything about you really.
Vanisha: Ok. My name’s Vanisha. I’ve been living in the UK for about 14 years now. I come from a little country called Zimbabwe. I’m pretty much on my own in the UK, all my family’s in Australia so there’s lots of the long-distance calls and video call and that with them. But erm, yeah that’s about me I think. [laughs]

Emma: What did you come over here, like what made you?
Vanisha: Political situation in Zimbabwe wasn’t too good. My brother and sister were here initially so then I decided to make the move as well.

Emma: And did they leave and you stayed?
Vanisha: Yes. [laughs]

Emma: Ok, why did they leave and why did you stay?
Vanisha: Well, [laughs] my brother got married and his wife is from Australia so he moved there and then my sister decided to go and study in Australia, and she did that and then she decided to stay on there. Then my parents moved across there because everyone’s there! [laughs]

Emma: Aw that’s lovely, very interesting.
Emma: That’s nice, sounds good. How do you know Zee? Just to get context for the [gestures outwards]
Vanisha: I know Zee through erm- I think about 5 years ago, I actually walked into one of her Zumba classes on a Wednesday in the jungle club. I guess it’s just started from there. So, I’ve been to lots of different classes, got to know her. I did a bit of PT with her as well which was absolutely brilliant and erm…just become a friend.

Emma: Lovely. You get dragged into the madness as well don’t you? [laughs]
Vanisha: Yes! Dragged into the madness. The crazy madness [laughs]

Emma: Yeah [laughs] So, how do you describe strength?
Vanisha: It’s something that’s gotta come from within. It’s…you know it’s one of those that keeps you going and I think if it doesn’t come from within you, it’s- it’s not going to keep you going and that’s purely on my basis anyway.

Emma: Cool. Obviously, this is about resilience, what does resilience mean?
Vanisha: Ugh gosh that again, another way of- resilience, just keep going. I think the times that we live in, you’ve got to find something that keeps you going. For me, it’s my family. I’ve been brought up with that whole, you’ve gotta do the best you can and you’ve gotta keep going, and that’s what life is. You keep going.

Emma: This is a hard one but who is the most resilient person you know?
Vanisha: Ooh. I’m gonna have to say my Dad I think. I think erm, he’s been through a lot and a lot of the stories that come- that he’s told us from when he grew up and what he’s been through. It’s absolutely amazing and like, he’s one person I do look up to because of how strong he is and what he’s got through. So yeah my Dad.

Emma: What are some of his stories? Can I ask any of his stories? Can you remember any?
Vanisha: Lots of his childhood from when he grew up because he was in a big family. Stayed in an extended family and they weren’t a well of family so, they were quite poor. It’s just the whole having to cycle to school like, there was- he used to have—he’s got 7 brothers. So, he would have to sit on the back of one of his brother’s bikes and they used to go to school like that, or my Grandad used to have a big bike and there’d be two of them on them and go. You know that would be for like kilometres because I don’t know miles but you know, a fair way away. It’s just from what he was- from what he was and he you know for what he accomplished. I think he’s just done really good in that way.

Emma: Do you think you’re a resilient person?
Vanisha: Yes, I do. [laughs] I do think I’m really resilient. There’s a lot to be accomplished in terms of like when I moved here 14 years ago, I had my family around me and for the last probably 10 years now…no not 10 years about 7- I’d say 7 years I’ve been on my own, and that’s…it teaches you things. You’ve got to be your own person, you’ve got to understand you, you’ve got to get through things. So, you’ve you know- there’s nobody else to say to me, “you need to get up today and do this”. [laughs] I’ve got to make sure I do it myself so I think, in that way I’ve broken lots of barriers. I’m still working on lots of things but I think I’m going through it, in that way.

Emma: Do you think, have you always been resilient do you think?
Vanisha: To some extent yes. I think a lot of it is from my childhood. My Mum’s always taught me that…you know you’ve always got to do the best you can. You’ve got to get up in the morning and sort of go to school you know, there’s no excuses. I’ve been quite a big girl since I was small so there were times when…you get up in the morning and you think oh I don’t want to go to school because whatever, you know? Or you don’t get…chosen for certain things but my mum always fought for me in that way.

Emma: That’s really good. Can you think of times when you’ve really needed strength and resilience?
Vanisha: Yes. I went through a really bad break up a few years ago and erm, during that time I needed to have my strength and resilience. It was a case of if I keep going like this I’m gonna do myself more harm so I had to completely cut off from that person and kind of move on. But it was pretty much a…’this is it’ [laughs] you know, you’re gonna start your new life so it’s actually been 5 years this week that I’ve had that split so it’s quite erm, yeah it’s quite an achievement in that way.

Emma: This is like- can you think of times when you’ve not been so strong?
Vanisha: Erm, that’s an interesting question [laughs]

Emma: I know. It’s more like to get a shared empathy for people because there is times for everybody where they’re like, “Oh I wish I’d been strong then” when you reflect back.
Vanisha: Yeah

Emma: What I felt like and then people kind of share it. They go actually I’m not strong. It’s not a horrible thing it’s just part of a human experience.
Vanisha: I mean I’m sure there is. I mean even if I look back, although I feel as though I was strong when I broke off that- you know that relationship. It was…there were times when I think I could have probably done it sooner so maybe in that sense yeah. Erm, but I can’t think of anything no not…yeah.

Emma: I think that’s actually really powerful because sometimes people put off things because they don’t feel strong enough and then when you do, you look back and-
Vanisha: [nodding] yeah.

Emma: So where do you draw your strength from?
Vanisha: My family. I think that’s my one thing, if I’m having a bad day or anything of that sort I’ll always go back to them for advice. That’s the one thing that you know, I have daily contact with because without them or without their guidance, I wouldn’t get anywhere. But I think also, it comes from within and that’s because of my upbringing. I think, from when I was young- like I said my mum and dad have always said to me like, you’ve gotta do the best you can. It doesn’t matter what people say, you’ve gotta get out of there and you’ve gotta do it, and you know I think that’s slowly sort of- all those words have just kind of…given me that strength to carry on in that way.

Emma: That’s perfect for the next question then. [laughs] So have you ever been given any advice or support which really helped you draw more strength?
Vanisha: Yes. Erm, and strangely enough not from my immediate family, from my cousin and she gave me a talking to the once and she said- and this is what reminded me she said, “we’ve not been brought up weak, we’ve been brought up strong and independent”. You know like, in some Asian families some girls are not allowed to work and- or have an education, and we’ve been given that opportunity. She said to me she said, “You’ve not been brought up weak, you’ve been brought up strong. Draw on that strength.” And I think that reminded me of what I needed to do and until today I actually do remember that so, yeah.

Emma: Do you think that strength and resilience are things that occur frequently in the community around you?
Vanisha: I think erm…within nowadays definitely within the community you feel- I feel as though a lot of people are more open about their struggles and they talk about it, and I think like, for me that will give me strength to say, oh ok, so and so has gone through that and I could go through that as well in that way. So, in that sense nowadays I think within a community, people are more open to talk about their strengths, their difficulties, what gave them strength in that sense.

Emma: Do you think that health is connected to your resilience and strength?
Vanisha: Definitely, definitely think that health is connected to it all. You’ve got to be healthy- well not go to be healthy but having a healthy mind, healthy attitude gives you the strength in terms of dealing with it in a proper way. I don’t know, lots of exercise and that. It just opens your mind in a way. I mean my example is, before I started classes I didn’t- I always thought any problem I had was my problem alone. I didn’t realise that people actually went through all of this stuff because we were so close- you like as a family you’re so close and you just think, oh anything that’s wrong with me is just me. But I’ve met some really amazing ladies through Zee’s classes and, it’s made me realise that you’re not alone through all of these struggles. There’s loads of different people around you that are going through it and I think that’s what’s really helpful in that sense.

Emma: This is like- it’s kind of coming to the end now just- I don’t, I’m not asking people to give advice because it’s not really the idea but is there anything else you’d like to say that you haven’t already said about resilience, strength, wellbeing, any of the subjects?
Vanisha: Sometimes…I mean…I’m not a perfect lady in terms of you know, weight wise and all of that and I have my struggles with it all. But for me part of it is acceptance of who I am and I think…I think for anybody out there who’s having any sort of struggle. It’s just accepting who you are for- you know what you are and trying to build on that. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Work on what you want to do as a person…and the only competition I think is yourself so, if you can be happy with how you are, if you can love yourself for who you are then…you’ll be fine.

Emma: Lovely. Yeah I think that’s everything.

Click to watch Interview with Vanisha