Mr Hussain’s Story

In February 2014 we were pleased to begin our ‘memory gathering’ sessions with members of our Future Years group. Our first participant was Mr Hussain, who brought in photographs that remind him of family, friends and places he has lived and worked. With the facilitator Richard Neville, we have scanned these photos and asked Mr Hussain to say a little bit about them.

Read more about the Future Years project here.  Please contact Gill Laverick at the centre if you are over 50 years old and would like to share your story.

Mr Hussain, in his own words:

I was born in Sylhet in Bangladesh, which at the time was East Pakistan, in 1956.
I had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. I was the fourth born in my family. My father was a shopkeeper and we had some land which he used to look after. I attended the Madrasha for four years and studied Islamic History. I had an opportunity to go to West Pakistan at that time and in 1967 I came to the UK. I came by myself. I flew from Karachi to Gatwick and then onwards to Swansea. I had relatives in Swansea. I worked there part time in the catering industry and also attended High School. Later I went to College in Swansea and studied a Secretarial Course. I wanted to learn how to type. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left college but I thought typing would be useful.

When I left college I started working full time in a restaurant. I worked in South Wales in a number of restaurants over the next few years. At the time there weren’t many people In Wales from Bangladesh but as the years passed more people arrived and started up businesses. Many started working in restaurants and then opened up their own catering businesses.

I moved from Swansea to Newport in Gwent in the late 70s and from there I moved to Sunderland as there was an opportunity to open up a business. After working in Sunderland for a couple of years I moved back to London where I worked in a restaurant and also opened up a minicab office. Before moving back north to open a takeaway in Houghton le Spring in 1990.

I did not go to University but I spent every afternoon in the public library reading up on law. I was interested to find out what small business owners could do legally to deal with problems such as boisterous customers, customers who refused to leave the premises etc.
In Sunderland I slowly became involved in Community Work eg first I became one of the executive members of Young Asian Voices, a youth project for young Asian people, providing training and support for those young people. Then I got involved with a number of other voluntary organisations, providing help training and advice for the community. At one stage I was asked to become a board member for the Lotteries Board, when you play the lottery 4.7% goes towards good causes. That money is distributed across the country. I was on the board based in Newcastle. We used to get about 100 applications each month. I worked there for two years on a voluntary basis receiving only travel expenses. This is where I gained a lot of knowledge of community work across the North East.

I was approached by the University of Sunderland to take a one year Matrix course to find out about key players in the North East, their roles and responsibilities. The course fee for that was paid by the University and I successfully completed the course.

At that point I was invited by Her Majesty the Queen to attend a dinner at Buckingham Place to recognise the good work I had done for the community. This was a great honour for me. I had a chat with the Queens four secretary, one of whom had been posted to Pakistan for four years. He had great knowledge of life in Pakistan.

I received a lifetime award from the Millennium Awards Trust.

In late 1990 I started getting involved in the Bangladeshi working group in order to build the Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre, with the support of Banks of the Wear. In the year 2000 we successfully managed to open the centre along with all our colleagues. Since I became one of the directors in 2000 I have remained on the board. I gained a lot of experience by working with my colleagues and the community. I find the work fascinating. We provide lots of training in house for the community. If there is the opportunity I take the courses myself. I have done food hygiene, Health and Safety, Safety at Work and First Aid and also an Immigration Course. These Courses are all certificated. The Immigration Course was a three month course looking at Immigration law between 1910 and 2012. I completed a course in interpreting in 2013 which means I can take a Master’s degree in interpreting should I choose to.

While I was a director of the Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre I travelled to a number of European Countries, Spain, France, and Holland. I love to travel and have visited most parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland. In all my travels I believe law and order in the UK is among the best in the world. I have been actively involved with Northumbria Police as I am a local Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) member. This means that every few weeks I attend a meeting in Gilbridge Police Station discussing a number of issues such as anti social behaviour. I believe that as active citizens we should not simply leave this issue in the hands of the police but take an active role in dealing with disaffected youth and the community as a whole. As far as community issues go I have attended meetings in Ponteland to discuss issues relating to the Islamic such as the burning of the Quran in Gateshead. A number of times we took a part in suggesting a number of solutions to problems relating to ethnic minorities. As part of this I worked on a board of people to help make suggestions to the Home Office, we were tasked with making 70 suggestions and in fact were able to make over 100. They happily accepted these recommendations.

While I was a director for the Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre I was part of the delegation sent from the City of Sunderland to Bangladesh. I often travel to Bangladesh to ensure help is getting to the right people, for example after the floods in Bangladseh I visited Syhlet with a collection of money for the flood victims. This ensured that the money reached the people in most desperate need rather than being handed over to a large organisation.

I am also involved with the Mosque in Sunderland, holding a variety of positions, however within the Mosque you do not have to hold a position; everyone can help and support the needs of the community.

My involvement in catering has meant that over the years I have owned a variety on takeaways in the North East region as far afield as Darlington, Peterlee, Washington, Consett and the Sunderland area. In conjunction with my charitable work for both Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre and Young Asian Voices I have been kept very busy. I like a challenge and intend to continue my commitment to community work for many years to come.