Covid-19 Community Reporter, Dianna Djokey, interviews father and local restaurant business owner, Mohammad Miah, on how Covid has affected the Bangladeshi community and local businesses, alongside the impact of isolation and home-schooling.
Dianna Djokey: How has Covid impacted you and your family or if you are aware, the rest of the community?
Mohammad Miah: I’m self-employed, Covid has impacted my personal business and my family this year. There is a big Bangladeshi community here in Portsmouth, usually as a community there would be festivities, but this year we had to be very careful. I’ve got two boys who are supposed to be in school, but aren’t because of the virus and it has definitely affected their education.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of self-employed Bangladeshi businesses, it has affected community businesses as a whole. There are lots of people that are working as taxi drivers, which have become difficult; so many people have stopped driving taxis because it became risky for them. People within the community are uncertain what will happen next, and wonder if lockdown will be extended. If lockdown happens again our restaurants will be closed and definitely if able to stay open will affect the times we open, which can slow business down. People within the community during the summer, tend to go back home to visit their families but this year I don’t think they will be able to.
Normally we like socializing and do this every week; we visit our friends’ and family’s houses and we have a party or stop by for some coffee but since lockdown that has ceased. With that we are feeling a sense of loneliness because we are not used to not being together. Even with Friday Mosque, before you were able to go in for a little while but now it’s closed.
I think we as a community are feeling a lot more isolated [and] the distance has been hard. Before we had an opportunity to know each other. Now we are stuck at home, though we are using social media, some people are active with it, and some people aren’t, so it’s very difficult to know how they are doing and what their situation is like. Sometimes I don’t think that they express their true reality, so what we are trying to do as part of the community, is Zoom meetings. For at least an hour, we actually met, discussed and celebrated Eid festival this way.
How did your family adapt to lockdown, what was your experience like?
The kids at the time were studying at home, though to be honest I don’t think they were that interested in studying. Normally they wanted to be on their electronic device, so that was challenging, especially with how long they were on their devices for, which is not really good for their mental health and development. Covid has definitely affected their social skills – they used to meet other children from the community and play together. So I was especially concerned about their social skills, as they may miss out on being able to understand different cultures and other people. They are definitely missing that connectivity we are all so used to.
How are you approaching that with your children?
[We] tried to make it easier by forming a routine that tried to include studying. I also think as we have locally disconnected physically, we focus on the relatives that are living in different counties. We have family in York so the kids can spend a little time with their cousins talking, asking about their experiences and how they are doing. We allocated time to communicate with the relatives they may not have met before so that is part of the culture, and called it ‘Relative Studies’. They were also doing breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. We like to take them walking by the sea at Canoe Lake, so they can get a little bit a fresh air.
Have you been able to find support within other community services or Portsmouth City Council if you needed ay assistance or support?
I personally didn’t seek help from the council for anything, but I helped some of the businesses within the community with trying to get grants. Sometimes I didn’t know there were deadlines, so I would help some of the community businesses as well as some other people. The government has the furlough scheme on offer so I would signpost them. I took the initiative, I made some donations that we needed to distribute some food to around Portsmouth, as HIVE was doing the distribution of it. I helped where I could.
What would you say are some of the lessons you’ve learned through lockdown, both as a parent and as an individual within the Bangladeshi community?
I learned that uncertainty could happen anywhere. Sometimes when we live in a western country everything is okay, but the difficult times can come from anywhere and hit anyone. We know that the Covid 19 is here and we might have a second wave so we have to live with it, it’s like a new normal, we need to adapt and accept it as it is out of our control. We need to abide by the law and Government guidelines as it minimizes the risks for the community as well as for the family.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- BAME communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.