Inside Stories: stories of resilience during the pandemic is a series of conversations with people who have been displaced by war, conflict or persecution towards their lives, thoughts and hopes for others.
A few weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, we asked entrepreneur Usman Khalid what was happening in his life, what was on his mind and what message of resilience he might have for others. Usman was born in Pakistan and has been in the UK since 2007. In 2015 he gained refugee status and now lives in London. After graduating from the @TERN business incubating programme in 2018, Usman founded and opened Haven Coffee in 2019.
“Personally I don’t feel so much change because I have no family here, I was living alone and in the house where I live, they are good people but we’re not the same at speaking English. It makes it difficult to communicate so there was isolation before and isolation now. I think time as well can be a blessing or a curse; it passes and flies; the bad times, but also the good times too. One of the positive things about this time has been that I’ve started running for the first time in my life, and then I’m co-hosting an on-line weekly quiz event for the TimePeace App: Refugees and locals skill swap community.
It was very difficult in the first couple of weeks; it all happened so fast and no-one anticipated this. The week before lockdown I had just secured a location for Haven Coffee inside Spitalfields market for four days a week. I’ll be back there when everything re-opens, but there’s no cash flow coming in now which is a big concern financially. I have a bit of money left and a couple of organisations like TERN – The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network are helping out, and my coffee supplier also made a donation. For now I am applying for jobs. Everyone is in the same boat.
Isolation has put everyone in a similar state – whether white, black or brown; refugee or non refugee, or whatever our sexuality. Isolation shows us everyone is similar.
My business, Haven Coffee, also runs events. A comedy gig will probably take place now at the end of this year and an art instalment next year. An art exhibition for Refugee Week has been cancelled but now we’re exploring how to do it online. Isolation has put everyone in a similar state – whether white, black or brown; refugee or non refugee, or whatever our sexuality. Isolation shows us everyone is similar.
Life is more than Covid 19, so I’d say to others don’t lose focus and keep going. Try to find some activity that you’ve not done before to keep yourself busy and engaged. And if you have spare time use it in a way that can benefit you and others.”
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https://www.tern.com – you can support their work at www.ternfund.com
https://www.havencoffee.co.uk/ – buy a coffee voucher now to redeem in the future