Gulsoom aslam

A blog by Gulsoom Aslam

Gulsoom is our Places of Welcome Facilitator in Burton

My relationship with Burton

I have always had an interesting relationship with the feeling of belonging (being a northern city girl in a small Midland's town). So when I took on the post of Places of Welcome Facilitator for Burton upon Trent, at the end of 2018, I was keen to explore my ideas of belonging and connection. I had a feeling of excitement at this new opportunity, mixed with a little apprehension about how this little town of Burton would respond to me and this wonderful initiative called Places of Welcome.

It very quickly became clear that I needn't have worried at all. I was greeted with open arms, warmth, and love almost wherever I went. This town was already having many conversations about belonging and was doing the work to facilitate this movement and they embraced the Places of Welcome initiative wholeheartedly.

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A pop up Place of Welcome at Burton Library

Fast forward 12 months.

We arrived at a point where we hosted our first Places of Welcome Pop up Event at Burton Library. (aptly it was the first Place of Welcome to open in Burton).

The Library is situated in the centre of town, it is a busy and well loved library attracting a large number of regular guests at their Tuesday afternoon Place of Welcome.

It was the perfect location for an event to celebrate the combined achievements of all the volunteers and organisations involved in hosting Places of Welcome and also to promote this initiative to the general public, Inviting them to come along for a free cup of coffee and plenty of refreshments (courtesy of Tesco and M&S) and to enjoy a slice of the most amazing cake donated by The Summerhouse Bakery, one of our more recent additions to the PoW family.

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Some of TCT’s Places of Welcome Team (L to R) Black Country Facilitator Su Parker; Burton Facilitator Gulsoom Aslam; Team Leader Helen Titterton; East Staffordshire Facilitator Judith Parry

As I looked around I could see the connections that had been made over the past few months coming to fruition, creating an atmosphere of joy and togetherness, it was heartwarming to see and it was all the more rewarding being surrounded by a wonderful team, My colleagues Helen, Judith and Su (aka The Dream Team) but most importantly all the Volunteers who give up their time to host a Place of Welcome every week without whom none of this would be possible.

Reflecting back on 2019, I am proud to see the culmination of a year's work coming together, helping to create spaces for people to feel they can belong and find meaningful connections, In this pursuit, I have found a new sense of belonging for myself through the people I have met and the friendships that I have made.

Since launching our first Place of Welcome at Burton Library in March 2019 we continued to make a steady impact in the area, leading to a further 7 Places of Welcome located in a diverse mix of venues and organisations, reflecting the diverse nature of Burton. Our most recent additions being The Muddy Boots Gardening Project and The Summerhouse Bakery.

There are many more possibilities to explore and with new Interest already brewing, I look forward to seeing what 2020 has to bring.