Blog Author- Hamira Sultan – FPA Director for the Naturally Birmingham Project
I’ve been thinking quite hard about how becoming FPA Director for Naturally Birmingham has been life changing for me. I was born in Birmingham to a Muslim, Pakistani family, where I spent 18 years growing up in Perry Barr. I lived with my Mum and Nani (maternal grandmother), both immigrants from Pakistan. My mum had to leave school at 18 as her dad died 4 years previously leaving my Nani with 7 children to raise.
I think back on my own life growing up and my Mum was absolutely determined I wouldn’t follow in her footsteps. As a single parent, she was very protective of me – I didn’t get to play with other children in the street, we rarely went to the park as there wasn’t one near us and Mum wasn’t too keen on me getting dirty. Education was absolutely top of the priority list – and without that, I doubt I’d have got to where I am today. I’ll forever be thankful that she invested so much in me.
Nature and green spaces were a mystery to me growing up – Mum was and still is a keen gardener. I still remember we had a perfectly manicured garden and my cousins and I could look at it (but not run on it!). Seeing her spend hours cutting the edges put me off having a garden in all honesty, and was something I vowed to avoid in my own home. It might sound like I’m describing a stereotype of Asian families – maybe I am, but there’s no denying there is a shortage of black and ethnic minority people working in the world of green spaces. I often how wonder how much of that is because of our relationship with nature. Whatever the reason, and given the diverse make up of my home city, I’m determined FPA goes some way to address this imbalance.
Fast forward 20 years, I met my husband Mark, who was born and raised in the countryside. An avid fan of nature and the outdoors, he has completely changed my perspective on nature. We have a young son, Esa who is now nearly 4 years old. Esa’s childhood couldn’t be any more different to mine – his world is all about the outdoors, nature and green spaces. Mark fell in love with where we lived in South Birmingham because of all the green spaces we have on our doorstep – Swanshurst Park, Sarehole Mill and the River Cole. I didn’t quite appreciate it when we first moved here, but since taking this job (which feels like so much more than a job), I feel so lucky to offer it to Esa – he even calls Swanshurst Park ‘my park’ as we have spent so many days there as a family. I can honestly say that nature has given me this wonderful bond with my little man, and it will stay with me forever – I’m convinced I’m a better parent for it.
When I see other children who don’t have parents that are comfortable with nature, this is where FPA is so important. We need to find a way of bringing nature to all children – whether through nurseries, schools, children’s homes or their families. It’s a question of justice – we know those children who would benefit the most from nature often experience it the least. I’ve made a short video (with the help of my wonderful colleague, Debbie Needle) showing how easy it is for children to connect to nature. I would love to see a world where all children in Birmingham get to grow a plant. If this blog has inspired you, we’d love to hear about it you can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @NaturallyBirmi1 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org