Bradford is a city with a proud heritage. Its Victorian buildings are testament to its days of enormous wealth, generated from its central role in the Industrial Revolution that transformed the UK economy.
And its richly diverse population is testament to another feature of modern Bradford: its status as a City of Sanctuary, a place that for generations has welcomed refugees from across the world.
Modern Bradford is of course facing challenges that are both economic and social. However, just as previous generations in the city devised innovative solutions to address the downsides of industrialisation, my visit showcased two fine examples where local institutions are stepping-up in response to these challenges.
My day started with a visit to the Bradford Faith Centre. Shadim Hussain and his fellow board members at the Faith Centre explained about the crisis services they provide – including food and funds for some of life’s most basic essentials – for those who often have little or none of either.
I then got a chance to hear from a group of the centre’s service users, including refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan, about their experiences since arriving in the UK.
Their testimonies were truly humbling and they spoke passionately about the positive role the Faith Centre had played in their hour of need. I was also encouraged to hear how the centre has linked up with local businesses to provide employment and training opportunities for many different families.
Those I heard from explained how a sudden change in their circumstances, brought about by a range of factors, had left them in need of a lifeline.
That lifeline is often a financial one. So it was useful for me to understand those issues.
They had all taken the time to share their stories and it was a real insight into how organisations like the Faith Centre exist to provide such essential support.
Someone described the centre to me as their angel in their hour of need. It is a remark that will stay with me for some time.