In this ‘stories that matter’ series, we will introduce you to people who live or work in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil to hear their story, and find out what matters to them when it comes to health, social care and wellbeing.
I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya with my brother and six sisters. Nairobi is a very busy city – definitely more hectic than London! My cousins used to call me a “city boy”, as they live in the more rural parts.
I know lots of people in Nairobi, and before I moved to the UK, was a very active member of the community.
When you grow up in a large family, in a busy city, you realise it’s important to share everything.
When I was a little boy I shared my new BMX bike with a friend, and my dad wasn’t very happy!
I consider the whole world to be one family, and we must reach out and help each other. I always think about how I would want to be treated if I was in a difficult situation. Because of this, it’s hard to not to feel affected by injustice.
From an early age, I’ve always been concerned for others; why one person may be born very blessed and others not so much.
I want to try and help everyone live a good life, but I know I can’t save everyone.
I’ve tried to help people through my work. In Kenya, I had several jobs. I’m a trained mechanical engineer, fixing air frames and engines for police helicopters. As you can imagine, it’s a busy role and some days I’d be working from 7am to 10pm.
I enjoyed this, but I also wanted to help people in the community. My wife, who is British, was working in a children’s home for vulnerable girls and we were living there together.
There was a real range of people living there, and it was important we found ways to help them feel safe and happier.
Every night when I got home from work at the police airwing, I was helping around the home with the girls who were living there. As I am a Kenyan, I found it easy to have a good relationship with them, and they would come to me with their problems.
I enjoy working with children – I used to be a Scout, so am good at organising trips, like hiking tours.
My days were very busy, but I still wanted to do more.
In Kenya, school leavers are called ‘form four’. Once they leave school, they are encouraged to learn life skills for nine months, such as finances, balancing time and etiquette. These are things you don’t necessarily learn in school, but are very important to being a “well rounded” citizen and prepared for life.
I also helped out in the church putting together mentorship programmes for ‘form four’ children, before they went to university or into work.
On top of this, we also used to do outreach programmes in the community, going into prisons to mentor the prisoners. I felt it was important to try and give them hope, as when people are in prison, they often feel their lives are over.
Prevention is better than cure, and in Kenya, I spent my time helping young people by trying to keep them off the streets. For example, I organised a basketball tour to try and keep them occupied and engaged with different things.
I moved to the UK with my wife in 2019, and because I enjoy helping people in the community, I am now working as a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic engagement officer in Merthyr Tydfil.
Myself and my colleagues reach out to different people to try and advise them on the COVID-19 vaccines, and also share up to date information with them on protecting themselves against COVID-19.
It’s a really important role, and I love meeting different people from different cultures. Back in Kenya, I speak 12 different languages, and I am trying to learn Polish, Portuguese and Arabic at the moment!
It’s really vital to me to build a good relationship and understand the challenges faced by BAME communities.
Many people feel isolated and lonely when they first move to a new place, so I am looking at building a community so people can connect with people from different countries and their own, and build friendships.
I said above that prevention is better than cure. To create better wellbeing and futures for people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, it’s important for us to find ways to be patient and learn from each other by addressing language barriers and also understanding people’s different backgrounds and cultures.
For example, somebody whose first language isn’t Welsh or English may find it much harder and longer to understand something if it isn’t translated into their own language, so we are looking into how we can help people in this way.
Ultimately, to make a positive difference, we need to build trust with people in our BAME communities, and think about a variety of ways to involve and include them. A one size fits all approach will not work.
I’ve been in this role for several months, and it’s been very busy, but that suits me!
The best part is meeting lots of different people, and knowing I am helping them. I’m looking forward to connecting with more communities, and working with our partners to create a better future for people.
Bravon’s thoughts and experiences will feed into our Local Wellbeing and Population Needs Assessment. Read about this here.