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Christine Locke from Diversity House talks about nationalities in Swale

More than 30 nationalities from all around the world have put down their roots in Swale.

It is not surprising that most of the 135,835 residents in the borough were born in the UK.

However, we have lots of people from further afield.

Christine Locke, chairman of Diversity House
Christine Locke, chairman of Diversity House

Some 7,046 were born overseas – 984 of them from Poland, making it the biggest expatriate community.

According to the latest Census figures, the borough is also home to 586 Germans, 357 South Africans, 283 Lithuanians, 224 Nigerians and 185 Australians. And that’s just to name a few.

Sittingbourne-based charity Diversity House aims to promote community integration, inclusion and cohesion.

Its chairman and project leader, Christine Locke, said: “Just by going down the High Street you will see the face of Swale is changing.

“If you look back to around 15 years ago it would be difficult to see one or two people of different cultures but now you can see people from Eastern Europe.

“You can hear people speaking Turkish, Polish, or any language. You can see things are changing.

“In the past you wouldn’t have seen a Polish shop selling Polish food.

“The world is a global village and variety is the spice of life." - Christine Locke, chairman of Diversity House

“The world is a global village and variety is the spice of life.

“When you have people of different levels of education, people of different social backgrounds, different values, views, skills and talents coming together, that’s what brings a social capital.

“It is when a community has different assets and puts them together, it builds the community and that’s what brings development.

“There will be a lot of growth in Swale. Change is never bad, it is always good. Society isn’t meant to be static and stagnant. It needs to move.”

Diversity House believes all members of a community should have equal opportunity to access services and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Mrs Locke added: “Ethnic minority communities are living in here.

“Swale is no longer predominantly the white British community.

“People who were not born here, who have moved and chosen to live in Swale, have brought their skills.

“Some of them are our teachers, social workers and doctors.”

Graphic showing the different nationalities in Swale
Graphic showing the different nationalities in Swale

The charity was set up in 2007, and Mrs Locke said: “We found that many people did not know about minority communities and when you don’t know anything about a community, there is a tendency for fear.

“We felt we needed to start a project or a charity whereby we can help the mainstream communities and the minority to come together and integrate and share their cultures.

“Diversity House doesn’t just look at race and ethnicity, but also age, disabilities, abilities, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender and all of the factors that make you who you are.”

When asked about integration between different cultures, Mrs Locke said: “I see beyond the complexion of people’s skin.

“People may have misunderstandings. In Swale I don’t know if there are tensions – if there were, people wouldn’t move here. Everybody would know.

“An area where you would find tension in a community, people would run away from.

“Diversity House is about bringing people together.

“If we keep encouraging communities to come together to talk and listen, if there is misunderstanding, people can clear the air.”

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