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Public Health and Migration in London: Long Study Tour (Part I)

Hej! How are you all doing? A couple of weeks ago, at the start of November, my Public Health core course visited London for a week to understand the history and impact of migration in London and the current work done by various organizations related to migration and public health.

In this blog post, I would like to share some highlights of our trip. In my next blog post, I would like to discuss more about the group projects we did during the journey and what I did during my free time. 

Here are the list of activities we did or organizations we visited as a class together:

  • Migration Walking Tour in London’s East End
  • Hackney CVS
  • Hackney Chinese Community
  • Migrateful Visit
  • Medact

As a class, we visited several organizations working with different aspects of migration and health. We started our trip with a walking tour around Shoreditch and Whitechapel in East London, the area we were staying, to understand the history of migration in the area. Jewish people and people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, and many other parts of the world have settled in East London at different points in history and even now. 

On day 3 of our tour, we visited Hackney CVS (Council of Voluntary Service, unlike CVS in the US!) and Hackney Chinese Community Services, located in Hackney, a borough part of East London. Hackney is often the first stop for many migrants; as such, services and support for migrants are needed in the area. Hackney CVS staff shared many current initiatives, such as the Hackney Refugee and Migrant Forum, ACCOUNT (holding police forces accountable), and Lunch Clubs for older adults. The organization connects the people in the community with the public sector, reflecting community needs to authorities and meeting them with resources from the local council in Hackney and the National Health Services. Instead of providing direct services, CVS positions itself as an umbrella organization supporting various voluntary and community work in Hackney, working closely with the public sector, community organizations, and the people in the community.

Afterward, we walked to Hackney Chinese Community Services (in the drizzle of rain – total London fashion – of course). Surrounded by familiar Cantonese phrases and the aroma of Cantonese food, I immediately felt a sense of affinity for the community center. After downing delicious corn soup and stir fry chicken with rice, a taste from home for me, our class heard from the director the history and recent developments of the community center. He recalled the rise in xenophobia during the pandemic and shared challenges such as employment and mental health that the center has to take on for the East Asian and South East Asian communities. What stood out to me was the flexibility the community services have to embrace in light of changes in demographics, and political and social climate, e.g., from mainly serving the needs of immigrants to including that of second and third-generation immigrants.

In the next blog post, I will share about the small group visits to the Migration Museum and Brixton and some highlights from my free time around town! Vi ses!

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