Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Yesmien Bagh Ali
Features Writer
5:31 PM 19th February 2021

Finding My Spark

We have suffered almost a year of lockdown, and, like so many small business owners, I have spent many days feeling disheartened, helpless and hopeless.

The joy of going out, working, physically interacting with other adults, and visiting schools with my Cultural and Diversity workshops has been denied to me. As, of course, has the income that work provided. For someone who had been busy with live TV shows, radio and school and adult workshops, lockdown deprivation has been little short of traumatic. One part of that trauma has been a growing sense of panic, loss of self-confidence and bewilderment.

For me, the idea of delivering my workshops via platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft’s Team was daunting. The technical and practical requirements of such projects seemed overwhelming, and I created a wall of negativity.

A fear of working successfully on social media platforms took over and I could see no way of using the skills I had acquired through life and through my cultural Asian heritage. I was left stuck, questioning my own abilities and feeling desperately vulnerable. Without me realising, the consequences of lockdown were slowly impacting my own mental health.

Today, however, I am writing this article with huge positivity and hoping that anyone who reads this will take heart and refuse to give up.

I thought my fire had gone out, but somewhere hiding inside me was a little spark that had refused to die. Quietly it grew and allowed me to find a way to let go of the fear. It has taken some time to get to this stage, but now my confidence and courage are returning. I have tackled internet communication and found a way to rebuild and develop my work. I have even discovered the benefit of on-line workshops. I am not limited by geography – I can reach out to the world!

Financially, lockdown has had a massive impact, but I can see a way through. I am working remotely with growing success. I am continuing to deliver engaging and informative workshops to support staff, parents and pupils, and the internet platforms have given me the opportunity to work with schools across the country and not just in the North.

I have also had the privilege of hosting some online charity events.

One was for Craven Refugee Support Group who are raising money for Abigail Housing in Bradford. This is a destitute asylum seekers project – basically people who have nowhere to live and no chance to get any financial support at all, so basically no income. The charity supplies accommodation for 19 residents.

Another session I ran was for The Dales Dipper's Crisis Appeal. Stuart Gledhill has swum in open water every day of January along with 20 other people raising money for Crisis - a homeless charity.

As a published author, during these Zoom sessions I have been able to have the opportunity to share my book: ‘The Lonely Chapatti’.

Here’s some feedback from a school I visited recently via Zoom.
"..You really were brilliant and I hope that we can invite you actually into school next time.
All my colleagues thought your sessions were engaging and really informative and the children really enjoyed them."
Lynn Ashton, Head of Values and Ethos, Glusburn Primary School:

But it hasn’t just stopped there. Now that I understand the platforms that once scared me so much, I am able to do so much more.

For example, I am providing ‘Cook with Yazi’, Kashmiri/Pakistani cuisine cooking sessions.

Cook with YaziCook with Yazi

These have been extremely popular, giving families, friends and organisations the opportunity of connecting through cooking. It’s absolutely wonderful to see so many people cooking curries, chapattis and more of my Asian dishes in a relaxed and informal manner.

Before the sessions begin. I post out to the participants a pack of my very own Amaali Spice blends with appropriate recipes, and then we all cook together in the Kashmiri style taught to me by my mother. The meals I cook might be for me, but equally, they might end up being offered to my neighbours, who, judging from their smiles, seem very happy with the arrangement.

Cook with YaziCook with Yazi

It has been a great boost to my confidence to be bringing together friends, council officers, work colleagues, school staff and families from different parts of the country as we cook together. There is a wonderful feeling of togetherness and support as we chat, share experiences and create dishes in our own kitchens.

And all the time, my spark grows brighter. I urge you to search inside for your spark. It may be hidden, but it will be there.

If you would like to book ‘Cook with Yazi’ individual/group bookings or any school workshops contact mobile 07906 294476