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News29th September 2023

Ark celebrates South, East and Southeast Asian Heritage Months

During August and September, Ark has been celebrating heritage months for our colleagues from South, East and Southeast Asian backgrounds. These dedicated heritage months provide a unique opportunity to learn from our multicultural team, and to honour the diverse histories, traditions, and contributions of Asian communities.

We spoke to a few of our colleagues from South, East and Southeast Asian backgrounds to understand some of the ways in which their heritage has shaped them and continues to influence their work today.

Hardeep Warshawaya is Ark’s Head of People Operations, and her family originates from Lahore, Pakistan. Her parents left Punjab and migrated to the UK in the early 1970s.

“My mum didn’t get to finish school – she came from a family that didn’t believe girls should have an education – and my dad had a Ph.D. My parents have always advocated the value of education so, we worked hard at school and at home. My dad used to be more nervous than we were on results days! It’s not a surprise my career choices have led me to work for people and for a mission that matters. Doing what is right, speaking up for injustice and service to humanity is in my fibre.”

Amit Hathi is the Regional Director for North London and Portsmouth secondaries. His family came from Gujarat. In the 1930s, his grandparents emigrated to East Africa. Eventually, they settled in Uganda until Idi Amin forcibly removed all those from the Indian sub-continent in 1972, and they moved to the UK.

“My South Asian heritage has impacted my working life, instilling a strong sense of determination and perseverance in adversity. These qualities have helped me succeed in my career, and I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from my upbringing.”

Recruitment coordinator Kolleen Ocson was born in the Philippines and moved to the UK when she was 11.

“Filipino morals strongly emphasise listening to others and treating everyone with respect. These values play into my working life, particularly in my role at Ark, where building rapport with various colleagues is key. I always bring along with me a listening ear and a helping hand, which allowed me to build those relationships with key people at schools.”

Neil Debb is the Operations Manager at Ark Byron and describes his cultural heritage as British Hindu Bangladeshi.

“Before joining Ark, I worked within the sports industry and was trying to make it as a professional athlete. There were very few people I could identify with as role models during this period. This has impacted my working life as it has motivated me to be someone that other South Asians can look to as a role model. Working in education, I want to inspire pupils and staff alike. This month allows me to share who I am. It allows me to reflect on my family’s journey from partition, civil war, migration to the UK, and being established as happy British citizens!”

Shiraz Khan is Principal at Ark Oval. His parents are from Pakistan and Kenya and moved to the UK in the 1960s.

“If you look at the UK some 20 or 30 years ago, our culture wasn’t represented much. A lot has changed since then and much more of who we are has become ingrained in the DNA of British culture. Culture is constantly evolving so, we have to keep learning, keep sharing and keep celebrating. Our children must understand and talk about who they are, their rights, and where they belong in this world.”

East and South East Asian Heritage Month celebrates the cultural heritage and contributions of people from Southeast Asia (Brunei, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan).

South Asian Heritage Month celebrates the heritage of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives.