Elizabeth Pearl from South Sudan Women’s Association interviewed by Mayowa Olowoselu for Black History Month

My interview with EA was really insightful. It was wonderful to learn about how her charity has positively impacted her community for years. I learned so much about the South Sudan Women’s Association and I look forward to hearing about their future projects.

What is your favourite book?

Arabic is my first language, so I mainly read Arabic books. I learned Arabic, French and English at school so it’s nice to read.

Now that Covid restrictions have been relaxed, are there any events you are looking forward to during Black History Month?

We had a part in the Park on Parliament Hill in September. For Black History Month we usually celebrate with our young people to encourage them not to forget their history. I usually meet with the young people, hear their experiences, and provide them with funding. Usually we celebrate every year but Covid halted last year’s plans.

If you had the funding to do any project you wanted, what would it be?

I would love to raise awareness about mental health. The lockdown really affected my community. We have been doing research for Camden Council regarding the vaccine and we found that a lot of people couldn’t deal with the lockdown. It affected them physically and mentally. Some people have developed fears and phobias of going out, especially to crowded places. It has caused some people to develop anxiety. 

I spoke with a trustee yesterday and we thought when we finished with the vaccine, we will work on mental health to help people lessen their fears so they can return to normal life. Especially so for older people. 

How has the pandemic affected the work your charity does?

Unfortunately, it has made things very unstable. We used to meet every Saturday at the community centre and have various activities. We were like a big family, but since the pandemic we tried to do things online. However, some in our community lack IT skills and are even not proficient in WhatsApp. We had some members of our community speak to them and help them download WhatsApp but it’s still not as easy as meeting face to face.

How did you hear about Pascal Theatre Company?

I received an email from Sally about Latin American dancing and sitting exercises. I had just had surgery and I wanted to keep active. At first, I was so worried, but I spoke to Ana who encouraged me to just do what I can. She was right, slowly and confidently I built myself up! Sally kept me informed about the activities going on and I would practise 3 times a day!

I realised that I am getting stronger and getting better. When I met with my physiotherapist, I was able to do the activities he gave me, and he was impressed. I explained the 2 classes I do and he said it was fantastic. Now I can walk to Parliament Hill and wherever, with no pain. The exercise helped me strengthen my muscles, my legs, my feet. I am back to normal now!

I am really so glad Sally approached our organisation. I have learned a lot and I feel that without Pascal Theatre Company maybe I would not have reached this level by now. 

What project can we look forward to from the South Sudanese Women in the future?

I think I would love to do something physical, like yoga and also working on breathing. I have a friend who explained to me that when you are nervous or anxious you should work on your breathing. It works! Breathing in with your nose, holding in the tension and letting it go. It is a great way to deal with anxieties. 

Definitely expect something physical. Following the pandemic we have learned that outdoor activities are just as important as indoor. Our party in the park was great and we received a lot of positive feedback. 

Of all the projects you have worked on, what is your favourite project the South Sudan Women’s Association has completed?

My favourite project was called Celebrating Diversity in 2011, sponsored by Camden council. Our project was picked by Camden as one of the best projects.  They supported us and gave us funding. They wrote a great report on us and our contribution to community diversity and cohesion. We had over 17 different nationalities in our project, someone from every continent. We got to help a lot of people. 

The project involved creating a giant tiled mosaic. We showed different people holding hands and wrote ‘One World’. The people who participated put their own piece into the mosaic. Our youngest contributor was 2 years old and our oldest a 91-year-old English lady. People came in every week and added a piece then the mayor of Camden came and added the final piece. 

If we get great funding like that in the future, I would love to recreate the project again in an outside venue for people who are not a part of the community to see it. When it is outdoors more people can see it and learn about our community.

Our theme for the month is what does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means a lot to me. We all come from different places and countries. If you do not celebrate your heritage, sometimes you feel like you are losing your value and a part of yourself. That’s why it is important to celebrate your background, no matter where you come from. It allows other people to celebrate with you and encourages them to view other people positively

Black History Month is important for young people it helps them to know about their culture. 

Black History Month is great way to learn about what is happening here in our community and back at home.