Gaining a better understanding of how to build relationships, encourage diversity and communication with emergency service organisations was the key focus of a special event that took place at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Gravesend on Wednesday, (29 August).
Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) hosted a cultural development day for the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA). The purpose of the day was to share knowledge and understanding about Sikh, Roma and Polish communities in Kent, with colleagues from the AFSA, other fire, police and health services.
The day involved a guided tour of the Gurdwara from Jagdev Singh Virdee, from the Gurdwara’s Community Engagement and Welfare Team, KFRS’ Sher Sing Clare and Harjit Singh from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Jagdev said: “We talked about the core values of Sikhism, the facilities and services provided by the Gurdwara for the community as a whole, and points of etiquette that emergency service staff should be aware of when visiting a Sikh home.”
He also outlined some of the ways that KFRS is working with the local Sikh community, including community safety education sessions and cultural awareness and recruitment opportunities.
Dartford Crew Manager, Przemyslaw Augustyniak, a firefighter with KFRS since 2008, spoke about his personal experience of the cultural differences between Polish and Eastern European communities and the ways that KFRS had been working to encourage diversity into the fire service.
Przemyslaw said: “We’re working for customers from different backgrounds, so it’s important that we understand their culture and are inclusive to gain better trust, cooperation and to keep the community safe.”
Juliette Wales from the Red Zebra, Roma in the Lead project spoke about the importance of firefighters being able to engage with the Roma community to make sure they have more knowledge and information around issues such as fire safety, but also to encourage Roma people to join the fire service and aspire for more.
The day also helped build relationships between services and communities and everyone present learned a huge amount about the different communities.
Jagtar Singh, National Advisor with the AFSA explained: “These types of event are absolutely crucial. They help dismiss myths about faith and so called hard to reach communities, there’s no such thing. They help us share our community safety messages and save lives. We’re also reaching out to people who have never considered us as a career.”
Karen Irvine, KFRS' Assistant Director of Human Resources, said: “Valuing and understanding the differences in our diverse communities is essential not only to keep people safe but to encourage people to think about joining the fire service for a career in the future.
“We are very grateful to the Gurdwara for hosting this event and to our colleagues who travelled from across the country to join us for this important day of shared learning.”
The group also visited KFRS’ Road Safety Experience in Rochester during the afternoon and were impressed with the facilities and the work KFRS is doing to educate young people around road safety
KFRS' Road Safety Experience
The ASFA cultural development event at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Gravesend