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'Inclusion matters at Christmas, family, friends and a time when the whole country seems to share something', writes Sitakumari of Heartstone an organisation that works to reduce isolation in the Highlands and far beyond


By Louise Glen


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From ‘Faces of Kabul’ exhibition at Eden Court, Inverness. From Heartstone photodocumentary in Afghanistan. Picture: Nick Sidle
From ‘Faces of Kabul’ exhibition at Eden Court, Inverness. From Heartstone photodocumentary in Afghanistan. Picture: Nick Sidle

When I was asked to write a Christmas message for the Inverness Courier, I was thinking about which path to go down given there are so many, writes Sitakumari.

Then with the re-emergence of Covid and the prospect of a second holiday trying to live with it, this crystallised into one theme for me which is at the core of Heartstone and everything we do – connection.

Kosovo image – soldier with boy on sled in snow. Picture: Nick Sidle
Kosovo image – soldier with boy on sled in snow. Picture: Nick Sidle

For those of you who don’t know us, we are an organisation based in Dingwall which works across the UK to reduce isolation and build contact, understanding and empathy, to see people who may on the surface be vastly different from ourselves as not that alien, in fact to recognise there is a lot more common ground than you might expect.

Our method is through story – books, photodocumentary, history. All our stories project these ideas and they are all dedicated to advancing inclusion and fighting prejudice.

Inclusion matters at Christmas, family, friends and a time when the whole country seems to share something.

Picture: Nick Sidle
Picture: Nick Sidle

I’m always very sad when someone feels they can’t even use the name “Christmas” with me because, since I clearly have an Indian background, they feel I will be offended.

Please let me reassure you, I love Christmas, I always have, I call it Christmas and it is its very connections that mean that everyone can be welcome.

For some, it is part of their celebration of faith and that should be respected, celebrated and admired, but Christmas as it is honoured now has many strands – pre-Christian traditions of marking the turning point around the winter solstice, Christian traditions that followed, Charles Dickens, Prince Albert and now, a not insignificant consumer influence have all played their part and for the consumer aspect, if retail therapy, providing there is consideration and moderation, makes people feel better, then perhaps its gift is special as well.

Sita
Sita

This year through Heartstone, I have been in touch with many special and different people around Scotland and around the world.

I wish all of them and all of you the very best of Christmases and many more to come!

Sitakumari is a director of Heartstone.

READ: WHILE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION: How long will Christmas remain unchallenged?


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