Hampshire host ‘best AFSA event ever’

More than 140 people turned out to enjoy what is being hailed as the best AFSA conference ever.

Football legend John Barnes and music icon Craig David both put in an appearance at the two-day Spring Conference of the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA).

The conference – co-hosted by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – sold more tickets than the event has in its 11-year history and was attended by emergency service leaders from across the country and beyond.

The organisation promotes inclusion and diversity across the sector for all races and genders and looks at issues surrounding mental illness and disability.

The event was particularly special for Hampshire as it saw its own Dal Rai step up to become chairman of AFSA.

She was also the key driver for the event from HFRS in her role as inclusion and diversity partner.

She said: “This was an amazing event that promoted an array of different cultures and showed why diversity is the lifeblood of any healthy organisation.

“I am fortunate that I work for a service which is coming up with innovative ways to reach out to underrepresented groups and show why the fire service is a fantastic place to work.

“The event was full of inspirational people who shared their experiences as we look at what more needs to be done.”

It was also the last official event attended by Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Bowers who served for more than 33 years.

The event at the MacDonald Hotel in Botley was opened by Miss Rai, DCFO Bowers and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman Chris Carter on June 13.

The speaker selection, in addition to John Barnes, included journalist and television presenter Veronica Gordon on being a black person working in the media.

Other speakers included Deputy Chief of Surrey Sabrina Cohen-Hatton who spoke about her journey from living on the streets as a teenager to becoming a leading light in the fire community.

The first day included talks from Johnny Bugg, deputy director of Fire Resilience and the Home Office, Tony Vickers-Byrne, Chief Advisor at HR Practice and MP Karen Lee, Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister.

The second day, facilitated by Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Shantha Dickinson featured insights from Matt Parr, HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, Richard McKenna, from Inclusive Employers, Suffolk FRS Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham, Chair of Business and Safety Committee of the NFCC.

Workshops covered issues such as humanitarian response, gypsy and traveller perspectives, recruitment from diverse communities, mental health and community engagement.

Diverse cultures were highlighted with a martial arts demonstration by HFRS station manager Jason Boh, who runs academies across the world, and famous Bhangra performer Channi Singh of the Alaap Group.

There was also traditional dress, Asian food and even a bespoke HFRS fortune cookie.

HFRA Chairman Chris Carter said: “Hampshire has a long history of supporting AFSA and its vision of equality and fairness.

“The atmosphere, content and message of this event were perfect. We were proud to be involved event and especially proud to see our own Dal Rai leading it.”

CFO Odin said: “We are proud of our role in this important event and the conference was as enjoyable as it was informative.

“Sharing our learning with others and hearing their experiences is always valuable as we continually strive to do things even better.”

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