Baraka Featured In The Chelsea Social Council Link Newsletter
Baraka Youth Association featured in Kensington and Chelsea Social Council Link Newsletter
With the Olympics coming to Britain it is hoped that people will be inspired to take up sports. We spoke to Abdullahi Ali from Baraka Youth Association about the role sport has played in inspiring and focusing the young people his organisation works with.
Can you tell us a bit about the origins of the Baraka Youth Association?
Baraka has been around for about ten years. We started with football for young boys and their fathers. A lot of new arrivals from Somalia settled in the area in the late 90s and there was a growing problem with some of the boys getting mixed up in anti-social behaviour and petty crime. Some of us parents thought we needed something constructive to do and so we started playing football at St Charles Memorial Park.
Did you have any support to do this?
At first it was parents from the local community, at one stage we had an ex-player who had played for the Somali national team to come and train the boys which made everyone more determined to succeed. It wasn’t until 2002 when we got some funding from Children in Need that we could afford to buy kits and boots. Westway Development Trust has also been helpful and even now they provide us with pitches to play on weekends. We run sessions for juniors from 4pm to 6pm on Saturdays and for those aged over 16 at the same time on Sundays.
How has football helped the people you support?
It was never about helping people become professional footballers. It keeps you fit but the sessions were also a chance for people to make friends and meet people they otherwise wouldn’t meet.
Post-9/11 there was a lot of discrimination; many Somali children faced bullying and we wanted to break down some barriers through football. We play a lot against teams from different backgrounds and our teams are not now wholly Somali. We welcome children from all backgrounds. Football has in many cases been a stepping stone to wider participation. We have encouraged the boys to take up gym sessions and to try for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme; 14 children have now received a bronze award.
What other activities do you provide?
We started female-only swimming classes for the girls, normally over 12s wouldn’t swim because they wouldn’t want to attend mixed classes. We had to find females from the community who would volunteer to support them. Every year we take the boys and girls away, camping in the countryside. We encourage them to work in teams and to work things out for themselves. In one activity which counted towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award we dropped a group of 14 girls and boys miles away from their base camp and had them make their own way there. I think they found it quite a learning curve but very rewarding once they had completed the task.
Baraka Current activities include:
Study Support English year 7 – year 11 on Monday 6:30 – 8:30
Study Support Maths/Science year 7, 8, and 9 on Wednesday 8:30-6:30
Study Support Maths/homework support year 10 and 11 on Thursday 5:30-7:30
How does the sporting activity you provide link to the supplementary school activities?
A lot of children get involved through sport and then start attending the supplementary school classes. I believe the discipline and team ethic children learn through sport helps them in the classroom. Those who attend regular sports activities also become better at school. As part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme we encouraged children to volunteer. Sometimes they might help in the classroom by taking the register and we recorded the time they spent helping out. 17 children have become peer mentors. Participation helps to tackle low self-esteem and raises aspirations. We encourage children to put forward suggestions for activities and they have taken part in debating contests and been taken on trips to the science museum.
What new activities are you involved with at the moment?
This summer we will be taking some of the children on an exchange trip to Sweden, they had to fundraise for the trip themselves and managed to raise £2,500. We are also developing a small allotment for boys to grow vegetables; the girls are taking part in an intergenerational project in which they are teaching older women computer skills in exchange for being taught skills like sewing.
We have drop-in advice and guidance sessions and refer to CAB and local law centre those with more complicated cases; we deliver regular coffee mornings, workshops and seminars for parents and local residents aimed at improving their knowledge of the education system, training and job opportunities, fitness and health eating.
The Baraka senior football team will be playing African Nations Cup as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
This article first appeared in the Kensington and Chelsea Social Council Link Newsletter. The full newsletter can be read here