North Kensington Children Honoured

Two London-based community organisations honoured the young people of North Kensington at the weekend. At an event on Ladbroke Grove, local children affected by the 14th June Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath showcased their creative skills and public speaking abilities.

The children were given a platform to reflect on their experiences of the summer after the Grenfell disaster. Many of them had benefited from trips away from West London, funded and organised by Baraka Community Association (BCA) and Worldwide Somali Students & Professionals (WSSP). The trips included a residential at Hindleap Warren, visits to Legoland, Chessington, Butlins and Thorpe Park.

Over a hundred days have now passed since the unprecedented fire on the Lancaster West estate, which claimed scores of lives, including friends of the children present.

The young people were set the task of designing posters to express their feelings experiences during summer 2017, presenting them to a panel of judges that included Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad. Contestants were judged on their artistic ability, literacy and presentation skills.

After much deliberation and disagreement, the cash prizes went to:

Third prize: Aisha, aged nine, for her poster ‘Asia, Africa’.

Aisha reflected on getting far away from North Kensington to Dubai, Kenya (which she described as ‘boring’ – sorry Kenya) and Somalia. Aisha gained the judges’ praise for her lively, confident presentation.

Aisha
Aisha, 9, with Emma Dent Coad MP

Second prize: Abdullahi M, aged nine, for his poster ‘My Sad but Amazing Summer’.

Abdullahi described the events of 14th June as they had unfolded for him, talking about his mother’s tears, and the united local community. He ended his presentation with the words “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

Abdullah
Abdullahi with Emma

First prize: Hussein, aged 13.

Hussein received first prize for his combination of a brilliant design and a very eloquent presentation, outlining how each section of his picture linked together, and explaining the abstractions to the audience and judges.

 

Winning Entry
‘Summer 2017’ by Hussein

The prizes were awarded by Emma Dent Coad MP, who hailed the organisations involved and the families in attendance, noting that they were doing “what we all want to do: making the most of ourselves and our children”.

The event showcased the effectiveness of well-established and well-connected community groups. Already up and running and filling in gaps in provision long before the Grenfell fire, these organisations were in place to provide much-needed support and relief when North Kensington was shattered by the events of June 14th. When government services were most needed, they were found wanting, but the community was able to provide some essential presence.

WSSP’s Director Kasim Ali said: “The aim was to help children cope with the Grenfell disaster by talking about it and expressing themselves artistically. At the same time they learned lifelong skills such as design, presentation and public speaking”.

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The other talented children taking part and so close to winning were:

  • Sahra
  • Maryama
  • Sharifa
  • Muna
  • Yasin
  • Ayman
  • Abdullahi E
  • Ibtisam
  • Abdirahman

 

 

As Abdullahi M said: “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

 

 

By Tom Charles

@tomhcharles

Baraka, No Drama

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The Baraka Youth Association have been grafting for over a decade to raise the level of educational attainment and integration of local young people of Somali origin.

With well-established roots in North Kensington and wider West London, Baraka forms part of the Somali Network in Kensington and Chelsea, a collective of Somali groups that organises events, support each other’s work and represent their community in meetings with local government.

Baraka carries out a range of educational and recreational activities: supplementary schooling for GCSE and ‘A’ Level students, English lessons, football coaching, gym and swimming sessions for children, as well as advice sessions and IT classes for adults. Baraka takes groups of local children on an annual field trip to East Sussex and last year the young people of the Association raised their own funds for a summer trip to Sweden for the first leg of a youth exchange programme.

Baraka’s enterprising efforts take place in a context of hardship for the local Somali community. A 2011 report by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council describes Somalis in the borough as a “Community in crisis.” Accounts of Somalis in London consistently identify a stream of problems: lack of adequate housing, a language barrier, poor educational attainment, arcane immigration procedures, hostile misrepresentation in the media, young men drifting in to crime and khat and institutional racism in Britain. There is a even a glaring underestimation of the size of the Somali population in London in official statistics, symptomatic of the fact that Somalis are an impoverished and somewhat forgotten group unable to demand much attention from wider society.

As public spending and welfare continues to be ruthlessly cut by our class conscious Tory government, the situation is precarious for many British Somalis. Education is identified in the community as the path to integration and economic well being, but with the dramatic rise in university tuition fees, there is a long road ahead for the bright young members of the Baraka Youth Association.

These young people excel at school, attend Baraka’s volunteer-run supplementary schools and homework clubs and talk about their love of London and their commitment to retaining their heritage and Somali identity. That they managed to find the time and energy to raise the funds for a hugely successful trip to Sweden is worthy of immense praise. But Britain hasn’t yet enabled its Somalis to maximise their contribution to society and their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit remain largely untapped resources. Britain’s sluggishness combined with the inevitable problems resulting from grinding poverty leave a serious and worrying reality.

The Guardian carried a couple of op-eds in 2012 putting a positive spin on the Somali Diaspora in Britain. There are reasons to be positive as the community begins to gain a foothold and individual Somalis make outstanding contributions. Nevertheless, the headings given to these articles, ‘Somali community in Britain begins to find its voice’ and ‘British Somalis: Nomads no more’ are somewhat misleading and do not accurately reflect the concerns of the authors.

Baraka Youth Association was been taking positive steps since long before David Cameron’s dud ‘big society’ idea was announced in 2010. During the preparations for Baraka’s 2012 Sweden visit, Abdullahi Ali, co-ordinator of the Youth Association told me of an idea he had: “Why not grow and sell our own fruit and veg? People will see Somalis in a positive light if we engage with them in business.”

True to form, Abdullahi and the Baraka Youth have made it happen. Baraka’s allotment in North Kensington is up and running and the ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place this week.

Working in partnership with Groundwork London Baraka are raising awareness in their community about the environment and sustainable food issues by growing their own fruit and vegetables. The young people will showcase their hard work on their allotment at the launch event with an afternoon of gardening workshops, games, prizes, food and refreshments.

At Baraka’s HQ on Ladbroke Grove Abdullahi told me: “We held a meeting and asked the children and young people what they wanted us to do. They were keen on doing something environmental; specifically they wanted to know how food is grown. So I spoke to the Kensington and Chelsea Youth Service who set us up with the Groundwork Community Development Team, who were then able to meet with the young people and develop ideas that have now become a successful project. The young people have already attended a number of sessions with Alice and Richard from Groundwork and are blogging about their experiences.”

And the Baraka Youth themselves? “My experience with the project has enabled me to become proactive in leading a group as well as being in a team” Suad Nur told me. “We all work towards our goal together: to grow our fruit and vegetables and distribute them to our community. Our gardening sessions brought us together as a team, and the support from Groundwork really helped with that.”

The ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place on Saturday the 13th of April, 12:00-3:00pm at the allotment in St Charles Centre for Health & Well-being. Everyone welcome.

This article was first published @ The Source Mag for Kensal Green, Kensal Rise, Queens Park and North Kensington