We were lucky enough to take our first community visit to the Baraka Youth association, to meet with Abdullahi Ali, the project coordinator. We received an incredibly warm welcome, above and beyond what many of us were expecting, and were made to feel comfortable straight away.
Abdullahi outlined many of the concerns within the local Somali community which had been brought to the attention of his organisation, as well as briefing us on the history of Somali immigration to the UK. The key issues included:
– Language barriers, regarding both the provision of English teaching for adults, and the ability of younger members of the community to speak their native language.
– Education within the community; many Somalis are unqualified whilst around 3% achieve qualifications at a higher level.- Despite being one of the oldest communities of African immigrants in the UK, Somali born immigrants have the lowest rates of employment.
As with many of the immigrant communities in the UK, many Somalis retain strong links with their home country, both cultural and financial, and this has contributed to their strong national identity. Despite this, Abdullahi told us how many Somalis, especially those of younger generations, were beginning to forge dual nationalities.
I think that all who attended this, the first of the community outreach meetings for the research project, were struck by the warmth and sincerity of Abdullahi and his willingness to engage with what we are trying to achieve. The meeting was both informative, and provocative, and Abdullahi was very open, sharing with us many personal stories and giving his own opinions on what is important to the Somali community in London. I think that we all hope that the further meetings with other community leaders will yield such promising results and engaging experiences!