Speaking and listening skills project

GRANTS AWARDED IN 2011/12

Somali Community Parents Association
Supplementary Education theme

£129,670 over two years

In front of a packed hall, with microphone in hand, a Somali teenager feeds back on why his team thinks communication is important: “It is most vital when looking for a job and it helps you understand different people from different backgrounds,” he says, reading from a long list.

This is one of the first sessions of a PHF-funded speaking and listening skills course run by the Somali Community Parents Association (SOCOPA), a support project in Leicester that motivates and champions the local Somali community with a range of advice, training, English classes and addiction mentoring.

Its founder and executive manager, Abdikayf Farah, says: “Since we began in 2005 we have always worked with our local schools, helping families engage and integrate as well as educating the school about our culture.”

Despite best efforts, attainment at school-leaving age, particularly among boys, is low. “Just filling out an application or making a call to a prospective employer is challenging for many young people,” says Abdikayf.

The course is a pilot – run during the three half-term holidays – to support 11–19 year olds with their speaking and listening core skills by engaging them in community projects and debating issues relevant to the Somali population.

Crammed into the first week were visits to older people’s homes, hands-on painting and decorating and video- making. “In each situation they were interacting with other people,” explains Abdikayf. “At the end of the week there was another presentation – attended by parents – where the whole group reported on its achievements.”

The subsequent weeks of the course saw the young people explore issues of democracy and cultural awareness, examining stereotypes and challenging perceptions of themselves within the wider community. The grant allowed SOCOPA to enlist partners to deliver what is an intensive programme including a session with the UK Parliamentary Outreach Service, a Q&A session with the local MP, and support from a number of other charities.

“The feedback has been amazing. The whole community has got behind the project. The young people really enjoyed it and their confidence shot up,” says Abdikayf.

“It’s not easy working with a community that has experienced the trauma of civil war for such a long time. There is little trust between each other but with our philosophy of openness and transparency we hope to rebuild that trust. It’s challenging but when you see the results of projects like this it’s also very rewarding.”