The resource, entitled Promoting positive diaspora voices, shares the lessons from a three-year project of the same name involving 200 young people aged 15–20 from different diaspora communities. The project, which ended last month, aimed to raise awareness of the role that diaspora communities can play in peacebuilding and development issues in their countries of origin or heritage and locally in the UK.
It involved weekly sessions where young people could explore the structural causes of poverty and conflict in their countries of origin or heritage, and to look at how these affect their lives in the UK – ‘linking the global to the local’. The young people then explored some of these issues in more depth at twice-yearly residentials and organised local community events to raise awareness of these.
The group also visited Westminster to discuss these issues with politicians and civil servants in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development. And a smaller group carried out research into class, caste, drugs and gangs, which involved a visit to Pakistan for some of them.
The project encountered a number of challenges along the way. For example, how do you explore issues of conflict and war with young people traumatised by conflict in their country of origin? How do you support young people to increase their understanding of different faiths, identity and cultures? And how do you explore caste and clan conflicts in the young peoples’ country of heritage when they also affect their lives in the UK? In the toolkit, Alert and its partners (Global Education Derby, Lancashire Global Education Centre, West London YMCA and Y Care International) reflect on how they overcame some of these and other challenges.
The resource also profiles some of the young people involved in the project, who give their thoughts on how they have developed their awareness and understanding of the issues affecting their countries of origin, and how the interconnectedness to their lives in the UK means that they can take action. For Zangeel and others involved in the project from Brierfield, East Lancashire, it “has changed our viewpoints. I’ve even applied to a couple of colleges to do politics. We all want to do politics. ‘Positive voices’ has really given me a route to different choices, to do different things.”
In West London the project gave Saliman, a young asylum seeker from Nigeria, the opportunity to not only understand more about conflict but also to meet young people from different backgrounds and learn more about the local community in Hayes.
And in Derby Shazrina has played a crucial role within the young people’s group to mediate and lead discussions, while her visit to Pakistan increased her awareness of her Pakistani heritage.
The toolkit also provides practical session plans that worked really well for our partners with their groups, which others can use to explore issues of poverty and conflict too. The activities are creative, fun and short, to enable practitioners to keep young people engaged and interested – for example, it’s amazing what you can do with an old rug, wool and coloured paper!
You can read the toolkit below, or download it here.
This project was funded by the European Union. You can find out more about the project here.