Story:Ade Adeyinka and Lisa Swift
An event aimed at keeping young people away from crime was held in January by Burngreave Youth Development Centre at Verdon Recreation Centre.
Organiser Ahmed Abtidon invited guests to speak to young people and spread an anti-crime message in bid to calm the anxiety felt in the Somali community following the deaths of three Somali teenagers in recent months.
The event targeted both parents and children through several presentations aimed at educating young people and deterring them from offending which could likely lead them to prison.
Speaking first, Ahmed asked parents to maintain a good contact with schools to support their children to attend school and do well. Then the Imam of At Taqwa Centre, spoke to parents about their responsibilities as role models to their children.
In2Change gave a hard hitting presentation about the reality of life in prison. In2Change is a charity based at SYAC on the Wicker which supports exoffenders. Gary Mcwilliams, an exoffender who now works for In2Change, spoke about his own experience of prison life, and revealed candid tales of prisoner violence, the hardships of losing your freedom, and the dangers of socialising with criminals which can spiral into serious offences.
The children were totally captivated by another ex-offender working with In2Change, fellow Somali Adnan Hashi, who delivered a powerful speech. Now 25, he went to prison at the age of 15 and served 10 years of a 17-year sentence. He told the kids that if they learnt from his lesson they would have an advantage in life.
“I didn’t listen in school, I didn’t believe in school. I did the wrong thing, I started selling drugs. Sometimes when you are young you think these things are cool, they are not. The best way to prove yourself is to finish school. I made a mistake, but now I am telling you so you can take advantage of what I have learned.”
Speaking after the workshop, he said “If you speak to the kids like they are adults they listen and they can relate to you.” His talk had a real effect and left the children discussing the issues and how it had changed their minds.
The discussion continued with South Yorkshire police’s Point 7 presentation about the real dangers of knives and guns, and how young people’s lives can be ruined by weapons and gang culture.
Organiser, Ahmed expects bigger events will take place in the future considering the success of the event at Verdon Rec, which more than 50 people attended. The Burngreave Youth Development Centre was formerly based at the Plaza, and has now moved to Spital Lane, where it is open for young people each evening.