2 Working with minority ethnic young people in Swansea
EYST (Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team) Wales is an organisation working mainly with black and minority ethnic young people in Swansea, South Wales. The video that you are going to watch for the following activity features a cross-section of EYST’s work and staff and volunteers from the organisation. You will also see an extract from a film made by the organisation about the experiences of young migrants.
Watch the video now and, as you do so, make notes in response to the questions that follow.
Transcript: Video 1: EYST: Identity, gender, ethnicity
EYST is an organisation that was set up in 2005 to-- initially to support ethnic minority young people in Swansea. Since then, it's expanded to become an organisation that aims to support ethnic minority people of all ages through a culturally targeted and sensitive service.
In Swansea, the ethnic minority population has always been relatively small, but has increased gradually over the last ten to twenty years, and it's a community which is and was predominantly Muslim and Asian. There were specific cultural sensitivities in those communities, which meant, for example, that parents didn't really want their young people to access gender-mixed youth clubs and so on. And parents also had reservations about youth clubs generally, and misconceptions, and felt that they weren't necessarily meeting their cultural/religious needs of the young people.
So initially, there was a clear need to provide single-sex youth activities for young-- predominantly young Muslim Asian people who lived in Swansea. So that's what we started off doing, providing a safe place for them to attend, somewhere their parents were comfortable and happy for them to attend, but also, really importantly, what we provided were youth workers who were from the same or similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
[GROUP OF FRIENDS TALKING]
So we do work with a whole wide range of organisations, and they are anyone and everyone who can bring a benefit to the community. So you're talking, just currently, I'm working with the police, the Children's Commissioner's office, we're working with a lot of sporting facilities, anyone and everyone really.
The reason why we opened an organisation like this is because we recognise that because of those barriers, a lot of people from the BAME community-- black and minority ethnic communities-- would not be using mainstream services. So we came in as a link to encourage people to use these services, because they're there for them.
Amongst the school age population in Swansea, I think around ten percent, or maybe just over ten percent, of the school age population is from a non-white, non-British background. So it's a significant proportion of young people who have a different ethnicity or a different religion, or a different nationality, a different language, a different home life, which makes it more difficult, and they face an extra challenge and barrier to getting on in school and continuing into higher education and into employment and so on.
Swansea is kind of, like, a diverse city, where people are from different countries, and having this community like EYST, where we got a chance to meet in one place, and having all different people from different country get to know about their culture, get to know about their religion, which is so important for us. So having this community, when we sit together and talk to different people, we got a chance to see how people are practising about their religion, about their culture. So we learn lots of things from this community.
For some of the young people in our communities, you're talking confidence issues, lack of support in the household with education. So, we're setting up things like homework clubs, a safe place to play. People feel comfortable that when they come to a place, they're not going to be targeted or discriminated, or they're not going to have racism hurled at them.
So, it's this kind of stuff that I'm working on at the moment, but we're also working on trying to get external agencies to come in and talk to young people, explain who they are and how they're there to help as well. So we're sort of connecting organisations and the communities as best as we can.
But my name's Alex. I'm from Swansea Mind. And I do work about mental health.
So what we're going to do is we're going to talk about the 'bad day' card first of all, OK? So if you can, just say a little bit about how that is like your bad day.
Other challenges, of course, as we know, is a significant increase in racism and Islamophobia and xenophobia, which is growing across the world, really, unfortunately, and how that really impacts particularly on a young person's sense of identity as they grow up. It's really crucial that we provide a safe space where they can discuss how that feels, where they can share that in a safe space with other people who may be going through a similar experience, so that that can be managed, and they can really figure out their place in the world, because it's a really important part of growing up is figuring out where you belong, who you are, how you fit in, what you contribute, how others see you. So that's what we try and offer.
I'm here to see Alia please.
ROCIO CIFUENTES [VOICEOVER]
We also provide services which are targeted at refugees and asylum seekers, because more asylum seekers have come to Wales in the last ten years, fifteen years.
Yep. No problem.
In Swansea is, I think, only this organisation that deal with asylum refugees and different BME problem issues. The staff really communicate and try their best to help them, to listen to them, to know really the issue what is going on, and then to deal with issue in very ethical ways, so, like, ethical issues that nobody will know their problem.
SAWA HUMAYAN [VOICEOVER]
The 'Young, Migrant, and Welsh' project was particularly for people who are migrant from different country. We interviewed different people from different country, they talk about their life, that how they are living in Swansea.
I was born in Palestine in 2002.
I am from Syria, from Aleppo city.
I was born in London, and my mum was born in East Africa in a little island called Zanzibar, and my father was born in the Caribbean in Dominica.
I'm from Iraq, and my family burned in Iraq. I haven't been here for a long time. I just-- I have been here only for three years.
SAWA HUMAYAN [VOICEOVER]
We talked about our culture. We talked about how we are living in Swansea.
We lived there for about eight years.
SAWA HUMAYAN: We kind of, like, put everything together about their culture and about Welsh culture as well, because we didn't find the difference between our culture and Welsh culture. We feel like we are same no matter where we are from. It shows our identity. It shows our religion and how we are living in this country.
I really, really enjoy weightlifting and boxing. Those are my two favourites.
So currently, I'm doing karate. I'm one away from a black belt.
My favourite thing living in Wales has first been the history. Second then, Welsh rugby team, because I really support them and I like to play rugby, and one of my dream is to be a rugby player with Wales.
There were lots of young people that we could communicate, do friendship with each other, talk about our experience. There were bits of their lives that, oh, gosh, I've been through the same thing, so we could understand each other. So, this is the main things why is this important, because of the project that they are running, young people can join together, and they can be socialise with. This is the main thing, being together, and improving and developing themselves, and be part of the community, really.
Cultural sensitivity is something that is used a lot. We don't want to offend, or you got to be politically correct, and all this kind of stuff. But a lot of times when organisations come to me for advice in terms of, oh, is this OK to do, is this culturally OK? And I will always advise them, have you spoken to the young person? Have you asked them if that's OK? Generally, nobody will mind people asking questions to say, oh, well, we're going to do this this way, is that OK? It's OK to ask. If you don't ask, you don't know.
1. Which communities and groups of young people does EYST work with?
2. Why is there a need for an organisation specifically aimed at young people from minority ethnic communities?
3. What kinds of needs and issues do the young people who come to EYST face, and how does the organisation address them?
4. What role does EYST have in relation to mainstream services?
5. How does the organisation help young people to develop a strong sense of identity?
EYST works mainly with young people from the local Asian and Muslim communities. However, the organisation also runs activities aimed specifically at young migrants and refugees from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Staff at EYST argue that there is a need for an organisation specifically aimed at minority ethnic young people, because parents from some communities do not want their children to go to mixed-gender youth clubs and are generally wary of mainstream services, which they do not feel address their cultural or religious needs.
The young people who attend EYST experience a variety of needs, including confidence issues and a lack of support in relation to education and employment. Some of the young people have experienced racism, and the organisation provides them with a safe place to share their experiences and to be safe from discrimination.
The staff see EYST as a bridge connecting young people from minority communities to mainstream services: in the video, we see young people attending a scuba diving class and learning about support services in relation to mental health issues, for example.
The organisation supports young people in developing a strong sense of identity by providing a safe space where they can share their experiences with others from a similar cultural background. However, they also learn about the cultures and beliefs of other communities: the video made by the young people and the exhibition of photographs about being ‘young, migrant and Welsh’ were examples of this.