The Aasha Gang Mediation Project hosted a delegation of Gang experts from Chicago during the London leg of their national tour this week. Chicago is well known for its street gangs and related shootings and murders, so this was a unique connection to share best practice and learn from experienced practitioners of ‘what works’.
The visit was organised by the Government Office for London in its efforts to tackle the concerns around UK gang culture amongst youth. The four delegates along with representatives from GoL and the British Consul joined Aasha at the Osmani Centre in the morning and during a round table discussion talked about several key issues:
- The historical development of street gangs in Tower Hamlets
- Comparing the nature and causes of conflicts between London and chicago
- The issue of race and territorialism amongst street gangs
- The necessity to continue working in both preventing conflicts but also intervening and mediating in current conflicts
- Role modelling and higher values as key methods of ‘breaking the cycle’
Kenny Ruiz, who was voted Chicago man of the year and who is Executive Director of YMCA Street Intervention Programme emphasised the commonality that exists between the Aasha Project and his own project in Chicago: “We could take your script and stick our label on the top and it’d be exactly the same”.
Claude Robinson of UCAN talked about the need to build a ‘wining team’ around an individual young person but also the project. That team can include an uncle, a youth worker, a teacher and so forth until the young person surrounds himself with the support mechanisms to cope with the struggle of breaking free from gang lifestyle.
The Aasha Coordinator, Muhammad Rabbani, then joined the team in their car for a short ride to their next appointment – a roundtable discussion over lunch with other colleagues from around London. Rabbani was very encouraged with the days events and talks: “I felt that there was a strong sense of common purpose and values in the work that we are doing on both sides of the Atlantic. The circumstances and dynamics maybe different but the underlying socioeconomic factors and the causes are essentially the same. However, it was most interesting to see how our methods and approaches were also quite similar although perhaps not in the same proportions. Principles such as raising aspirations, role modelling, supporting young people to find direction and meaning in life ran through all of our projects”.
The Aasha Project would like to thank Margaret Barker from GoL for arranging this unique opportunity to meet such amazing personalities. It is our hope that we can build on this relationship and forge stronger links in our efforts to improve the lives of young people.
Also a big thanks to Kenny, Fred, Jorge and Claude for coming down all the way from the US to share with us their experiences.
Roundtable at the Osmani centre, [L-R] Margaret Barker (GoL), Gail Nicoll (British Consulate), Kenny Ruiz (YMCA Chicago), Fred Long (UCAN), Claude Robinson (UCAN).
Claude Robinson discussing the importance of identifying ‘champions at all strategic levels’. Aasha/BLYDA staff paying close attention [L-R] Rukon Hassan (Aasha Project Worker), Muhammad Rabbani (Aasha Coordinator) and Khoirul Alam (BLYDA Fundraising & Fundraising Coordinator)
Here’s a BBC news article covering the delegations trip to the UK: Britain learns Chicago gang plan