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Connecting Communities: Lower Clapton Somali language project helping to break down barriers

PUBLISHED: 16:40 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 21 November 2019

Connecting Communities founder and CEO Shukri Adan (left) and director of youth, education and communication, Ifraah Samatar with volunteer and Hackney's youngest councillor Humaira Garasia.

Connecting Communities founder and CEO Shukri Adan (left) and director of youth, education and communication, Ifraah Samatar with volunteer and Hackney's youngest councillor Humaira Garasia.

Connecting Communities

Two women who run a project to tackle social isolation within the Somali community want to get the word out about their work.

The morning classes for adults were open to everyone - so far the langauge learning programme has been more popular with Somali women.The morning classes for adults were open to everyone - so far the langauge learning programme has been more popular with Somali women.

Shukri Adan and Ifraah Samatar run Connecting Communities, which also helps break down language barriers and bring people together.

Connecting Communities runs every Wednesday at Pembury Community Centre on the Pembury Estate in Lower Clapton.

In the morning, parents learn English and in the evenings, their kids are taught to speak Somali.

But Ifraah says it's not just about teaching language. Their classes focus on learning together, building confidence and life skills.

Ifraah Samatar volunteering her time to do ad hoc services - helping and supporting people in the community.Ifraah Samatar volunteering her time to do ad hoc services - helping and supporting people in the community.

Ifraah told the Gazette: "Through our years of voluntary work in the community [Shukri and I] noticed language has become a crippling factor in preventing certain groups integrating and making the most of services available to them. Our message is simple - 'without understanding language is just noise.'."

Founder Shukri and Ifraah, director of youth, education and communication, are British-Somali and have both worked in schools.

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They've seen how language can affect communication between parents, kids and teachers. Reading important letters, navigating websites and registering for services can be very difficult without extra support.

Connecting Communities held a diversity day in the summer to celebrate the many communities which make up Hackney.Connecting Communities held a diversity day in the summer to celebrate the many communities which make up Hackney.

Fathima told the Gazette why she goes to the class: "Some of us don't know any English - we always have to find someone to translate. Sometimes we can't do anything because we don't know where to go. We can talk about our needs and if we have any problems the community can help us.

"We meet each other, talk, chat, laugh - it's stress free."

In between classes Connecting Communities volunteers assist anyone who asks with everyday tasks and activities made more difficult due to language barriers. They helped 40 people register to vote recently when the upcoming general election was announced.

Farhiya is one of the volunteers, and her son goes to the evening classes. She said: "I came here so young and found myself part of a lost generation. You feel like you don't belong anywhere [but volunteering] led me back to my community - before that I didn't know lots of Somali people."

Connecting Communities also partners with schools. Here primary school teacher Noureen Uaah and Ifraah teach kids about the inventor of traffic lights for black history month.Connecting Communities also partners with schools. Here primary school teacher Noureen Uaah and Ifraah teach kids about the inventor of traffic lights for black history month.

The morning classes started last month and are run in partnership with the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) supported by Pembury Community Centre.

Connecting communities also puts on events and projects for the wider community and the evening classes for kids also teach them about community, behaviour and computer skills.

Connecting Communities are on twitter @connectingcomm3 or @ifraahsamatar

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