Focus On Youth: an interview with Natalia Chan

November 10th, 2009
Natalia Chan

Natalia Chan

Interview: Natalia Chan, Research Associate, Young Foundation
City: London
Good Idea: Dealing With Diabetes: The Maslaha Project

1. Our project Cities of Migration is about urban integration, what’s the best example that you’ve seen recently?

Spitalfields City Farm where I was surprised to see the number of community activities happening. It felt like integration on a much bigger scale – not only bringing together groups of people from different communities, but also bringing nature into an urban environment.

2.Your projects, “Maslaha Engage” and “Thinking Allowed” are about engaging “youth”, so how did you get them interested in your work?

Maslaha has been built on and inspired by conversations with young people right from the start. Our early research showed a lack of accessible resources to answer the questions from young Muslims living within a western society.

Young people can be our harshest critics, but also our most important advisors, making sure we really address the key issues , and in a way that makes sense to them. For example, feedback from young people have informed the development of our website all the way through to ensure it’s something they will use and find interesting and exciting as well as useful.

3. With blogs and the web it seems easier than ever for youth voices to be heard, but who is listening to them? And if you asked them, who would they say they wanted to have listening to them?

Muslim communities have experienced a lot of negative media over the past few years. Many young people have told us that they just wanted to grab a camera and shout down it, to be given some kind of forum to have their voices heard. Maslaha ” Engage ” is both a window into what it’s like to be a young Muslim in Britain today, and also a mouthpiece.

Who they want to be heard by ? That would depend on the young person you talk to – some express a keen interest in politics, with others it’s about being able to open up other sectors, express yourself in the arts, or have the opportunity to participate in all areas of society without being labelled or stereotyped.

4. In person/online or over the phone – whats the best way to connect with this age group? Are you using Facebook or Twitter ?

Sure, you have to bring all of these media together, using the web and film , social media. But you also have to get out and talk to people who are already working with young people, organising events and discussion groups through schools, youth groups and more.

5. What have you learned from working with these different youth groups?

Well, they’re not backwards in coming forward ! They have been given free reign to criticise our website and tell us what they want ! They are great at reminding us about what really matters, in keeping us in tune with the real issues that need to be addressed by Maslaha. For example, one of our Engage films is essentially a health message around the use of Khat in the Somali community. This project was entirely driven by a young woman who felt passionate about that subject and it taught us a lot in the process. We are constantly blown away by their creativity and ideas. They are definately worth listening to.

For more on the Mashala Project see: Dealing With Diabetes: The Maslaha Project and Dealing With Diabetes and Other Everyday Dilemmas: The Maslaha Project

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