InterACT is a program set up by the Citizenship Foundation that works with local youth organisations to promote community partnerships and mutual learning between asylum seekers or refugees and young people from local communities. The project is in its second year thanks to its funding by Comic Relief and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This year the program is taking place in five cities throughout the UK – Cardiff, Barnsley, Bradford, Leeds, and Liverpool.
I was able to speak to Xenia, the InterACT project Co-ordinator, about her work on the project. Her enthusiasm for the program is reflected in her hard work throughout the year. Xenia spends her time between the office and working with youth organisations and young people. In the summer she runs sessions for young people to talk about their community issues where they do group work in the form of activities and diversity talks. She also sits in during the youth leaders’ sessions and does informal collecting of information. During the rest of the year she works to build partnerships and recruit youth groups to become involved with the program. When asked what her favourite part of working on InterACT, Xenia spoke about how she much enjoyed seeing the young people come together.
The program has four stages which span the whole summer. The first stage involves youth groups doing independent work on a creative project in their local community. The next stage involves the two groups from the same area coming together to share their creative projects. Both groups, the local young people and the asylum and refugees, then pick issues that they would like to work on together. The third stage of the program involves the two groups working together on a project that attempts to fix the issues that they would like to change. The project is funded by a seed grant from InterACT of up to £2000. The groups also work to get local support, and use local and social media as tools to help their project. The final stage of the program is a celebration event that helps to raise awareness in their local communities.
InterACT highlights one of the Citizenship Foundation’s aims of helping young people develop the skills to enable them to actively participate in their communities. By having young people from different backgrounds communicate, the barriers between them can be broken down. Those that have participated in InterACT found that they had more confidence to talk to others, were able to challenge stereotypes, and were given an opportunity to learn about others from a first hand experience. Louise, a Youth Worker at Displaced People in Action (InterACT partner organisation in Swansea) stated that, ‘I am inspired by the work of the Citizenship Foundation and believe that the InterACT project is a fantastic way of improving levels of integration and sense of community.’
I think that the positive experience young people have gained from participating in InterACT can only help to add to a better society in the future. If you would like your youth group to become involved in InterACT in the future contact Xenia at firstname.lastname@example.org