Four young people on a mission to prove the truth and power of this simple formula
After seeing their friends getting involved and then put into prison at the London riots in August 2011, four young Londoners – Indra Gavėnaitė, 25, Shamin Kisakye,18, Azad Kamall, 28, and Fernando Marcel, 28 – decided to take action.
What was needed, they agreed, was something new to support young offenders. Something that would help them steer a better, more positive course in life. As Indra puts it: “Young offenders needed a system of support that gave them a sense of hope for the future and which didn’t make them feel socially isolated. Our goal was to provide people with a stronger sense of community and solidarity after life in a prison – a sense of community and ‘belonging’ that will make individuals feel included and prevent any future crime”.
As a result of their fresh thinking, Indra and her colleagues founded the Creativity = Freedom project with the No Bounds organisation – a project funded by Youth in Action. Their goal was very clear. They wanted their project to create a new social support network for young offenders – a network that would build strong, close links between the young people and their communities, and, in the process, provide an informal, community-based mentoring approach to help the youngsters overcome social, economical and cultural discrimination.
Achieving their goal has taken a lot of hard work and creative thinking. For example, as Indra explains: “We would all meet in a range of informal places and talk about how to be included as young people within the community, and how we could inspire creativity by involving young offenders in projects in a range of areas such as media production, journalism, arts, creative writing and musical exploration.
And has it all been worth it? Yes. As well as providing a brighter future for the neighbourhood’s young people, the project has enabled the team who created it develop a variety of new skills and increase their knowledge of the prison education system. “I have learnt so much from all the researches we had to undertake, as well as a lot from my team mates,” says Azad, while Indra adds that “I have gained in confidence in speaking with new people and confidence in myself as we started out the project without knowing how things would turn out. So far everything has been great and I would recommend the project to anyone who is interested to join”.
Azad hopes that more people within the community get involved in initiatives led by young people. He says: “Friends of ours are involved in gangs and drugs because of a lack of opportunities for them. This opportunity was very important for me because I can now show other people that young people can also contribute to society.”
The No Bounds organisation has lots of plans about how to take this further and intends to create a network of young people who are able to join together to create a better sense of community and solidarity among young people, young offenders and marginalized communities. “We started the project from the ground up,” said Shamin. “Now we are in a position to lead others in the area”.
In June 2012, three members of No Bounds received the Southwark Stars award, rewarding exceptional commitment to volunteers in front of 200 guests.”
Chloe Vatikiotis – Youth in Action, British Council