Youth Work Bulletin - Guest Editorial from EYST - Special Focus: BLM Edition - July 2020

**Guest Editorial from EYST - Special Focus: BLM Edition**


A word from our Board Chair

Keith Towler

Keith’s voice

After the start of lockdown we moved swiftly to increase the frequency of youth work bulletins, to support the youth work sector during this very difficult time. Since April the bulletin has continued to evolve and develop and now we have another milestone, in the form of a guest edition of the bulletin, which has been developed by the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST).  

Given the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the contribution youth work can make to uphold non-discriminatory practice, I am delighted that EYST has agreed to produce our first guest edition of the bulletin. Our guest editors’ views are their own, but contain some really important messages for all of us.

Over to EYST with my heartfelt thanks and appreciation…

Welcome to Special Guest Edition by EYST Wales


Hi, and welcome to this special edition of the Welsh Government’s Youth Work Newsletter, which we feel very honoured to have been asked to guest edit.

EYST Wales started off as a youth-focused organisation, and although we have expanded our remit in recent years to focus on ethnic minorities of all ages, youth work and young people remain very much at the core of our approach and ethos. I’m lucky enough to have been involved since EYST’s establishment in 2005, when I met a group of young ethnic minority boys in Swansea, and their mentor Momena Ali, who were trying to sustain a successful pilot project beyond its initial 6 months. We constituted EYST, with a management committee made up of at least 50% beneficiaries, and the rest is history.

Young people from diverse backgrounds have also been the driving force behind the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, triggered by the tragic killing of George Floyd, which sent a powerful ripple effect around the world. Because sadly, coronavirus is not the only global virus which is threatening lives right now, and racism is not something which only happens in America.  The last month has been an emotive and also exhilarating time to live in Wales as a flurry of Black Lives Matters protests have been organised, mainly by young people, spurred by anger against injustice and a passion to change society. From Haverfordwest to Port Talbot and Barry to Llangollen, young people who had never before organised in this way did so, with incredible results – more on this in the special feature within this newsletter.

But youth work in Wales has always been diverse and young people living in Wales come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. According to the latest Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC), just under 12% of school age children in Wales are from an ethnic background other than ‘White British’.  Wales’ youth work sector has historically responded to this diversity by developing a plethora of community-level youth support programmes, which as well as EYST, include for example Grangetown Boys and Girls Club, Tiger Bay Boxing Club, Newport Yemeni Community Association, Wrexham’s Cultures Youth club, Race Council Cymru & YMCA Young Roots, Urban Circle, Youth Muslim Community Organisation (YMCO) Newport, Fio, Glitter Cymru and many more – see our EYST Map of BAME organisations across Wales .

And of course, ethnicity and race are only one aspect of a young person’s identity and life experience. Young people are also carers, some are refugees or asylum seekers, others identify as LGBT, or pursue interests around sport, music, drama or international travel as their number one goal. Youth work in Wales can cater for all of these passions and purposes, and this diversity is its beauty. Let’s value and build on that beauty, for all our futures.

Diolch 😊

Rocio Cifuentes


Young People’s Voices – Tahirah’s story

Tahira 2

Tahirah Ali is 19 years old, and has been volunteering for over 5 years now, contributing to the community and enjoying every minute of it.  From play schemes to homework club, working with different community groups, she feels this has shaped her as a young person. 

In 2018, she took part in Young, Migrant and Welsh, a project that focused on changing the perceptions of young individuals who live in Wales and are from a migrant community. Tahirah’s contribution was focused on females in sports and specifically weightlifting.

Tahirah was nominated as a Youth Ambassador for Wales by EYST for the #iwill campaign. She feels that she was able to reach a wider audience and raise more awareness not only in the local community but nationally too. Whilst working with other Youth Ambassadors in Wales, Tahirah was able to contribute to creating material that reflected the diverse Wales she is proud to call home.

Tahirah has also been involved in the judging panel of different Welsh projects and charities by WCVA, this allowed the work of individuals and organisations to be recognised at a national level, in order to carry on more work  to improve their communities and receive further funding to sustain it. Most recently, Tahirah was on the judging panel for the Diana Awards, the awards were internationally recognised, and this gave an insight into the amazing work of individuals around the world.

Recently, Tahirah has been asked to get involved in a new and developing project called Future Leaders Network in Wales this focuses on making sure all voices are heard and how to overcome challenges especially during lockdown.

Here is Tahirah’s experience of the coronavirus pandemic in her own words:  


“2020. It has been a strange time for everyone. My life has completely changed and the perspective I have now will stay with me forever. Having a somewhat normal routine at home even for me has been a struggle to adjust and stick to.

Education is primarily my main focus or was my main focus as I was preparing for my final year exams and also staring university preparations. Personally, the uncertainty of my education and future has been my biggest concern during these last few months. I understand that many of us young people who are in the same situation just wanted some clarity especially due to the uncertainties.

Fitness is a huge part of my life and from training 5 to 6 days a week to being told gyms are closed until further notice was upsetting to say the least. Training at home has become the new norm for most people but the thing I miss most about training is the people I would see and the gym atmosphere in general. 

Tahira 3

However, even though this global pandemic has been challenging, it's important to recognise the positives that have been highlighted. Our busy day to day lives have made us accustomed to not spending as much time as we would like with our loved ones or even enjoying hobbies such as baking or reading for pleasure, most of which we wouldn't normally have time for. Seeing different organisations, charities and individuals come together to provide support for those who have been deeply affected has been truly amazing. This shows that even with a global crisis, our unity is unbreakable. “– Tahirah Ali

Special Focus : Black Lives Matter and Youth Activism in Wales


Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, America, there has been an explosion of support and solidarity, right across the globe, including here in Wales. Young people in particular, have driven this movement, outraged by the brutality of his death, and demanding an end to the systemic institutional racism which has blighted so many lives around the world, for centuries now.

Wales has a long and proud history of anti-racism and anti-facism, with Welsh miners fighting Spanish fascism in the 1930’s Spanish civil war and the Wales Anti-Nazi league actively opposing far-right politics including the National Front in the late 1970s and 1980’s. Today, Stand up to Racism Wales has a strong following and regularly organises events and rallies in response to racist hate crimes or terrorist incidents.

However, prior to George Floyd’s death, Wales had not seen the breadth or scale of anti-racism activism which we have in the last 6 weeks. As well as in Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport where you might expect such protests to take place, Black Lives Matters protests have taken place in places as unlikely to be hot seats of such activity as Haverfordwest, Llangollen, Barry and Port Talbot. Hundreds have gathered at these events, and they have been largely led by young people new to organising and activism


On 1st July, EYST organised an online forum which sought to bring together these organisers, and provide a space for reflection on what happens next. 70 people attended including Riah Andrews, organisers of the BLM protest in Llangollen, Sean Suter, organiser of the Port Talbot BLM protest, Sabrina Thakurdas and Luis Williamson, organisers from the Cardiff BLM protest, and Andrew Ogun organiser of the Newport BLM protest. More seasoned speakers and organisers also spoke and we heard from Hilary Brown, organiser of Barry BLM protest and Nimisha Trivedi, from Stand Up to Racism Wales.

What stood out was that everybody felt that we were at a tipping point in society, where enough was enough, and real and lasting change now needed to happen – this moment needs to become a movement, and that is the responsibility of everyone, not only of black people themselves The role of education was agreed to be crucial, and that black history needs to be taught in the national curriculum in Wales, so it can become understood as Welsh history, our shared history.Organisers agreed that while it was heart-warming to see the extent of support, they also experienced backlash, which was sometimes upsetting and surprising, to hear some of their own friends question the focus on Black Lives.

Chloe Cherney, the organiser of the Haverfordwest event said: “Racism is a massive problem, especially in smaller areas of Wales.  We can’t let it fester.  The first Haverfordwest rally had 200 attendees, but there was also a lot of backlash”. Chloe is new to this and wants to see more change happening.  She added “It is very important that younger generations come together on this, because in older ones, racism was more embedded”.   


In their ‘take the knee’ events, Chloe explained that they have been doing a moment of silence for Christopher Kapessa, a young black boy who died in a river accident in Rhondda Cynon Taf on 1st July 2019, and for which police have drawn criticism for not seeking prosecutions.  She noted that many people in her area didn’t know about Christopher Kapessa, saying “That’s in Wales and people didn’t know.  It’s shocking. They don’t know it’s not just an American issue.” Thomas Picton, a slave owner who came from Haverfordwest had had his statue removed from Cardiff’s City Hall after mounting local pressure. Chloe says she was taught about him in school as a hero when in fact, he was also known as the butcher of Trinidad because of his abject cruelty to the slaves, even by the standards of the time. 

Lee Tiratira – My Lockdown Youth Work Experience!


Lee and the Wrexham Gang - Pre Lockdown

Hi, I’m Lee Tiratira, Black and Minority Ethnic Children and Young People (BME CYP) support worker with EYST, based in Wrexham and covering North Wales. The BME CYP project works with ethnic minority children and young people across Wales in Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham. Even though I’d been working for EYST since October 2018, I started in this role right in the middle of lockdown at the end of April 2020.

The immediate challenges I faced were ensuring that children and young people on the project were receiving appropriate food supplies, the correct entitlements and financially surviving due to the additional burdens that the lockdown had. Beyond these urgent needs, adapting to and encouraging engagement with children and young people (CYP) across digital or online platforms became the next and ongoing challenge.

The Youth Work I found myself engaging in generally went through stages of ensuring accessibility, providing something appealing (to satisfy most!) then sustaining interest. I found online engagement only happened when it was more targeted or catered to individuals’ needs rather than anything open access. A lot of resulting work focused on discussions about online hate crime which many young people had unfortunately experienced. We also ran incentivised competitions that young people or groups specifically requested or fun unstructured sessions guided in the moment by conversation. A great example of this is the success of new engagement from Syrian young people in Flintshire - a group that, pre-lockdown, I’d found hard to engage with in person. Through EYST, devices and internet support were provided to the households of these CYP and after initial technical issues – online Zoom engagement picked up and became more regular. Sessions such as ‘Transitions to High School’, ‘spot the difference’ and team quizzes really shone. A HUGE shout out here to a wonderful lady called Liz from Synergy, who spent some afternoons bouncing from house to house to help set Zooms up!


With everything moving to online platforms, I had to learn new skills - from hosting Zooms to learning about and creating social media posts. I enjoyed learning creative new ways to engage like online competitions and challenges. I think being able to be tech savvy really helped me, I simplified everything I could to make all interaction as easy as possible. Utilising my communication skills were my main routes to success, being able to interact and make things fun, avoiding awkwardness and dodging boredom helped a lot! Being a face on a screen meant my own attitude, expressions and tact came to the fore. At times I had felt like a daytime presenter herding guests away from bad language or inappropriateness! All of which became great learning and experience I take forwards in all I do. I think there are many benefits for Youth Work throughout this strange period and I just hope we continue to add these newfound dimensions to all we do!

If you would like to learn more about our Youth Work or other work, you can see more on our social media streams -  Twitter - @eystwales, Facebook - 'Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team - EYST Wales', Instagram - @eyst_wales and YouTube - 'EYST Wales'. Or if you’d rather contact our BME CYP team directly, you can message our project Lead Fateha on:

Lee Tiratira, BME CYP Project, Wrexham Lead

Where to get more support?

There are lots of organisations working around Wales who are supporting BAME young people. They may be able to offer direct support or advice to young people from diverse backgrounds as well as training or advice for professionals including youth workers. These organisations include:

Chinese in Wales Association – based in Swansea. 

African Community Centre – based in Swansea

Newport Yemeni Community Association – based in Newport

Urban Circle – based in Newport

Young Muslim Community Organisation – based in Newport

Ludek Polish Community group – based in Newport

Tiger Bay Amateur Boxing club – based in Cardiff 

Horn Development Association – based in Cardiff

Women Connect First – based in Cardiff

Fio – based in Cardiff 

BAWSO – all Wales

Diverse Cymru – all Wales

Welsh Refugee Council – all Wales

Show Racism the Red Card – all Wales

Race Council Cymru – all Wales

Race Alliance Wales – all Wales

EYST Wales – all Wales

For a more complete list check out EYST’s Map of BAME Organisations in Wales

Update from Welsh Government

Professor Charlotte Williams OBE has been appointed by the Welsh Government to lead a new working group to advise on and improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and experiences across all parts of the school curriculum. For more information follow this link.

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