Somalian refugee recognised for her youth work with Hornsey YMCA

Fleeing a civil war-torn Somalia aged 11, Frah Saeed arrived in England to stay with her uncle, leaving her parents behind.

Struggling with a new language and culture, Frah was expelled from school as a teenager and left home at 16 - sleeping on the streets a couple of times.

She started working for the Hornsey YMCA by chance in 2009, directed there through the job centre for a type of apprenticeship.

Recognised as the YMCA young leader of the year last week, Frah believes that her own experiences have shaped the way she works with young people.

“Because of the struggles I had, I knew I could give someone going through that a way out,” she said. “Through my experience, I could guide them.”

As part of her work with the youth charity, Frah has taken part in YMCA Europe’s Peace Work Institute (PWI) since October 2012.

She helped organise and plan a study tour in August 2014 to Nargorno Karabakh; a de facto independent but unrecognised state that was part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union.

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Travelling with the Peace Work Initiative, Frah has spoken with young people in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

She believes that there are some parallels between the issues the young people described to her on her trip, and those facing young people in England.

“There’s a lack of employment, an uncertainty,” she said. “They’re not valued, they have no voice; they’re not included in the process of tomorrow.”

At the awards, YMCA North London in Hornsey scooped up the coveted YMCA award, having been nominated for the prize for the first time this year.

They were praised for their Life Academy programme, which offers formal and informal learning which helps young people prepare for adult life.

It provides mentoring and coaching relating to independent living, housing and health; fitness, wellbeing and employment, education and skills.

“It was really great to be nominated and to win the award,” said chief executive Tim Fallon. “It’s a way of saying thank you to all our staff, volunteers and trustees.”

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