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New Roxbury center aims to bridge gap between US, Somalia

Posted by Patrick Rosso  July 19, 2012 03:05 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)


Sagal Mohamed, 13; Zenna Mohamed, 17; Sophia Abdi, 17; Halima Ahmed, 17;and Salma Mohamed, 11; checking out new computers at the Madaal Center for Youth.

Creating a community and building bridges are just a few of the goals of the recently opened Madaal Center for Youth in Roxbury.

The center, located in the basement of the African Community Economic Development of New England on John Eliot Square, is meant to provide not only the East African population with a place to gather and tackle community issues, but for all youths in the neighborhood to come together.

Most of the students behind the center are of Somali descent and created the center to spark conversations and to produce media that shows their point of view and informs people about where they and their families came from.

“It’s about showing both sides,” said Naima Abdullahi, 21, vice president of Youth in Charge, which is also part of African Community Economic Development of New England and which helped create the new center. “Although we identify with being Somali we can’t physically be in Somalia so we need to make sure our community here is set. We see ourselves as the bridge between Somalia and America.”

The center, which received support from the Boston Foundation as well as ACEDONE, with programming support from Peace in Focus, will be used to help teach youths how to produce their own multi-media stories.

Members of YIC presented some of the projects they have been working on over the summer Wednesday night in Roxbury.

The videos and audio slideshows tackled topics relevant to the students and the community as a whole, discussing immigration, the history of Somali, and the generation gap.

“We want to use that voice to show people what we go through,” said Hawa Yassin, 20, president of Youth in Charge. “We felt we needed to be that voice for those youth not spoken for.”

So far YIC and the center have about 20 members ranging in age from 15-29, with some born and raised in the United States and others recent immigrants and refugees.

YIC has also been instrumental in forming afterschool programs for neighborhood youth in the center and creating a center that is open to those who feel at times shut out by society at large.

“It [after school program] started as a way to help out, but it turns what we are doing is having an impact,” said Abdiladif Hassan, 28, a YIC board member. “We realized that kids are impressionable and look up to the older generation.”

“I see these young people behind me who are ready to take a lead in their community,” said Mohamed Farah, 29. “We’re looking forwarding to bringing our voice to the table and taking charge.”

Now the youth behind the center are looking to create a sustainable outlet and a lasting legacy.

Business plans have been proposed and YIC is looking at ways to keep the center open and fully funded and while the new tools learned have been helpful in creating a positive view of the neighborhood, the youth, and Somalia, the impact it has on the younger generation will be the lasting legacy of the program.

“It has given me the sense of community and I learned the power a few people can have in the community,” said Nashir Abdullahi, 15.

The center is located in ACEDONE’s office at 15 John Eliot Square. For more information about ACEDONE and the center, click here.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.


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