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UCL Qatar: Introducing Innovation Labs to Zambian Cultural Heritage Institutions

GuestBlogger25 September 2019

By Milena Dobreva-McPherson, Associate Professor, Library and Information Studies, UCL Qatar.

Over the years, UCL academics have contributed in different ways to the six Grand Challenges. One of them is Cultural Understanding, and it looks at the differing, complex, and evolving relationships between people, communities, and culture in the interconnected world of today.

After many years of digitisation in libraries, museums and archives around the globe, there is a vast accumulation of digital content. We are used to it at our fingertips on any digital device. But imagine that you are interested in the diaries and other objects related to the explorations of David Livingstone in Zambia. They have already been digitised, but you must take a trip to consult the digitised collection of the museum on-site because it is not available online.

This is still the case with plenty of cultural and scientific heritage digital content from the Global South, a region which suffers the digital divide.

The digital divide results in many deficits in access to knowledge due to missing, or the very slow adoption of, modern technology. In the cultural heritage domain, the digital divide results in the lack of exposure of digital content which exists but is not made available online. There are various explanations why this is the case – ranging from lack of suitable infrastructure for digital asset management to inadequate or missing policies for user engagement with the digital content.

Led by the desire to explore what this means in the Sub Saharan African context, I submitted a proposal to the most recent call for teaching activities in Africa and the Middle East of the Global Engagement Office at UCL. It aimed to deliver the first workshop in innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions for Sub Saharan Africa in Zambia.

Having two major obstacles in mind – inadequate infrastructures and lack of user engagement policies – we designed a workshop which addressed both areas. In a world where Open Science becomes increasingly popular, the opportunities for digital presence are changing. One solution to the issue of not sharing content online due to inadequate institutional infrastructure is to start using open platforms.

The exciting work started when my proposal received support, and we scheduled our workshop to be delivered on 1 August 2019 at Livingstone Museum, Zambia.

Fig. 1. Zambian digital content is mostly available for consultation in-house – thus world users cannot access it as a consequence of the digital divide

The rationale of the workshop was to spread the innovative knowledge accumulated at UCL Qatar to setting up successful innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions in Zambia. The workshop targeted professionals from Cultural Heritage Institutions who have responsibilities to manage digital collections and those with future intentions of engaging in the curation of a digital collection in Zambia. The workshop aimed to:

  • Equip museum and library professionals in Zambia with knowledge on the approaches to setting innovation labs and discussing how local institutions can work towards creating such labs.
  • Raise awareness on the role cultural institutions offering digital content play in boosting the digital skills of scholars, educators, learners, and creatives.

UCL Qatar worked with several institutions in Zambia to prepare and deliver the workshop, including the National Museums Board of Zambia – an umbrella institution for national museums, the National Archives of Zambia, and the Department of Library and Information Science from the University of Zambia (UNZA). It also included online interventions from the British Library.

We focused the content of the workshop on state-of-the-art digitisation, examples of digitisation projects from Zambia, and setting up innovation labs in libraries, museums, and archives. There was also plenty of discussions and a practical exercise on understanding better the needs of users of digital collections.

Participants

Initially designed for 15 participants, the workshop was delivered to a total of 27 participants (see Fig. 2)

Fig. 2.  Profiles of participants
Figure 3: Workshop participants

Feedback and impact

Eighteen out of the 27 participants provided feedback and it was overwhelmingly positive. The participants were asked to rate the content of the workshop and also to comment on the value of the knowledge for themselves and their institutions.

One participant said:

“The programme should be repeated for other professionals in Zambia and if it comes I will recommend it to others.”

There were also opinions on how to take forward the knowledge shared at the workshop:

“Put the knowledge acquired in the workshop to use ASAP, conduct a follow up workshop to determine progress in created innovation labs, and massive awareness creation of the existence of the innovation labs created to potential users”

“Embrace new trends and technologies relating to digital platforms and information sharing through innovation labs”

“I’m suggesting that maybe if its possible to continue having such workshops every year so that we learn more new techniques on how to improve our libraries. Also, the workshop should have taken at least three days to allow participants learn more”.

The workshop received media coverage from three newspapers and some local radio stations.

Another innovative outcome from this event was that UCL Qatar added the first-ever dataset of the potential for Innovation labs in Africa on the UCL repository: Dobreva, M., and Phiri, F.. (2019, August 20). Cultural Heritage Innovation Labs in Africa (Version 1). figshare. https://doi.org/10.5522/04/9685127.v1

A Google folder with all the presentations, press coverage, and photos of the event is also openly available: Innovation Labs Workshop – Zambia

Conclusion

The Funding from GEO made it possible for UCL Qatar to host this first-of-its-kind workshop in Sub Saharan Africa.

This has resulted in a beneficial collaboration with local institutions in Zambia such as the National Museum Board of Zambia, University of Zambia and National Archives of Zambia to deliver of the first-ever workshop on Innovation Labs in Sub Saharan Africa.

The workshop also inspired a new sense of enthusiasm in participants to make their digital collection accessible online.

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank Dania Jalees for the infographics, Fred Nuyambe for the photograph and Fidelity Phiri who collaborated on this project.

Ask an academic: Dr Jennie Golding

Sian EGardiner28 January 2019

Dr Jennie Golding is a lecturer in Mathematics Education at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE). Her research focuses in particular on teacher development for policy change in both the UK and a variety of second and third world contexts.

Jennie regularly works with teachers, policy makers and teacher educators in developing countries to support the growth of evidence-based, effective maths education. We spoke to her to find out more about her recent work in East Africa, supported by a UCL Global Engagement Fund (GEF) grant.

You started out as a mathematician and moved into teaching – what interested you in education?

I had enjoyed working with three-18 year olds on a voluntary basis – and I think enjoying being with young people is really important. Then I began to analyse the different functions my teachers at school and university had played, and to appreciate the difference a good teacher makes to clarity and enjoyment of the subject I love.

The rest is history – except that after a long career classroom-based, but working in teacher development alongside that, in this country and the developing world, I felt I wanted to capitalise on that by moving into HE.

You were among recent recipients of UCL’s Global Engagement Funds (GEF). What led you to apply for the funds?

I have a passionate belief in the power of education to transform individuals and society – and in equitable access to that. In particular, young people can’t access 21st century science and technology without knowing mathematics in a meaningful way – and yet, many developing countries have an education tradition that majors on rote learning, and teacher as authoritarian and source of all knowledge.

The initial GEF funding enabled me to engage with, and visit, a range of teachers in Tanzania so I better understood their context – but more importantly in the long term, to meet and begin to work with teacher educators and mathematics education researchers in the region.

In August 2018 I was able to build on that visit by working with researchers from across East Africa, who identified the development of teacher educators in the region, together with the policy-related local research capacity, as the most effort-effective focus.

You were recently in Uganda, following up on the project. How did the visit go?

I was running a course for primary mathematics teacher educators from across East Africa, alongside teachers from each of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, focusing on developing active learning with meaning-making – in ways that can be enacted in low-resource classrooms with sometimes up to 180 learners.

That took quite a lot of preparation and background work, and needs to be refined further, but was exciting, stimulating – and as always, humbling. And Uganda is such a beautiful country!

How will you measure the project’s success?

We know from a multiplicity of sources that it’s important for embedding of course learning that teacher educators and teachers take this back to their local contexts, explore, adapt and experiment with it in manageable ways; are supported to reflect on what they’re finding at frequent intervals; and gradually commit to new ways of working in collaborative ways. So all the course participants now have three months’ supported distance learning, during which they have three assignments.

Already participants are talking of the course as ‘life-changing’ for both them and their learners, but of course, the proof of any success will lie on the ground in their home contexts. Importantly, I’m also following up these teacher educators’ experiences in a systematic way together with a Ugandan mathematics education researcher, to mutual benefit since I have more research expertise than she does, but she can access participants’ experiences through use of their home language.

Along with Tanzania and Uganda, you’ve worked in countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Armenia and Jordan. Why do you think it’s important to work on a global scale?

Essentially, I do believe we are global citizens − and in this country, we’re exceptionally privileged in the opportunities we’ve had available to us, especially in education. So I think there’s a moral imperative to share the fruit of those opportunities. But I also believe there is always so much to be learned from working in different contexts and cultures, so that although I’ve been lucky enough to have a variety of overseas opportunities, I’ve always returned having learned at least as much as I’ve given.

Professionally, working in low-resource contexts has helped me focus on what are the essentials, the core of my work as a teacher and mathematician, and that’s been really exciting.

What’s your best memory from these global experiences?

Where to start? I think the core satisfaction has been when the mathematics has begun to make sense to teachers and teacher educators in ways they’ve not expected or experienced before.

One teacher educator in Uganda said at the end of the face to face course, ‘I had no idea there was a mathematical world out there that’s just so beautiful – and such fun’ – and if teacher educators have ‘caught’ that, there’s hope then for it to spread to young people in classrooms. That’s immensely satisfying.

UCL Qatar students changing libraries in Doha through UCL ChangeMakers project

GuestBlogger21 January 2019

By Bruce Bulmuo 

Master’s degree students at UCL Qatar have completed a UCL ChangeMakers project which offered students the opportunity to work with a school library in Doha to enhance practice-based learning for students in the Library and Information Studies program.

The students spent several months working with Al-Rowad International School to provide assessment and consultation services.

Recommendations were made to the authorities of the school on potential changes to the library to meet standards set by Qatar National School Accreditation (QNSA).

Meeting international standards 

To be eligible for full accreditation, schools in Qatar are required by QNSA to have well-resourced and functioning libraries that meet international standards. After a rigorous search, Al-Rowad International School was selected to be the first beneficiary of ChangeMakers in Qatar.

Led by Asma Al-Maadheed, the team of five students worked under the supervision of Dr. Milena Dobreva, Co-ordinator of the Library and Information Studies program at UCL Qatar, to write a library policy and install an automated library system for the school’s library.

Staff of the school were given basic training on how to operate the library system that was installed on their main library computer to ensure efficiency in the management of the library.

Fostering collaboration and innovation 

The UCL ChangeMakers project fosters collaboration and innovation to further enhance the learning experience of students. The project also forms part of commitment at UCL Qatar to prepare students for the work environment.

The project titled ‘Practice-based Team Learning through Assessing and Supporting School Libraries in Qatar’, also served as a hands-on practice for students in line with UCL’s mission of developing professionals through research based-based learning.

The students also considered the project as a form of corporate social responsibility that allowed them to give back to society the knowledge they have gained from the lecture halls.

UCL-backed AHRI launches groundbreaking health research programme in South Africa

Sian EGardiner8 January 2019

The Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), led by UCL Professor Deenan Pillay, is bringing cutting-edge health screening and scientific research to an area of northern KwaZulu-Natal with one of the highest rates of HIV and tuberculosis in South Africa.

Dubbed ‘Vukuzazi’, which means ‘wake up and know yourself,’ the new research programme is designed to produce a disease profile of the community, which will guide future healthcare plans.

Comprehensive health screenings

People living in AHRI’s health and demographic surveillance system site in uMkhanyakude District are being invited to participate in a comprehensive health screening at a Vukuzazi mobile health screening fair.

The easy-access screenings will test for diabetes, high blood pressure, nutritional status, tobacco and alcohol use as well as HIV and tuberculosis, in a bid to lower the prevalence of diseases such as TB and to tackle the stigma still often associated with HIV screenings.

AHRI aims to reach 30,000 participants over the course of 18 months, with the mobile camp coming within one kilometre of each participant’s home.

State-of-the art equipment

The state of the art equipment will allow AHRI’s clinical team to examine this information in real time, link it together and make referrals to the public health system for people as needed.

“There are very few surveillance sites of the sort that we are building on,” said AHRI Deputy Director for Science, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u in a recent statement. “AHRI has been monitoring 120, 000 individuals for the past 15 years. We are now building on to that a new level of clinical testing and diagnosis, together with biological sampling.

Understanding the genetic makeup

“One of the key aspects of Vukuzazi that will push this research agenda forward is understanding the genetic makeup of our population, but in particular what is it about those genetics which determines who is protected from disease, and who gets disease,” said AHRI Director, Professor Pillay.

“There is a paucity of data from Africa, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, and we want to redress that balance. We want to ensure that the potential benefits that are being shown to populations in the West can also be provided to the population here.”

Significant academic partner

Launched in 2016, AHRI’s inception was made possible through £63m in grants from Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), with UCL and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) as significant academic partners.

In 2018, UCL launched funding via the Division of Infection and Immunity for South African students to study at UCL through AHRI on studentships.

Links

Spotlight on the RELIEF Centre

GuestBlogger6 September 2018

Part of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, the RELIEF Centre is a hub for research and learning focused on inclusive growth and prosperity. It is about the prosperity of Lebanon in particular, but it is also part of a larger agenda for developing sustainable ways to improve the quality of life of people throughout the world. Here, the centre rounds up highlights from their activity over the last three months.

With articles published in The Guardian and on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact blog, the publication of the centre’s first working paper, fieldwork trips and workshops between Lebanon and London, along with the first event organised by the RELIEF Cultural Committee, the last three months have been busy for the RELIEF Centre.

As the centre moves into its second year, the staff are spending more time in the field and devising new activities as part of the centre’s public engagement strategy. Staff continue to enjoy existing collaborations, and have also created many exciting new opportunities to share their work with others. Highlights from over summer 2018 include:

Researchers from the Future Education research theme met in August for the Educators for Change: Teacher professional development (TPD) in the context of mass displacement workshop at the UCL Institute of Education. This workshop is part of a series organised by the team based around teacher professional development in the context of mass displacement. It discussed the development of a curriculum for the Educators for Change Massive Online Open Course (MOOC). The team was joined by officials from the Ministry of Education in Lebanon, Lebanese academics and NGO educators.

New book by UCL Qatar’s Dr Jane Humphris brings Sudan’s heritage to young audience

Sian EGardiner23 July 2018

Dr Jane Humphris, Head of UCL Qatar Research in Sudan, has published a children’s book intended to raise awareness about archaeological work in Sudan among local children.

The book, ‘Sudan’s Ancient History: Hwida and Maawia Investigate Meroe’s Iron’, illustrates the groundbreaking archaeological work currently underway in the Royal City of Meroe, as part of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP), for a younger audience.

Funded by Qatar Museums, QSAP is an extensive, targeted initiative by to support the exploration and protection of Sudan’s culture and history.

Led by the states of Sudan and Qatar, this international project has over 40 missions engaged in the excavation and conservation of ancient sites in Sudan.

Distributed in Doha libraries

The new book follows two young children, Hwida and Maawia, as they discover how the ancient Sudanese produced iron, demonstrating the significant role this played in the history of the Kingdom of Kush.

Following its publication, copies of the book are to be placed in the Museum of Islamic Art library and the Qatar National Library for children and families from across Qatar to learn about this aspect of Sudan’s rich heritage.

As part of the ongoing community outreach programme in Sudan, hundreds of copies have been also handed out to children living around Meroe and placed in the libraries of local schools.

Inspiring the next generation

Speaking at a ceremony hosted by Qatar National Library, Jane said: “Here at UCL Qatar, we believe that the role of archaeologists is not just to discover the past through archaeological excavations, but also to make sure that the work we are doing is accessible.

“We hope that the book continues to be used as an educational tool – both in Sudan and Qatar – so that we can inspire the next generation to become more interested in preserving, protecting, and promoting cultural heritage.”

Ongoing archaeological work

For the last six years, UCL Qatar has been carrying out archaeological work at the ancient Royal City of Meroe, on the east bank of the river Nile.

UCL Qatar’s most recent work as part of QSAP includes the discovery of early iron production workshops, and extensive research and conservation at the Apedemak Temple, one of the most import religious locations at the Royal City.

Bartlett team hosts ‘Flash-back City’ architecture workshop in Riyadh

Sian EGardiner23 May 2018

Flashback city workshop in RiyadhA team from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture has run its first interactive workshop for architecture students in Riyadh, at Al Faisal University, in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian art organisation Minhaj.

Co-organised by Director of Short Courses at The Bartlett, Sabine Storp, along with first year teaching staff and The Bakerloos, a collective made up of four Bartlett alumni, the ‘Flash-back City’ workshop explored the power of collaboration and collective imagination in urban architecture.

Explaining the structure of the workshop, Sabine said, “Through a gamified interface, participants collectively drew an urban fabric based on crowdsourced memories – creating large scale propositional, collaborative drawings through the collation of personal memories of a city or culture.”Architecture workshop in Riyadh

She added, “The co-founder of Minhaj, Fahad Al Saud, is a Bartlett alumni. Minhaj and I saw an opportunity to expand workshops and short-courses to Riyadh, where the local architectural education is becoming more diverse and exciting.”

Tailored to the unique historic context of Old Riyadh and Ad Diriyah, the workshop was well received by Al Faisal students, with one participant commenting: “It’s exciting and different to any workshop we’ve participated in locally before.”

As a result of the successful collaboration, Sabine and team are now planning a new series of workshops about art, architecture and design, to take place later in 2018.

Defending Academic Freedom: Interview with Dr Naif Bezwan

GuestBlogger11 April 2018

 By Miriam Matthiessen, UCL’s Cara Student Ambassador

Dr Naif Bezwan Dr Naif Bezwan is a scholar from Turkey currently at UCL as a fellow through the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara).

Founded in 1933 by Britain’s foremost academics and scientists to help refugee academics escape Nazi Germany, Cara assists those in immediate danger, those forced into exile, and many who choose to work on in their home countries despite serious risks. UCL has partnered with Cara since 2006.

Dr Naif Bezwan had been an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Mardin Artuklu in Turkey since January 2014, when one day in October 2016, he received the news that he had been indefinitely suspended from his post and all civil service by emergency decree.

This was due to an interview he had given to a Turkish newspaper, which related to core areas of his academic interest and expertise, including Turkey’s political and administrative system, accession to the European Union, and foreign policy.

In the interview, Naif stressed the danger of using military force at home and abroad to deal with the Kurdish question and democratic aspirations of citizens at large, through tackling an essentially domestic issue by military means and conducting cross-border military operations.

Only a couple of hours after its publication, he received an order from the university administration, in which his reflections were described as evidence of support for a “terrorist organisation” and “undermining national security”, and used as grounds for suspension. The dismissal was issued prior to the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

Alleged links

Naif is one of a number of academics, teachers and civil servants from Turkey dismissed from their jobs in the aftermath of the failed coup in July 2016.

According to a UN Report, over 100,000 people were reportedly dismissed and suspended throughout Turkey from public or private sector jobs for suspected links with the coup organizers.  Over 40,000 staff were allegedly dismissed by the Ministry of Education, mostly teachers. This included some 10,000 teachers in South- East Turkey, over 90 percent of whom were serving in Kurdish-speaking municipalities.

Interview with Dr Naif Bezwan

This was not Naif’s first disciplinary investigation. The first one took place in February 2016 after he signed a ‘Petition for Peace’ together with 36 colleagues and a total of 1,128 academics, calling on the Turkish government to end military operations against its Kurdish citizens. Signatories of the petition were targeted by a campaign of abuse, violence, and death threats.

In many public speeches, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the petitioning academics of “treason”, “support for a terrorist organization” and of threatening “national security,” which promptly resulted in numerous investigations, suspensions and dismissals.

Naif said he sees a great risk in the increasingly authoritarian regime, which governs the country “essentially through extralegal means unbounded by rule of law and the most basic principles of a democratic and accountable government.”

Finding a fellowship

Naif left the country for the UK in November 2016 – just days before the passports of all of his colleagues, subject to the same decree-law as him, were revoked.

In early 2017 he was recommended to apply for a Cara fellowship, for which he was found eligible in February.

He was granted a full fellowship at the Department of Political Science at UCL where he has been working since June 2017, doing research on Turkey’s political and administrative system as well as issues of Kurdish Conflict resolution and authoritarianism.

Coming to the UK meant having a breathing space in comparison to his colleagues who were not able to leave the country in time, and are therefore prevented not only from taking public jobs but also from seeking opportunities abroad.

For this reason, Dr. Bezwan continues his scholarly and public engagements as far as he can while in the UK. He is involved in Academics for Peace UK, and together with colleagues, has established a charitable institution, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Research, which aims to provide funding to colleagues in need back home and beyond.

In Naif’s own words: “Living in a country without concern of being exposed to harm, unjust treatment and intimidation, having the possibility of living under decent human conditions, and working in a friendly, international and inspiring academic setting, as UCL is, is of immeasurable value.

In a very critical period of my individual and professional biography, the Cara fellowship provides me with an opportunity and essential basis to continue with my life and studies in dignity and safety. The value of this support, and the importance of the institution which has provided, and continues to provide, hundreds of scholars under risk with a dignified foundation for their personal and professional life, cannot be emphasized enough.”

UCL Qatar’s collaborations shed fresh light on Doha’s rich architectural heritage

Sian EGardiner18 December 2017

Earlier this month, UCL Qatar joined forces with various partner organisations in a series of public events exploring the city of Doha’s architectural history.

Most notably, the British Council Qatar’s fourth annual British Festival included a panel discussion and exhibition brought to the festival thanks to the ongoing partnership between UCL Qatar and Qatar University’s College of Engineering.

‘The Streets of Doha’ panel featured the winners of the Unlimited Doha Design Prize (Deena Terawi, Gizem Kahraman, Ming Teong, Can Askoy and Alex Scott-Whitby) along with special guest speakers including Ibrahim Mohamed, CEO & Chief Architect of Jaidah Group and Dr Fodil Fadli, Head of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at Qatar University.

An educational partnership with the British Council

The panel’s wide-ranging discussion covered the distinctive character of Doha’s architecture, the transformation of the city’s built environment and its impact on architectural identity, everyday life and public space.

Professor Rob Carter, Professorial Research Fellow and Research Lead at UCL Qatar, was in the 120-strong audience to hear the discussions take place. Speaking about the event he said, “UCL Qatar is honoured to participate in this year’s British Festival as the British Council educational partners.

“We are proud to be the first British institution in Qatar to offer high quality UK Education, and of the outstanding outcomes we’ve achieved in developing research and capacity-building in cultural heritage in this country. I’m particularly delighted to be involved in this event and exploration of Qatar’s rich urban heritage, which is often underestimated in academic circles and public debate.”

Exchange of knowledge and ideas

Along with the panel, an exhibition showcased the Doha Unlimited Design Award 2016 prize-winning team’s vision for the city. Awarded by the British Council Qatar, the competition saw UK- and Gulf-based designers take part in a week-long design residency under the theme of ‘The Open City’, with a particular focus on mobility and making Doha more open and accessible to all.

Commenting on the collaboration between the British Council and UCL Qatar, Dr. Frank Fitzpatrick, Director of the British Council Qatar, said, “Both the United Kingdom and Qatar are well-known for their remarkable architecture, and we hope to strengthen our relationship with Qatar by creating opportunities for further collaboration and the exchange of knowledge and ideas.”

Ongoing collaboration with Qatar Museum

Following the festival, Professor Carter continued the exploration of Doha’s rich architectural heritage with a lively Rob Carter lecturing in Qatarpublic lecture, ‘The History Beneath Your Feet: What Urban Excavation Can Tell Us About Historic Doha and the World.’

The lecture provided further evidence for the breadth of UCL Qatar’s collaboration with external partners. The latest milestone in the successful architectural collaboration between UCL Qatar and Qatar Museums, Carter and Dr Ferhan Sakal, Head of Archaeology Operations of Qatar Museums, shared updates on recent achievements of the partners’ Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation.

The excavation helps to document lives of the people of Doha, from the town’s foundations being laid in the early 19th century through to the impact of the discovery of oil in the 1950s.

Following his talk, Professor Carter said: “Together with our partners at Qatar Museums, we have made remarkable progress in uncovering news and important aspects of Qatar’s rich history, building up a detailed understanding of the country’s past.

“The rapid, exciting development of Doha now adds a real urgency to our work – and whilst a great deal has been achieved already, thanks to the level of collaboration to date, we’re enormously excited about the next phase of the project.”

Why I’m proud to be a UCL student making a difference on the world stage

AbdulElmi27 November 2017

UCL student Abdul Elmi at the One Young World summit, ColombiaGrowing up, I never imagined that at the age of 21 I would be given the opportunity to fly to Colombia to join the likes of Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, and others to debate how we tackle world issues. Yet, a month ago I was honoured to represent not only the United Kingdom but also UCL at the ‘One Young World Summit’ in Bogotá, Colombia.

As the first generation of diaspora, born in the UK but with parents from Somalia, I feel well placed to represent the reconciled interests of both my motherland and my country of birth, and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with a similarly diverse group of people.

Championing the need for support of minority voices was one of the key messages I took from the summit. Sir Bob hailed the next generation as the key to solving global issues, while Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President of diversity and inclusion, impressed the need for young people to have a role model. They certainly hit the nail on the head.

Mentoring has made a real difference to me so I was thrilled to hear these inspirational voices talk about the value this can add to someone’s life. Having access to the support of community groups such as Bright Education Centre combined with sheer dogged determination lead me to the successes I have achieved so far.

I now work as an Outreach Manager for Bright Education Centre to encourage others to achieve their aspirations, by running educational workshops and coordinating university advice days. Crucial to this communal effort is providing young people with opportunities to maximise their potential, and provide alternatives to the culture of crime prevalent in so many London boroughs.

It is equally important to harness our fortuity to help those abroad. Just recently Somalia was hit with the most fatal attack in the country’s history. A truck bomb planted in the centre of Mogadishu claimed the lives of over 350 men, women and children with hundreds seriously injured. The scale of the attack makes it one of the worst terrorist attacks in the world. Rescue workers said a definitive death toll may never be established because the intense heat generated by the blast meant that the remains of many people will never be found.

Somalis are resilient against violent extremism. But this is different. Everyone in the city has lost someone or knows someone who was injured. Some of those who died were described as the breadwinners; as a result, many families are suffering. Two weeks ago, I led a fundraiser and I made a pledge along with many other young people that evening. I pledged to not only stand with those suffering at the hands of this horrendous attack but to also raise £1000 for the cause. The amount I raise will go towards African Relief Fund, a charity on the ground helping the sufferers recover from the attack.

So please join me in my attempt to help the victims of this senseless attack. Please share the following link and donate: https://www.gofundme.com/bvxx9p-mogadishu-attack-appeal 

It’s not an easy fact to acknowledge, but the truth is that millions of people across the world are looking to us for assistance. And although some may feel like our contributions could never be as far reaching as to impact those on other continents, I demand you rethink.

This collective effort requires individuals from every age, race, ability and walk of life. I am fully aware that the capabilities of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome.

Abdulkadir Elmi | @abdulelmi