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Empowering young boys at an inspiring workshop

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: Clockwise, from main, Ruth Ogunji of the Blossom Foundation, young community leader Akeim Mundell and Adrian Nelson

BLACK MEN in Manchester banded together recently to empower teenage boys and give them the confidence to break down the barriers that may be holding them back.

The workshop, aimed at educating, empowering and inspiring young boys, was organised by Ruth Ogunji, chair of the Blossom Foundation charity, in collaboration with local youth leaders Akeim Mundell BEM and Adrian Nelson of K.I.N.G. (Knowledgeable Inspired Next Generation).

Ruth cited those without father figures as a particularly harmed demographic, and said: “The side effects of it can be detrimental to any child. Statistics show black and minority ethnic (BAME) boys are more likely to fail in school, get excluded, attain low standards, and become involved in drugs, gangs and criminal justice.”

Although the Blossom Foundation is an organisation dedicated to shaping the next generation of women, they do occasionally work with young boys as well.

The free workshop, held at the East Manchester Academy in the Beswick area of the city, was funded by Greater Manchester Police, who also delivered an hour-long session to raise awareness of the issues around knife and gun crime as well as safety and partnering with the police. Other local speakers who shared their personal experiences were Michael Dunn and Steve Clarke, both of whom are pastoral and substance misuse officers.

“There were black men leading the workshops and this is what I wanted; for our black boys to come into the venue and see men like them who were there solely for them,” said Ruth.

“The event was a huge success as everyone in attendance went away with something, which really was the plan, but most of all the boys were geared up and ready for school on a positive note and with the right kind of mindset.”

Akeim, a Youth Community Leader of the year award winner for 2017, facilitated a discussion on breaking barriers.

GREATNESS

After losing a friend to gun crime in 2007, Akeim engaged himself in community projects and is eager to inspire youths to “achieve greatness, not just for themselves but also for the the communities they live in”.

He added: “All the young people were interested and engaged in my workshop which made this extra special. “They were keen to learn and listen, participating in all the activities I organised. The message I ensured that I got across was that ‘no matter what barriers you may face, you can still achieve success’.”

Adrian Nelson, who has more than 25 years’ experience working within different learning environments, also spoke.
Renowned within the city for youth and community work, mentoring and football coaching, he currently works with Families Against Violence and has co-written and developed short courses that aim to enhance young people’s employability and life skills, pathways to work and further education opportunities.

SUPPORT

“The reason I do what I do is because I recognise a need for additional support for at risk, under-represented, disadvantaged youth, from in and around Manchester in particular,” he said.

“I grew up without suitable support throughout my secondary school years, going through the trauma of a broken home and absent father from the age of 10.”

He added: “I got caught up in a lifestyle and moved around people with negative and destructive natures, who were ‘taxing’ people and selling drugs, along with other anti- social behaviour.”

Ruth hopes that there will be further collaborations throughout the year.

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