Building Positive Ethnic Community Leaders

Image of the boys of Blessed Movement

Each year the Office of Ethnic Communities supports a range of worthy community initiatives through the Ethnic Communities Development Fund.  Last year, we supported Umma Trust to set up a programme to empower refugee Muslim youth to become mentors and role models for refugee children and youth in their local community. This resulted in a number of successful outcomes for youth.

A Youth Steering Group composed of ethnic leaders and key agencies selected 29 youth mentors whose life experience resonated with their peers. The leadership development and mentoring support gave these participants the opportunity to shine both in mainstream and in ethnic communities. The mentors were able to support 82 refugee youth from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tigre, Southern Africa, and the Middle East. Mentors worked with youth through a range of programmes including Youth Sport, Academic Mentoring, Young Women Leaders and Music & Poetry.

Each programme had its successes.

  • The Olympic Ballers, the only Muslim refugee youth basketball team in a mainstream league in Auckland had one player selected for the Auckland under 19 Team, one player selected for the Auckland under 25 Team and the team’s success moved them into the A League.
  • The Umma Trust team won the Ethnic Soccer Tournament for Auckland Region.
  • Two of the Umma Trust young women leaders were the only young African women in Auckland represented in an inter-secondary school’s competition: Word - the front line.  They were also included in TV3’s Both Worlds film on Wax Poetic Slam.
  • Academic mentoring enabled one of the participants to complete a Degree in Youth Development (Weltec) and another to complete a Master’s Degree in Public Policy (AUT).
  • The Boys Blessed Movement (digital music and poetry programme) created their own clothing line and produced digital music and poetry called "Blessed Movement", with the slogan “The only way is up".
  • There was an unexpected achievement of Mohamud Mohamed, who was the Co-ordinator of the academic mentoring programme. He became a finalist for the New Zealander of the Year 2018: Local Hero Award. Mohamud is now a Diversity and Engagement Advisor at the Office of Ethnic Communities. 

For Umma Trust staff, this has been an amazing adventure working with these youth leaders. Refugee youth can face challenges during their settlement journey and this leadership programme has emphasised belonging to a community and providing a sense of purpose for the youth leaders and the youth they mentored.