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Spotlight on Member: Somali Welfare Trust - Celebrating Somali Culture

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A Somali cultural celebration was held on Wednesday 12th of July 2017 at the Cardinal Heenan Centre to celebrate the achievements and the contribution that Somalis have made in Ilford, Redbridge.

The event was delivered and hosted by the Somali Welfare Trust (SWT), a charity organisation based in Ilford, London Borough of Redbridge. The aim of one day event was to celebrate diversity by bringing together local people, by showcasing Somali culture through story-telling, poetry, traditional Somali folk dance and music.

The event consisted of seven speakers including the Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Linda Huggett, who spoke warmly about the positive contributions the Somali community has made in Redbridge and how she was very pleased to be invited to an event which celebrates the rich culture and heritage of Somalis.  

On display were traditional Somali objects, including camel bells, milk pots, hand fans, jewellery such as beads, incense.  

There were a number of performances, including by Asha Cuud who performed buraanbur, which is a form of traditional Somali folk poetry. Asha’s poetry expressed the Somali community’s experience civil war which led to many becoming refugees. She shared in elegant Somali prose the struggles refugees had to endure to seek safe haven, the ongoing challenges of integration including learning of a new language, namely English. Moreover, she described a sense of relief and gratefulness of Somalis to Britain which has provided a new home abroad, after they were forced to flee their homeland owing to civil war. 

Another Somali artist, Asha Luul Mohamed, gave a powerful performance of spoken word based on a real life account, expressing how lucky the protagonist felt to have escaped death and persecution and to have an opportunity to start a new life in Britain. The talented British-Somali captured a range of emotions in her words, confirming for listeners that although Somalis may be dispersed far from their home land the ability of sharing stories in the form of poetry and spoken word has not been lost.

The event concluded with a vibrant performance by Farah Murtile who is a well-known Somali musician. Farah Murtile along with his team performed his hit singles and also Dhaanto which is another form of Somali folk dance.

SWT was first established in 2003 and has since become a fabric of the Somali community in Ilford. SWT provide a range of services including advice and information on welfare, employability, health, debt. SWT also provide educational supplementary support for young people. One young service user, who also spoke at the event, Ikram Abdule, explained how the homework support helped her to gain confidence and enabled her to do well with her GCSE’s. Ikram came to the UK as a child refugee with her family and at that time was not able to speak English. Ikram, like many other refugees, found the UK schooling system difficult and often times would struggle to keep up with her peers. .

The Mayor congratulated Somali Welfare Trust for the hard work it has done to improve the lives of local residents and SWT’s Chairperson, Abdi Hassan, stated that SWT looks forward to working with all communities in the borough so as to improve outcomes for people and to ensure that every person can thrive.