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Mum's the word as Sheffield community fights back against gang violence

The Mother of Burngreave.
The Mother of Burngreave.
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After an outbreak of gang violence in Sheffield claimed the life of a young Somali man from Burngreave, a group of local mothers decided to take action.

In 2011, 18-year-old Abdullah Awil Mohammed died after fighting erupted between Somali and Bengali youths from Burngreave and Darnall.

A football session at Active Burngreave.

A football session at Active Burngreave.

In response to this senseless loss and others like it, the Mothers of Burngreave – a group of women motivated by a shared desire to turn young people in the deprived suburb away from gang violence – was formed.

One of the mothers, Ibado Abdi, aged 52, said they felt nothing was being done for young people from their community.

She said: “Ever since the first Somali child died, we have been asking for help. Nothing happened, so now we are doing it ourselves.

“Women and families in our community are isolated. We try to offer opportunities to bring people together, to share stories, build confidence and improve health and well-being.

The Mothers of Burngreave.

The Mothers of Burngreave.

“Our sessions offer women a chance to get out of the house and socialise. We provide a safe space where families feel able to enjoy their time, improve self esteem and gain new skills.

“Young people are able to take part in sport and games safely, and we can keep them off the streets and out of trouble.”

Ibado said the session had become a ‘lifeline’ for mothers and families and gave the community something to look forward to each week.

As well as offering sporting opportunities to young people, the sessions also allow mothers to socialise through African dance and drumming.

Active Burngreave.

Active Burngreave.

The mothers have now been running the twice weekly sessions at the Verdon Street recreation centre for six years.

They struggled for years to keep it going on limited funding and donations but – for the last two years – have been funded by nationwide charity Sport Relief.

Mother-of-four Khradi Dirir, 34, brings her four children to the sessions every week.

She said: “Round here, there is nothing much to do for the children after school. It is either this or hanging out on the streets with the wrong kind of people.

The Mothers of Burngreave.

The Mothers of Burngreave.

“But it is good for parents to meet as well – they have a bit more of a social life. For a lot of mothers it is the only time they come out.”

Around 40 youngsters come to every session – with youngsters from the Somali community in the majority joined by smaller groups of Yemeni and Roma descent.

They say the money they have received from Sport Relief has allowed the sessions to become much more professional by providing training in sport, first aid and safeguarding.

And now it is hoped the group can become self-sustaining with the help of Active Burngreave’s newly-permanent community development officer, Safiya Saeed.

Safiya, 45, has lived in Burngreave for 21 years working as a community activist and translator.

She said: “The Mothers of Burngreave are an amazing group who came together to fight for their children’s rights and to speak out for mothers and children.

Active Burngreave.

Active Burngreave.

“On Saturday night the boys in this area can either hang around on street corners causing anti-social behaviour or they will be bored at home.

“They come here and get engaged in terms of football and basketball and the mothers can socialise, talk, laugh, have some fruit – and beat a drum. It helps get aggression out!”

Safiya said the funding from Sport Relief had helped the group pay the rent, arrange training and provide equipment to families who are not well off enough to buy their own.

She added that the group had changed a lot of family’s lives in the community as well as helping the women who attend improve their mental health.

Saeed Brasab, 35, from Broomhall, coaches football at the sessions but also provides pastoral care to the children who attend.

The IT specialist says he got involved in community work after an horrific drive-by shooting in Broomhall in 2009.

He said: “Burngreave is among the most disadvantaged estates in Sheffield. This is a safe place for them to be and they are able to escape from what is going on in their community.

But as well as recognising sport as a good tool to use, we also use this space to engage with young people.

“We want to work out what is affecting them outside here – it could be things that are happening at school or at home or within the community.

“So it is an environment where they can come and talk to us.

“It has been joyful to see parents come along and see their young people take part in activities but also to volunteer and be part of what we’ve been able to do here.

"And it could not have happened without the support of the Active Burngreave project and Sport Relief.”

Mothers of Burngreave.

Mothers of Burngreave.

Active Burngreave.

Active Burngreave.