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Young people bring the community together for the first Blackburn with Darwen online Iftar

Over 60 people from different backgrounds came together online to share an Iftar video call in an ambitious project led by Blackburn Youth Zone and the BwD Strategic Youth Alliance. 

The Big Iftar event, on the evening of Thursday 21 May, was arranged with the help of the Youth Ambassadors and Community Ambassadors, both projects delivered through the Our Community, Our Future social integration programme.

Youth Ambassadors, Blackburn Youth Zone staff and partners, supported by 30 volunteers, embarked on the ambitious task of providing 2,000 young people and their families with meal packages and recipes for them to prepare, have fun and cook together. That evening 60 people from all different backgrounds came together virtually through a ‘zoom’ video call to break their fast, enjoy a vegetable biryani together and share stories. 

Stephen Jones (CEO) for IMO Charity said:

“We are delighted to be part of The Big Iftar online along with our partners who delivered the Youth Ambassador project as part of the Our Community, Our Future programme.

“This is one of the many great integration and cohesion examples we all have been involved in. It’s a great initiative to raise awareness and show community solidarity, allow participants from the borough to experience fasting, and learn more about Ramadan, especially during the current pandemic.”

Like many organisations, Blackburn Youth Zone mobilised quickly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and adjusted their offer to ensure that they are providing a service to young people across the borough. However inevitably some things just had to be cancelled or postponed, such as a large celebration event for the BwD Youth and Community Ambassador project. The event, which was due to be held at King George’s Hall in March, would have showcased the fantastic work of the Ambassadors. 

 Alongside this, under normal circumstances, the Youth Zone would hold a community Iftar each year – an event where local residents are invited to come together, break their fast and enjoy a meal together. However due to the Covid-19 crisis these events were unable to happen this year. 

 Hannah Allen, CEO Blackburn Youth Zone said

 “The community Iftar is a key event that we run during Ramadan every year, the prospect of it not happening this year due to the Covid-19 crisis was really upsetting to many. To see a group of young people bring it to life in this way has been fantastic and it really shows the commitment they have to their community. We are extremely proud of our Youth Ambassadors and the journey they have gone on over the last 12 months. This is just the start of things to come and we can’t wait to see the difference they are going to make to Blackburn with Darwen in the future.”

 A group of young people who over the last twelve months have taken part in the Blackburn with Darwen Youth Ambassador project did not see Covid-19 as a barrier. Instead they wanted to continue being Ambassadors and work together to make this year’s community Iftar bigger and better than ever. 

The Youth Ambassador project funded by Blackburn with Darwens Social Integration Fund and delivered by Blackburn Youth Zone, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, BwD Young Peoples Services, One Voice, IMO Charity, Healthy Living and Child Action North West has seen 180 young people from across the Borough take part in the project looking at cultural awareness, team building and social action. Taking on board everything they have learnt from the project and during a time where many people have not seen their families and friends during Ramadan the youth Ambassadors saw this an opportunity to bring everyone together virtually. 

Project participant Umaimah Jalgonkar said:

“I am delighted to be part of this event to share with everyone how the Muslim community open their fast and how Ramadan is not simply an exercise in fasting during the day and binge eating during the night. This year’s Ramadan, due to the lockdown, will be remembered by Muslims across the globe as a special one and will be recorded in the history books. Ramadan is the chance for a spiritual boost, with lessons to be applied long after the month is out.” 

Umiamah went on to say:

“During the event we took time to reflect on the horrific incident in our town last week, where we lost a young person by the name of Aya Hachem. Before opening our fast we stood together as a community and took a moment to remember her.”

The event showed that even through difficult times and when normal life is on hold the Blackburn with Darwen community will come together and community spirit will always shine through. 

Rebeca Ramsay, Our, Community, Our Future programme manager, added: 

“It was wonderful to see so many people sharing a meal together in this new way. The current lockdown is a difficult time for so many people, but we’ve shown that as a community we can still come together, and support one another. 

“It’s so sad that the Community and Youth Ambassadors did not have the event they should have, to celebrate their achievements. I’d like to say a really big thank you to all of our Ambassadors – not just for supporting the Big Iftar event, but also for becoming champions in and for their community.”