OUR COMMUNITY, OUR SPACE; YOUNG PEOPLE SPEAK OUT
One of the first projects that the Community Prevention Team (CPT) wished to embark on from the outset was one of ‘active citizens’, more specifically – active young people – to facilitate their participation in their own community. So, when the ‘Active Citizens Fund’ opened its call for applications (call 2014-2021), submitting an application seemed the most obvious thing to do. Despite the delays and restrictions that Covid 19 brought about, finally, at the end of 2020, the project was ready to be implemented. The Community Prevention Team, with the support of Fondazzjoni Sebh and the finance department of the Archdiocese of Malta , then started to implement the project called: Our Community, Our Space: Young People Speak Out. This project focuses on Hamrun and Marsa.
The idea behind this project is to listen to what young people think about their community – what they like, what makes them feel safe and what changes they would like to see; present their recommendations to those in the community who can listen to them and who are in the position implement the changes that they are suggesting; in addition, see what role the young people could have in implementing these changes.
However, before the work with the young people actually started, the team set out to carry out a study. Assisted by a research agency, the team carried out 20 individual interviews with major stakeholders in both communities and held 3 focus groups with parents. The discussions related to the same topic, that is, about what they think about their respective communities, but from the point of view of those raising their children there and those whose work brings them in touch with the residents daily.
A telephone survey was also carried out by the research agency with 300 parents, equally distributed between both communities. Questions included whether they felt their communities are safe and what they think is affecting their sense of safety, with particular emphasis on the safety for children; the various types of questions asked included safety in the streets and at home; about issues such as public disorder, vandalism, drugs, waste, harassment in the street, housebreaking and door step crime.
The process came to an end in the beginning of summer. It was a very satisfactory exercise, as not only did the team become more aware of the perceptions of those who participated in the study. It was also a good networking exercise and helped the team extend its knowledge on the respective communities.
The team then started to gear up for the other phase of the project – that is, the direct work with young people. The project is targeting those aged 11 and 12 years. The project will give space to the young people in two ways – the first being drama workshops where young people in small groups will express what they think about the community through drama. The process will be facilitated by a drama therapist. Besides this, a small number of young people will be invited to the ‘Youth Platform’ where they will discuss all matters related to their space in the community.
The whole process is expected to last till the end of the project, that is, till June 2022. It will be brought to a close with 2 seminars organised and presented by the young people themselves. The seminars will serve as dissemination of all the information gathered in the study and the other processes that the young people are involved in. They will also present their recommendations. This exercise should attract the interest from other parents and various stakeholders in the communities, and it is hoped that they commit to an action plan which will also see the young people contributing to its implementation. This is an exciting time for the team, mostly because it is at the point of starting to build blocks with a sector of youth in the respective communities. It is also an opportunity to learn from them, and facilitate a process where other adults in the community will listen to them, see what resources they can offer and finally, work together for safer spaces.