A Day with Suj Ahmed
Suj Ahmed, Director at Community Advance Project
Suj is a long standing client of my web design company who has used my services to create an online presence for the charity that he founded in 2007 called Community Advance Project. Community Advance Project (CAP) does amazing work across London with the aim of developing and engaging communities. The charity focuses in particular on vulnerable or marginalised people, such as older people, youths, refugees and migrants.
In recent years CAP has focused on producing video resources around mental wellbeing for vulnerable communities such as older people, refugees and unpaid carers.
CAP organizes seminars, activities and dissemination of information on health issues, whilst linking local health providers and funders to devise appropriate health services in that particular community.
Older people are able to engage in exercise classes, support groups and lunch clubs in order to combat isolation. The charity campaigns on their behalf to give a voice to their needs and better services, as well as their rights.
Young people get practical experience of filming and producing a DVD. This helps the charity to engage young people in an interesting way within the multi-media industry with their community and give them a voice on the issues that concern them. Whilst doing that, it helps young people to build vital transferable skills that they can use in the future, such as building confidence to communicate effectively, build relationships and manage a project.
The work with refugees centres on some of the support needs that refugees have in building a safe and fulfilling life.
Inna: Your charity does amazing work. Amongst many achievements, what was your proudest moment so far?
Suj: We are very proud about our work on mental wellbeing resources. The videos are being used by community organisations to engage their service users to talk about their mental wellbeing, which is often regarded as stigma and affects the vulnerable communities more adversely. Mind Matters video for older people has been viewed by nearly 6,000 people on Youtube and is used by online health promotion television channel.
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Inna: What areas do you see need further improvements of integrating communities in London?
Suj: There is a lot of good work being done, but there is still room for improving connections within voluntary and statutory sectors that really serve the needs of communities and real listening needs to take place so that service users and communities are actively involved in making positive changes to their lives rather than some bureaucrat deciding what is best for them.
Inna: What are the core challenges for your charity at present?
Suj: CAP has a lot of areas it can offer support, but as a small charity it struggles to attract ongoing project funding with at least one paid staff member. Funding still goes to the bigger organisations and charities with a 'brand'.
Inna: What have you been your recent projects or what are you working on now?
Suj: We have just received some funding from big lottery to produce a video resource for carers of people with dementia. Unpaid carers of people with dementia are often the most isolated members of our society. Many of them develop physical and mental ill health. We hope the video resource can help them to think about maintaining their mental wellbeing while looking after the person with dementia.
Inna: Your charity does a lot of work with refugees and the question of refugees is actually very current in the news. What has been your experience of working with refugees and what’s your view on the media branded “Refugee Crisis”?
Suj: All the refugees CAP has worked with have been an inspiration. We forget how lucky we are to have all the things we have. I came to London when I was 10 as a 'migrant' in 1965. Over the 50 years there has been continuous scare mongering by politicians and media about refugees and migrants. This country would be absolutely nowhere without refugees and migrants who have contributed so much to the development of UK. If the media and politician want less refugees then they should stop initiating wars around the world that force people to become refugees.
Inna: Are you currently looking for volunteers and how can somebody get involved in your wonderful project?
Suj: We will be looking for volunteers in a couple of months if they can help with artwork design for DVD and postcard. Also may need help with launch event. Best to contact me by this email.
Inna: What are your favorite places in London or where do you like spending your free time?
Suj: I live near Lea Valley, so I like to go there for walks. Springfield Park in Hackney is really nice. I love Southbank, even though it keeps getting more commercialised. Being a life long Chelsea fan, Stamford Bridge stadium is very special for me.
Inna: Thank you so much for what you are doing and for the interview.