For any young teenager, entering a new country and having to integrate into a new culture, as well as learning a new language can be an unnerving process. This was no different for Shamza, 18, who initially felt uncomfortable after leaving Italy. Fast forward four years and Shamza received recognition from the Prime Minister for her work in the community as she continues to work hard to make positive change, and has already achieved a career goal.
Upon arrival from Italy four years ago, Shamza struggled with her confidence and ability to make friends. Shamza was unable to speak English and was deprived of opportunities to engage within her community, as she grew up in a small, low populated town within Northern Italy.
Therefore, upon moving to Bradford, Shamza took it upon herself to join NCS (National Citizen Service), a type of opportunity Shamza would have dreamt of having in Italy. From the onset, NCS helped Shamza to develop her confidence, social skills and ability to speak the English language, she was now able to get her voice heard.
Shamza talked to us about the skills she learnt and her experience with initially starting in NCS:
“I decided to do NCS because I wanted to meet new people and make friends, I wasn’t very outgoing and felt like maybe this was my chance to have fun and improve my skills.”
“NCS made a huge difference on me, it changed me as a person, made me realise that I’m worth it and that I can make friends and be myself. It gave me many skills such as public speaking, CPR training and many others. I was able to overcome my fears by doing new challenges such as rock-climbing and up-sailing to overcome my fear of heights.”
On NCS in the summer of 2020, Shamza collaborated with a group to complete a social action project that would benefit her community. The group decided to create an inspiring mural in Bradford, to help celebrate the diversity within Bradford and also to celebrate the work done by key workers during the pandemic.
Shamza said: “We were all very proud of our mural because we know that it has made an impact not only on the people of Bradford, but also on those who see Bradford as a non-welcoming city with dangerous people.”
“It not only changed the perspective of those who live in Bradford, but also those who will see our mural and will be able to have a peek into Bradford through its people’s eyes, they will see our diverse community.”
“It was our way of thanking all those who have been working through COVID, our bus drivers, delivery drivers, nurses, doctors, parents, teachers and every single person that put their life at risk to provide for the community.”
The work by Shamza and her group in the community of Bradford did not go unrecognised, as she was invited down to Number 10 Downing Street, to join Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a special “Thank You Day” BBQ in July 2021. Shamza was invited, along with a select group of young people from across the country, for their work in supporting their local communities during the pandemic.
Reflecting on her evening at Downing Street and being thanked by the Prime Minister, Shamza said:
“It was amazing, I still can’t believe that it really happened! I spoke with Levi Roots, Sajid Javid and the Prime Minister about the social action project I did with my team in Bradford. The Prime Minster was really encouraging telling us to keep doing good and to be the changemakers this country needs!”
“It was really overwhelming to be part of the first ‘National Thank You Day’ and I’m so grateful to be given this opportunity.”
Despite achieving the pinnacle of community work, Shamza has not grown complacent as she is driven to deliver more social action within communities through joining the Peer Action Collective (PAC) programme, with Bradford City Community Foundation.
The PAC involves 120 peer researchers (aged 16-25), who design their own research questions and work with around 6,500 other young people (aged 10–20). The aim is to find out about young people’s experiences of violence and their views on how they can get involved in making their communities better places to live in.
The EFL Trust is working alongside Bradford City Community Foundation and Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme, to give young people in Bradford and Sheffield a voice to make positive change.
Shamza spoke to us about her role as a Peer Researcher:
“Having witnessed youth crime first-hand and seen the effects of the pandemic on my friends, I’m so excited to be part of this project, which will support over 1,500 young people and help me help my generation to heal and thrive.”
“Being a peer researcher means I can find out more about young people’s experiences in my area and then take action to improve their lives. Being a PAC peer researcher appeals to me as a way of learning more about the causes of crime as well as how to prevent it and change teens’ minds. Obviously, if we can’t change our generation now, these problems are going to be our future.”
As part of PAC, Shamza along with other PAC members were involved in anti-bullying initiatives to help high school students. Shamza and her group created fun games for the students to participate in, which all had the goal of raising awareness on bullying and hearing the voices of students who have been affected bullying from all perspectives.
All of those achievements in just a few years was commended by a Coronation Champion award, certified by Their Majesties the King and Queen. Shamza earned a trip to Buckingham Palace for a Coronation garden party, as well as all the plaudits surrounding her success.
Throughout the community work conducted, Shamza has continued her passion to impact as many individuals as possible within the community. Shamza now wants to further this passion by joining Police Force, to continue helping people - and in 2023, she achieved this goal.
Discussing her motives behind applying to the Police Force, Shamza added:
“I could have gone to university, however, because of my work done in the community and my time on NCS, I am driven to helping people and that’s what motivated me to getting involved in Public Services. NCS have been a big motivator for me wanting to help people.
“After two years of application and exams I have finally achieved my dream job as a police officer. I want to say a massive thank you to NCS, who encouraged me not to give up. I can’t wait to see how my journey [with the police] goes.”
With years of inspiring social action and gaining recognition from the top, it’s fair to say Shamza has transformed communities, individuals and herself in comparison to where she was four years ago and where she is now.