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Somali children link past and future

Children from the Ileys Community centre in Smethwick took part last week in an innovative project to teach them about the history of the Black Country and show them how traditional skills such as forging and chain making are being updated by new technology.  The project which is a collaboration between the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley College of Technology is intended to give the children an appreciation of the industrial past whilst introducing them to future career options.

Over 20 youngsters from the age of 8, who have been learning about traditional chain making and welding skills under the direction of Mel Weatherley, Head of Learning at Black Country Living Museum visited Dudley College’s Advance II centre to see how modern technology including 3D printing is revolutionising traditional production techniques.  The young people enjoyed a series of demonstrations culminating with them gaining hands on experience with each of them taking home a 3D printed chain which they had made.

Commenting on the visit Lowell Williams Principal of Dudley College and Chair of the Black Country Living Museum Board of Trustees said: “When we were approached by the Somalian community to develop an educational event we saw the opportunity to teach them about the history of their local area and introduce them to new skills. Their enthusiasm was unsurpassed and they clearly understood the links between past craft skills and how the same products are being made today by advanced technology.”

Mel Weatherley, Head of Learning at the Museum added “We hope that the project has been as rewarding for the young people as it has been for us and that it has enhanced their sense of identity, belonging and optimism for the future. A particular highlight for me was their creation of a film about the Black Country’s past, present and future - the result of their participation in two animation workshops which explored what living in the Black Country means to them. I’m now looking forward to working with another group in the New Year.”

The Illeys Community Association which was established in 2007, is working at the heart of the community to meet the needs of the refugee population in the local area. One of its key objectives is to support the educational needs of refugee children.  They are keen to develop further creative partnerships to enhance the integration of their members in to the Black Country.

This outreach activity was funded by the “National Lotter Awards for All “ scheme, which makes grants to projects of between £300-10,000 for work which brings people together and builds strong community relationships or enables individuals to reach their full potential.