Two local Rotherham Teenagers, Casey and Waj, have been profiled in the BBC Crossing Divides Series, which looks at the ways in which people connect across the fractures that divide societies.
Casey and Waj, both from Rotherham, live in different parts of the town: Casey in the predominantly white area and Waj in the more diverse community. They were handpicked by the BBC to showcase how they overcame certain social divides in the area to become firm friends.
Casey, 17 said: “Looking back to before I did NCS and met Waj, it was quite incredible how segregated I was from people different to me – without ever really realising it! I didn’t feel any prejudice towards people different to me, but I also didn’t know anything about their faith or culture, as I’d just never been given the opportunity to learn more about it.”
Last summer both participated in National Citizen Service (NCS), a national youth programme which brings together 16-17 year olds in small groups which reflect the social mix of the community they live in.
NCS is delivered in Yorkshire and Humber by a number of professional football clubs through EFL Trust because they have an understanding of the makeup of the areas they serve: in this case, Rotherham United Community Sports Trust. To date 2,248 have participated in NCS in Rotherham since 2013. Casey and Waj’s experience included outdoor team-building exercises in Castleton, a residential at Sheffield University for them to learn ‘life skills’, and a community-based social action project.
Waj, 17 said: “I was nervous on the first day of NCS due to seeing plenty of people all very different to me. I was anxious of how well we could all get along and what perceptions they might already have of me. However, I was completely wrong, the group came together quickly and we all got on really well. The whole experience fed my confidence to be more ambitious with my aims and with myself; meeting some wonderful people like Casey definitely made me glad I took the opportunity to take part in NCS that summer.
Carole Foster at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust said: “The programme is a great opportunity to show the positive outcomes of NCS and how it brings together communities creating cohesion and uniting them through common interests and goals.”
The BBC interviewed the two girls about their differences growing up and filmed the reunion of the entire 2017 summer group at Jump Inc Trampoline Park. Both Casey and Waj spoke honestly in the piece about their different upbringings and their limited interaction with people from other backgrounds – but by coming together with a shared endeavour they developed a much greater understanding and respect to those different to them.
You can watch the video here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-43845096/crossing-divides-bridging-rotherham-s-racial-chasm