Community leader Atiq Abed works closely with his community to promote social inclusion and personal development. He encourages people to engage with those from all Afghan ethnic groups and from non-Afghan communities. For this to occur, people need to be equipped with certain skills and knowledge – and this is where Atiq comes in.
Atiq looks for development areas in his communities and then offers programs, initiatives and ideas to improve their chances of success. In the past, he has provided free driving licence training as a volunteer with the Southern Migrant Resource Centre, helped young people find employment, and run computer lessons and English classes with the support of Neighbourhood House.
A recent initiative, to build awareness of domestic violence in newly arrived communities, has led to the creation of new soccer nights for young people in his community. The aim was to use sport to engage young people and provide valuable information and education. Atiq said “I was involved in a social participation and family violence program, advocating as a male. I started the soccer for men and women and it has helped to expand my networks and share the information”.
Atiq has been working with young people in sports environments for many years. He jokingly said, “Since 2006 I have been involved in creating social soccer groups. The kids used to be 6-7 years old, I use to bribe them to play by giving them chocolate!” Some of the kids he worked with then are now young leaders in their communities.
Atiq is most pleased when the young people in his community increase their ability to engage in society. Atiq explains, “After the young people attended the English classes they have expanded their networks. Most of them had depression, anxiety and social isolation issues. They are now happier, they have found jobs and expanded their networks. Their English has improved.”
Atiq values the opportunity to work with people and believes that community leaders have a responsibility to empower their communities and provide the best tools to achieve. Having recently received the Multicultural Award from the Greater Dandenong Council, Atiq also received a scholarship from the Men of Monash (with the support of South East Community Links) to study a Bachelor of Community Development. He said, “There is more of a need in our community to connect with multicultural groups. I’m working on that and want to learn more.”
Atiq hopes to create stronger and more collaborative Afghan communities. “I want to work with communities, especially Hazara and be a bridge between the Afghan community and the external community to connect them.” He also added, “We also need help from external organisations.” He wants to coach soccer teams and see his teams play in tournaments.
He believes in the benefit of social soccer as a tool to encourage social inclusion and act as a platform for further learning, “Social soccer is so powerful, no one cares in what language and race and they only think about one thing… which is to kick a goal! They all understand the soccer language.”
A special thank you to Chobani Australia for their support of Centre for Multicultural Youth / Sports Without Borders programs and for encouraging social inclusion of new and emerging communities through sport.