Features / COVID-19

Bristol Somali Youth Voice: supporting the community to control the virus

By yvonne deeney, Thursday Nov 19, 2020


Upping their efforts to help local people control the spread of the virus are volunteers at Bristol Somali Youth Voice. They have been working alongside other voluntary organisations to raise awareness and provide support to Somali residents of Barton Hill and neighbouring areas.

Bristol Somali Youth Voice are now reaching out to people in the streets, shops and flats. The group is handing out free face masks and hand sanitisers. They feel that the pandemic has reached a crisis point and want to do everything they can to protect the community.

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Due to the trust they have built up with local people, the grassroots voluntary organisation has been able to challenge some of the conspiracy theories and misinformation that have been circulating on social media. The group has produced videos with bilingual messages that they are sharing on Facebook. One of the videos features a volunteer who previously contracted Covid-19.


Mohamad Sayaqle, chair of Bristol Somali Youth Voice, told Bristol24/7: “The Covid-19 pandemic is a huge challenge for our community where many work in low-paid, insecure jobs that are often public-facing.

“This pandemic is disproportionately difficult for people living in working class communities like Barton Hill. We know that those from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds have been among those hit the hardest due to the combined pressures of work and poor housing.

“The Somali community is a major minority in Bristol and Barton Hill. Due to the trust we have built up in the community and our ability to speak multiple languages we hope that we can encourage people to follow the Government and NHS guidelines.

“I can’t see the pandemic or restrictions ending on December 2. We must play our role at a personal level to control the virus and go back to normal.”

Sayaqle urges people to contact him if they need support or information. If Bristol Somali Youth Voice are not able to help directly, they can refer people to the relevant agencies across the city and support them through that process.

An information leaflet about Covid-19 has been produced by the group, and is also available in Somali. Image supplied by Bristol Somali Youth Voice

At the time of writing, coronavirus cases in Bristol were more than twice the national average

The number of Covid-19 cases has risen sharply in recent weeks, with 44 deaths in the Bristol region last week and a rising number of cases and hospital admissions. As of November 17, 832 coronavirus patients were being treated in hospitals across the South West region – almost at the levels seen during the peak of the first wave in April.

Mohammed Elsharif, community development manager at Bristol City Council, has been working closely with Bristol Somali Youth Voice, Barton Hill Activity Club, Bristol Somali Resource Centre and the Wellspring Settlement to communicate with local residents about staying safe and controlling the spread of the virus.

“The message is simple and clear: we care about you, we care about every one of you,” says Elsharif. “Please stay at home unless you are going out for necessities and make space, wear a mask and wash your hands.”

To contact Bristol Somali Youth Voice for help and information, email bristolsomaliyouthvoice@hotmail.com or call 07882 740434 or 07847 721393

Main image supplied by Mohamed Sayaqle

Read more: ‘Covid-19 has strengthened the cohesion within Bristol’s Somali community’

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