Mfa Zaman was amongst the pioneering first group of Catalyst graduates. Recently he took the time to share with us his experiences of Catalyst and all that has happened because of it!
Looking back, what do you think of your Catalyst experience?
Time is flying! It feels like just a few days ago that I first signed up for Catalyst. I had been studying in the library when Tim Clapton (Near Neighbours coordinator for East London) came up to me and started a conversation by saying “You look like an energetic young man! Can I ask your name and age?” This took me a little by surprise, as I’m sure you can imagine!
After moving beyond this slightly strange start he started to tell me a little bit more about Catalyst and invited me along. That was the very beginning of my Catalyst journey.
Catalyst left a huge impact on me; it gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people who had come through seriously tough times with their head still held high. Looking back on it now, it is their stories that have inspired me since; they’ve encouraged me to always keep striving. I’ve learnt that everyone has creativity, but we need to nourish these qualities in people.
So what have you been up to since Catalyst and how has Catalyst helped in this?
Catalyst has opened a door for me and has shone a light into my life. It has taught me that everybody has something to contribute and that we must use each other’s skills to achieve together.
It was this sentiment that encourage me to run the London Marathon in aid of disabled children who are hoping to achieve their dreams and contribute their skills but find so many setbacks in their way.
Thanks to some lovely support from those around me I was able to run the marathon and achieve my fundraising target!
I’ve been able to accomplish some wonderful things since Catalyst including winning volunteer of the year award at the international charity, Muslim Aid and I recently became a qualified English Cricket Board umpire.
I’ve achieved all of this because Catalyst made me believe in myself!
Has Catalyst changed the way you perceive other faith communities?
At Catalyst I have been able to learn so much more about other faith communities; I’ve met nice people who are willing and committed to building better communities regardless of their faith and that’s been so refreshing.
I’ve also really relished the opportunity I’ve had to represent my own Muslim faith in this context.
How have you used what you learnt at Catalyst?
Recently, I joined with a few of my Jewish and Muslim friends to do something to tackle the growing gap between our two communities in my area. Our aim has been to work for peace and stronger relationships between the two communities and to do this we have opened a new forum called the ‘Community of Jews and Muslims’. We’ve been able to make some great things happen and we’re optimistic about what is to come!
My experience of Catalyst has helped me to understand different faiths and ethnicities in Britain and through that I’ve been able to create relationships with a huge range of people as work together for our communities.
Do you have a message for those considering Catalyst?
The Catalyst leadership course will have a big impact for any young person that really wants to bring together people from different faiths. To achieve in life it is important to spend time with those who will inspire and guide us and Catalyst is a fantastic place to do just that.
It is a great platform from which to work for peace! It’s been amazing standing with Near Neighbours as they work to change communities, so come and join us!
Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones
Date: 05 January 2016
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