I’m Urfan and I have been involved with Babbasa since 2011 (then known as BYEP) when I signed up to be a mentor. The work they did really resonated with me because of my own life experience. My parents were first-generation immigrants and weren’t in a position to talk to me about my education, career options and other opportunities as they didn’t know how things worked in this country and weren’t fluent in English. They both worked manual jobs so I wasn’t really connected with any professionals who may have been able to mentor and/or advise me on what I could achieve or what resources or opportunities I could access. Had Babbasa existed back then, I definitely would have contacted them for support. I see many of the young people we work with as younger versions of myself, so it brings me great satisfaction knowing that whatever value I bring to Babbasa (including the mistakes I made and the subsequent lessons I learnt) is going to have a positive influence on their life journey.
I used to work at the University of Bristol and for 15 years I was head of the digital team in the Public Relations Office within the Communications and Marketing division. My team and I were responsible for the strategic development of the university’s online brand, content and all its digital assets. It was an incredibly busy job working with every single faculty, school and department and touching on nearly every single aspect of the university’s entire operation, from external brand proposition to web publishing policies and everything in between – I learnt so much. After I left, I set up my consultancy: Planet Urf, where I work with brands, startups and SMEs and provide a multi-disciplined and multi-cultural lens to narrative and operations. I also recently set up a small social enterprise helping VCSE organisations improve their internal and external communications and messaging via the use of video storytelling.
I float up and down and left and right in the Babbasa matrix. I advise on strategy and support operations in multiple ways. I manage our volunteering scheme through which professionals, known as Equal Opportunity Ambassadors (EOAs), can support us through a number of different activity streams, eg mentoring, fundraising, delivering workshops, partner referrals etc. The EOA network is an essential and unique group of like-minded and values-driven professionals helping to create a more inclusive society by supporting underrepresented and marginalised young people in Bristol. One of the few positives from the pandemic is that it has made people re-evaluate what is important to them, so volunteering as an EOA for Babbasa gives them a sense of purpose through which they can make a tangible difference to the life chances of the young people they support. I also help develop new partnerships with businesses and organisations and identify opportunities that will bring value to Babbasa. The end goal of what I do is to connect our young, overlooked talent with the opportunities that exist in Bristol and beyond.
One of my favourite parts of what I do is meeting young people and listening to their ideas of what they want to do and what they’d like the world to look like. It’s so inspiring and energising to be surrounded by such talented, determined and creative young people. I also like meeting the people in the businesses and organisations I help develop partnerships and dialogues with and learning more about what they do. Bristol is a fascinating city with so many interesting businesses, organisations and individuals. However, it’s also a city of huge racial inequality with some of the worst stats in the whole country. For example, out of 348 districts in England and Wales, Bristol is ranked 7th worst for racial inequalities. 7th worst! So our external stakeholders and ambassadors are incredibly important in helping us deliver on our OurCity2030 vision of getting at least one young person in each inner-city family into a median salary role by 2030. It will be a collective effort to achieve this vision, and it fills me with pride and purpose to be part of this change.
I also like working with my colleagues at Babbasa as we all share similar social values and really want to address the inequalities that our young people experience. They’re all super smart with enormous hearts, and great fun to be with.
I love music and discovering new sounds. I used to DJ but these days spend a lot of time making gapless music mixes, where I edit and segue tracks together to make what I hope is a sonic smorgasbord, taking listeners on a musically unexpected journey! When I think about it, mixing music (I also mix essential oil blends, but I don’t have enough room to write about that!) is one way of expressing my many intersectional cultural reference points. I like what Hendrix said: “Music is my religion .” (I actually have the t-shirt of the quote, music geek that I am!) I like to go on cycle rides and long walks, especially with friends and family. I also do a bit of DIY and made a large garden bench during the early weeks of lockdown. I also write a lot about the things I’ve experienced as a displaced, chameleon-like Asian lad from Leeds.
If I could give young people any advice it would be to find a mentor. They will advise, offer encouragement, give constructive criticism and help stimulate your personal and professional growth. It’ll be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. And no matter what age you are as you move on in your journey, always try to have a mentor (or two) in your life. And if you can, offer to mentor someone else as you’ll learn as much about yourself as the mentee.
We believe Bristol’s most marginalised deserve access to support at their own pace, have their voices heard, and have access to real work opportunities.
If you believe that too then get in touch!