A YOUTH charity has received national acclaim for its efforts to get youngsters from diverse backgrounds involved in the community.

Aik Saath has had two of its projects highlighted in a report by the British Academy, concerning ways to improve integration in the UK.

The charity, based in Church Street, Slough, was recognised by the national body for humanities and social sciences for getting the youngsters to lead on heritage and oral history related projects. This included its Chalvey Stories publication, which features personalities from across the area talking about their lives. They were interviewed by 16 members of the Roma community in Slough aged between 11 and 16.

Rob Deeks, Aik Saath chief executive, said: “For almost twenty years we have been striving to make our community a more cohesive and integrated place. To have our efforts be recognised in two of the ten case studies featured in this national report feels like a wonderful way to end the year.

“We are grateful to the British Academy for taking an interest in our work and hope to continue promoting integration and the positive aspects of our town for many years to come.”

The charity, which was established in 1998 to reduce gang violence between Asian youth in the town, attended the unveiling of the report in the House of Commons. They also took along two of the Roma children involved in Chalvey Stories, Isac Bujor and David Mihai. Also present were The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and Chuka Umunna MP.

The report, entitled “If you could do one thing…” Local actions to improve social integration, has been released ahead of the Government’s Integration Strategy, in a bid to inform policy makers what actions can be taken in local communities.

Chair of the British Academy project, Professor Anthony Heath, said: “It is often said that we live in a divided society, yet our research shows how small, local projects are already making difference to the lives of established and newly-arrived migrant communities across the UK. But it is clear that integration does not happen on its own. Social integration must be supported and planned, taking into account the diverse needs of specific communities and places.”

Mr Deeks added: “The British Academy is really academically rigorous and sent someone down to see us so to have them endorse what we do – we are really thrilled with it.”

Isac, 13, who was born in Madrid, said the project had helped him connect with Chalvey. He said: “I liked hearing stories about the local area. I live next to a park called Stabmonk Park and I never understood what it was called this until the people we interviewed told us a legend about a monkey that was killed in Chalvey.”

“I also found out about how our area was affected by the Second World War.

“The interviews helped me understand the past and how things have changed in Slough and England.”

He added: “Some people say that we (Roma) shouldn’t be in this country. They don’t accept us. I hope that by doing this we will change how people see us. We are showing we care.”

Another project, entitled 17,000 reasons to remember, commemorated the stories of Polish aircrew in the RAF to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Aik Saath brought together young Polish people in Slough and helped them learn about their own heritage in the UK.

Aik Saath means “together as one” in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.