Meet the URBOND charity founder breaking down cultural barriers

In 2013 Ousmane Drame launched a life-changing project. For thousands it was a lifeline. It was a place where they could finally be understood.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 10:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 11:00 am

URBOND – a charity funded to advance racial equality for the benefit of the public – was started to erase misunderstandings in the community of other cultures and backgrounds.

Based at the Challenge Enterprise Centre, Portsmouth, Ousmane had a dream to provide people with a platform where they could express themselves without judgment, and integrate in a place where everyone feels welcome no matter how much they earn or which culture their family comes from.

And if for any reason someone cannot afford a project or activity run by Ousmane and his team, it does not matter. Donations are optional.

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Ousmane Drame at his office in Hilsea, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

In the eight years Milton-based Ousmane and his team of volunteers have been running their now six projects and 14 sub-projects ranging from community workshops and fitness activities down to their Child Education Programme supporting disadvantaged children in the Republic of Guinea, almost 34,000 people’s lives have been changed for the better.

Each activity, project or seminar has one main goal – to encourage people to talk to each other, learn about each others’ struggles and overcome cultural barriers.

And it’s from suffering alone, isolated by his own ‘differences’ when he moved to the UK as a child, that he discovered it was down to him to form a family here, navigating the cultural divide and adopting a new lifestyle where he could finally find his own sense of belonging.

Child Education Programme in the Republic of Guinea.

Ousmane moved from the Republic of Guinea to Brighton aged 16. ‘Not only me, but a lot of people from URBOND all moved to England and they didn’t have any relatives here and had to form family or friends with people in the UK.

‘The people they stayed with welcomed them in as if they were a part of their own family and they were treated equally to their own kids.

‘Off the back of that we thought; right, the community has given so much, why don’t we lay a platform where we can bring people together to discuss each other’s differences and try to make the community a better place for all.’

Today, not only does Ousmane lead a beaming community where people of all ages are welcomed to activities with open arms, but he also allows young people – who may otherwise get into the wrong crowd – seek comfort in a place that tells them they can achieve anything they dream of if they set their mind to it.

Child Education programme in the Republic of Guinea.

Through one of URBOND’s projects – a Youth Development Programme – not only are the charity getting kids off the streets, but they are also enabling friendships to blossom so children from underrepresented backgrounds can feel they have a purpose.

‘When we’re mentoring these young kids and providing them with activities to engage in you can clearly see the impact of the programme already.

‘Youth crime in Portsmouth is picking up but the activities we run are engaging these kids to be able to provide them with a platform where they can engage with activities to help them prepare them for the future.

‘You can't be at two places at the same time so having kids engage in activities takes them away from making the wrong choices.’

And it’s not just in Portsmouth that Ousmane and his team integrate with other cultures – the charity’s horizons extend transnationally to vulnerable communities like those in the Republic of Guinea.

In October this year URBOND volunteers built a library and computer room at a school where hundreds are already feeling the benefit.

‘We take in people from Portsmouth and blend them with different cultures like Guinea. It's like the Mecca of our community integration.’

Ousmane reflects on a time when he was alone.

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He had no friends nor any other young people to hang out with. But today he feels it’s a completely different story in his home town. ‘Portsmouth is in a far better position because every community centre you walk into you has flyers from URBOND.

‘At URBOND you're bound to find someone who can speak your language or who has come from the same background as you. As soon as you come in you've got people who can interact with you.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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