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Skills for Enterprise Case Study: Muslim Youth Helpline

Mohammed Mamdani realised at a young age that British society was not equipped to deal with and indeed didn't even acknowledge the social problems of growing up as a young Muslim. This was the premise for starting up a Muslim Youth Helpline, that and the fact that he had some knowledge of this sector as he volunteered with a helpline at the age of 17.

There was a gap in the market and he knew that neither the state or the Muslim community were going to intervene. The idea was conceived and discussed amongst friends and research was done. Mohammed set about reading relevant books on the role and functionality of Helplines. Friends were even asked to covertly go and work with other Helplines - although due to their age failed to get positions; in hindsight Mohammed refers to this as the foundations of a business model. Contact was made with Telephone Helpline Association, who were instrumental in providing support and training. A bank account was opened and a phone-line was installed in Mohammed's bedroom (remember, Mohammed was still only 17!) and so a pilot scheme began, with yet no concrete evidence that what they set out to provide was necessary.

More successful grant proposals were written as Mohammed identified organisations that would support their cause, also as Mohammed refined his policies and outlined their parameters and objectives, so they gained more funding. Advice was sought from the Charity Commission on the organisation obtaining charity status. - This was their biggest hurdle yet and took 9 months to obtain, when it usually takes 3 - 5 months. Mohammed puts this down to mistrust of the organisation in a post 9/11 political climate. In December 2002, the Muslim Youth Helpline finally officially opened. They had rented a run-down office in London and a small team of volunteers manned the phones for 2 or 3 days a week. - by the end of their second year they had received funding for over £250, 000. This allowed them to recruit their first employee and move to more spacious offices. The Muslim Youth Helpline now takes 10 000 enquiries a year, including calls, e-mails and a pilot internet counselling service, and has enough staff and volunteers to take calls 7 days a week. The organisation no longer relies on a Mohammed's 'friends', and now qualifies as a professional charitable outfit. Mohammed, himself has taken a backseat in the organisation and now acts as a personal advisor to the organisation.

Mohammed Mamdani created the first youth helpline that considered the general culture of its callers, it was also the first helpline which included an e-mail service from the onset, offering training in e-mail counselling. The helpline has become a success which now handles 10,000 enquiries a year - all this and Mohammed has never taken a salary. Mohammed is now trying to complete his last year of his undergraduate degree.

Mohammed's Key Learning tip: Try and take advantages of any gaps in the market; pursue your objectives and do not be deterred by doubters.