In the beginning was ASAFO, a cultural group specializing in African and Caribbean folk music and dance. ASAFO was established by Bilal Ameen in 1980 as part of his work as a Cultural Officer for the West Indian Women’s Association in the London borough of Brent. ASAFO is made up of 15 young people ranging in age from 13 to 19, with the majority of them being young women. The group was split into two sections: folk singers and dancers. The name ASAFO was borrowed from a Ghanaian word which means "Warriors Dancing." The group quickly rose to prominence, performing across London and in the counties such as Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and further afield in Holland. One of the group's major highlights was performing for a packed audience at the Shaw Theatre in Euston. This was not enough for group founder, singer and choreographer Mr. Bilal Ameen; in 1982, out of the success of ASAFO, he founded the Caribbean Development Foundation (CDF), which was later renamed the Africa Caribbean Development Foundation.
The ACDF journey began on October 10th, 1982, but by 1987, ACDF had opened its first training center at 4-8 Arcola Street, funded by the London Borough of Hackney Council and specifically adapted for the varied and innovative work programmes the leadership of the foundation had earlier identified. In the early years, from 1983 to 1986, ACDF partnered with several notable government training providers like the Manpower Service Commission and Reed Employment Services to assist in stemming the rapid growth of unemployment, especially in the UK BAME community. In response, ACDF provided a 6- to-8-week work placement training programme for young people on benefits aged 16 to 21 to get them ready for part-time or full-time employment opportunities. Set up a weekly free legal and general advice service with a specific emphasis on immigration headed by a very notable lawyer from Ghana. It was during this period that the leadership of ACDF began looking at international youth exchange programmes as an invaluable tool for youth development and building relationships across several continents. As a result, ACDF’s first self-funded youth exchange became a reality with an Antillean youth organization called Kibra Hacha based in Utrecht, Holland. During the group's visit to the UK in 1987, ACDF’s training center at Arcola Street, Hackney, was formerly opened by Cllr. Jim Holland, the then Mayor of the London Borough of Hackney. Then came a series of youth exchange programmes to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ghana, then across Europe and elsewhere.
ACDF’s success rate meant that the leadership, as a result, began thinking about training provisions and opportunities for young people in Africa and the Caribbean, especially after ACDF’s active participation in a programme called Caribbean Focus in 1986. ACDF’s training college became a reality when its first batch of overseas students arrived from Jamaica, St. Vincent, Ghana, and Zimbabwe to start training at the newly opened training center at 4/8 Arcola Street. That same year, ACDF started a Saturday school for 4 to 6 and 7 to 12. It was very well organized and staffed by professional teachers who wanted to provide extra tutorials on Saturday away from the regular school days of Monday to Friday.
ACDF’s training college, accredited by City & Guilds, and the Department of Education served diligently, specializing in new technology, hospitality and catering turnout 250 students annually for 21 years and helping each one to procure in the final analysis a recognized certificate in the subjects at hand but more importantly a British Identity. From 1987 to 2008, over 5250 students graduated from CDF’s training college and are now living productively in all walks of life in the UK and elsewhere, including serving soldiers in the British Army, NHS nurses and other major institutions. ACDF has done in the years since its inception much more than it had envisaged or was set out in its agenda of activities to do as a charity.
The ever-changing events and movements of people around the world mean that ACDF must adapt, modify, and be in readiness to tackle new and innovative ways to participate in youth and community development globally, but more importantly, to face the new challenges of the current generation. Notwithstanding, the aims and objectives of the charity is forever entrenched in the future of its past.
All of the successes ACDF has had since coming into existence in 1982, that have changed thousands of young lives for better alternatives, have witnessed the vast majority now playing a greater role in society and making significant contributions locally and internationally. Such participation and contribution are even more relevant today as the advent of social media knits the world closer together than before. In fact, ACDF has recognized one thing for sure; there will always be a conveyor belt of young people who will be in need of proper guidance and support to participate productively in an everchanging world.
So, as ACDF celebrates as well as commemorates 40 years of service to the betterment
of humanity, ACDF is keyed into pole position in the UK and now in Ghana with new and
renewed energies to face the challenges of another 40 years of changing lives for better
alternatives. Thanks to everyone, past and present who have trusted ACDF, but
moreover, for your participation and the Almighty’s guidance in establishing an indelible
By: Makafui Seshie (Director for Programmes and Partnerships)
Africa Caribbean Development Foundation (ACDF)
Promoting and providing charitable activities for the benefit of the community