African youth in Sydney are finding reasons to stay in school, thanks to a program that gives them cultural belonging.

Grant Type
Pitch In
Social Cohesion

Sydney-based community development officer Bishop Lareya started African Youth Initiative Centres (AYI Centres) eight years ago because he noticed more and more young African Australians losing interest in school.

“Day-to-day I was seeing young people of African descent struggling to deal with their families being migrants, facing racial slurs at school and trying to reconcile their multiple identities as both Australian and African,” Bishop says.

“Their mental health was being affected and very quickly they disengaged with their education.

“What can happen from there they get on a path to more interactions with the justice system, including incarceration, and even sometimes suicide.”

AYI Centres Ltd aims to stop that path before it opens, by keeping young African Australians engaged in school. It works directly with schools in Sydney’s west to provide 1:1 mentoring, recreational programs, case work for individuals, work placements and safe spaces for young African Australians to hang out.

“The key difference AYI Centres intends to make is to support these students to feel safe at school,” Bishop says.

"Watching the young people thrive in school, watching them grow in confidence so that they perform in front of a whole school assembly and seeing some of them become leaders and mentors to other young African-descent students brings tears of joy to my eyes.”

At the 2024 Bennelong Foundation Sydney Pitch In, Bishop secured more than $20,000 to support the organisation’s African Cultural Engagement Program. A key component of this Program is to help young African Australians cope with the spread of racial stereotyping and online bulling via social media.

“Currently, students are left feeling low confidence and low self-worth,” Bishop says.

“Our program enables students to have a sense of belonging and to have better mental health outcomes, which leads to better educational and social outcomes.”

One participant in the Program says that before taking part, he always thought of his culture as a “hassle”.

“Now I feel good about being a black person at school. I even feel proud of my culture,” he said.

Read more about the program here.

Impactful results

The Benefit

AYI Centres is enabling young African Australians to participate in education opportunities.


More opportunities for young African Australians to learn, work and connect with others.


More opportunities for young African Australians to have a voice.

The key difference AYI Centres intends to make is to support these students to feel safe at school.

Bishop Lareya

Founder, African Youth Initiative Centres

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