‘THEN HE PUT THE KNIFE TOWARDS MY STOMACH …’
In the year that has seen the highest level of knife crime ever recorded in London, XLP continue to work with young people caught up in youth violence, together with the multitude of issues that disproportionately affect young people growing up in poverty. XLP’s nationally recognised mentoring project is offering young people, like Derek, long-term relationships with a trusted role model and positive alternatives to knife crime.
THIS IS DEREK’S STORY:
‘I was born premature. When people are born premature, they’d normally have talking difficulties or brain difficulties. I couldn’t speak until the age of five. So it was very tough for me in primary school.
People called me names. They’d say I’m dumb or I’m stupid because I didn’t really know how to express myself.
The places where I grew up, there was a lot of gun crime and knife crime. I was walking to go to the shop and there was a boy and he was like, ‘give me your money before I shank you.’ And then he put a knife towards my stomach. It was really scary.
Because of what I’ve experienced, I’ve never really liked public places. I didn’t really like taking trains or buses because of the anxiety I had. It was like I was locked up in a box and I just need to get out somehow but I couldn’t.
I used to always say to myself, if I’m going to face all this then why was I even born? There were times when I had thoughts to even try and take my own life.
There was no one really to stick by me at that time.
The first time I heard about XLP was when I was 14 and I was introduced to Kevin. He became my mentor. I never really had a big brother or anything like that so that was the very first time that I really had someone to actually talk to.
It was hard at first, I was very shy. I had low self-esteem. So I didn’t really want to open up that much. But he was more outgoing, so he would encourage me to push my limits. You know, to open up more, to express myself, and ask me questions.
Every year, XLP would have a talent showcase and Kevin persuaded me to perform. Everything just changed from there. I had a very big smile on my face when everyone was clapping. I felt so strong within myself. It gave me the belief I can achieve anything I want to.
So now I’m in university, studying Theology and Social Justice. I still do music and go to the studio. I have my own brand now, called All Dat running talent shows for young people who want to achieve something in music or drama or dancing or anything they want to do. You know it’s something that’s there for other people.
XLP has helped me to have confidence with in myself. So I just want to thank XLP for helping me. i want to thank Kevin and all of the people that have helped me be who I am right now. Who have helped me to be All Dat.’
Mentoring is just one way XLP is seeking to turn the tide on knife crime and poor mental health in the capital. They also work in schools, on estates and through young people’s passions to help them create positive futures for themselves. Their vision is to see young people choosing to stay in school and succeed; choosing not to be involved in gangs, crime or anti-social behaviour; choosing to set goals for the future and work hard to achieve them.
XLP is looking to partner with churches, schools and community groups to help reach the young people in their neighbourhood. However, building bridges and relationships with young people takes time and effort and can often feel like a daunting prospect in the current climate. This is where XLP has considerable expertise and experience.
XLP are working to create positive futures for young people growing up in inner-city London, and making a serious and sustainable impact on poverty and educational failure. If you want to learn more about XLP or get involved in their work please visit xlp.org.uk/MentorDerek or email firstname.lastname@example.org