Yesterday Wednesday 29 September saw the launch of the third Ben Kinsella Trust exhibition. Based in Barking, the exhibition is the largest of the three and explains the tragic and heartbreaking story of Ben Kinsella. It also hosts pictures and stories of other local teenagers who have lost their life to knife crime- Champion Ghanda 17 years old, Duran Kajiama 17 years old and Jody Chesney 17 years old.
Present at the event in Barking was Champion’s mum Peguy who runs All Champions Charity to support other bereaved families. Peguy is a very inspirational lady who has dedicated her life helping other families.
Beatrice Mushiya Duran’s mum was there to give her support to families of knife crime alongside Peter Chesney who was also at the event.
Supported by Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell Leader of the council addressed the large crowd to introduce everyone to the evening’s events.
The Ben Kinsella exhibition aims to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime and help them to make positive choices to stay safe. The workshops follow the journey of both the victim and the offender through a series of unique and immersive experiences to show young people how choices and consequences are linked.
Their workshops change young people’s attitudes to knife crime; debunking the myth that carrying a knife will protect you. They strengthen peer values; ensuring young people give better advice to each other and challenge peers who are carrying (or thinking of carrying) a knife.
They currently have two exhibitions, which are based in Finsbury Library in Islington and in the National Justice Museum in Nottingham.
Ben Kinsella was a 16-year-old boy from Islington who was stabbed to death in a horrific act of senseless violence on 29 June 2008.
Ben had been out at a local pub to celebrate the end of his GCSEs with his friends. On their way home, he and his friends realised they were being followed by three older teenagers. Scared and worried, they decided to run home.
But the older teenagers chased after them. They were seeking revenge for an altercation in the club that had taken place earlier that evening. Ben and his friends had absolutely nothing to do with the altercations, but when the older boys caught up with Ben, in an entirely unprovoked attack, they stabbed him to death.
Also present at yesterday’s launch was DC Anoushka Dunic the East Area Police Gangs Engagement Officer who does fantastic work across East London helping parents and teenagers, PC Michael Wallace from Kick off@3, who does amazing work with teenagers across London, Quinton Green, the very talented spoken word artist who works with many educational organisations helping teenagers and Shirley Jackson the founder of Youth Unity who supports teenagers across east London.
This is a very moving exhibition that highlights the horrors of knife crime and the choices we make and the consequences they provide.
Youth Unity are working hard in the UK to change the story of young people and help them with their issues. We spoke to them to find out more.
Youth Unity CIC is an innovative space for youth empowerment, and a non-profit organisation established to provide effective help and support to vulnerable young people and adults affected by group violence (gangs), drugs and other forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and extremism.
With offices in Kent, London and Essex, the organisation works successfully in close collaboration with statutory organisations, commissioned services and charities, by offering workshops, projects and training for young people and professionals.
In this piece, Youth Time features its contribution for young people’s wellbeing by speaking to Paul McKenzie, Youth Unity’s Head of Communications.
Introducing Youth Unity
At the beginning of our conversation, McKenzie talks about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in their activities, whereas further in the interview, he sheds light on their key activities and the 4Ps (Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare).
“With the current rise in serious youth violence and the impact of COVID-19, we created a dedicated hub for the overall wellbeing of young people from all ethnicities,” he explains, whilst adding that the organisation challenges the narrative portraying young people as bad.
Youth Unity’s focus is early intervention and early identification of those ‘at risk’ from gangs, serious youth violence, criminal exploitation and associated vulnerability strands.
To better understand this, McKenzie adds that this is something consistent with the Government’s 4P approach and contained within the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
“This strategy effectively coordinates national joint working to reduce the level of serious and organised crime affecting our local communities.
“It uses the framework often referred to as the 4Ps and strengthens a partnership approach to safeguarding our most vulnerable and tackling offenders.”
Prevent, Prepare and Protect
As McKenzie explains, their key objectives are consistent with this strategy and approach:
Prevent: To stop people becoming gang members, being exploited or taking part in violence.
Prepare: To effectively mitigate risks through preventative measures and innovative, creative media early intervention. With the aim to kick start conversations, build resilience and inspire change around complex social issues.
Protect: To strengthen adults and young people by building their emotional and cognitive (thinking) resilience, better enabling them to ‘say no’ to gangs, violence, drugs, crime and other forms of exploitation and vulnerability themes.
Youth Unity works with schools, colleges, police forces, social services, LSCBs, charities, borough councils, county councils, private businesses, national government agencies to deliver productions, workshops and training for young people and adults across the United Kingdom.
“We feel the pandemic has had a massive impact on youth. With this in mind, we set out to deliver specific online workshops that are interactive and informative for all.
“We selected several professionals to work alongside parents and young people.”
The workshops raised awareness and helped to enable participants to understand the early signs of a mental health issue.
“We are also delivering valuable support to young people challenged with grooming and county lines.
“There is an increase in the deliberate manipulation of young people, and we feel that more than ever before, we need to inform young people of the dangers etc,” McKenzie says.
The workshops explore topics such as criminal exploitation, social media misuse, grooming, building positive relationships, and the law.
Youth Unity also offers advice, and guidance to many families and individuals affected by Criminal Exploitation and grooming.
“Although because of a lack of funding, we are only available via telephone. Soon we will include a mentoring provision that will enable more one-to-one work with young people and their families.”
GroomSafe has recently worked on a film project with several young people at risk of Criminal Exploitation and serious youth violence.
“During the pandemic we could create a short film that addresses manipulation and grooming, we engaged young people in basic film making and editing, to produce William an awareness film to help others facing the challenges above.”
“We have entered the short film into several film festivals, we are expecting outstanding success on this. We also intend to duplicate this process to produce another short film about online abuse.“
To date, McKenzie goes on, Youth Unity believes young people need advice and awareness to enable them to make more informed decisions in life.
“By actively raising this awareness and reaching out to young people on a grassroots level, we effect the change that they need to help avoid exploitation and grooming,” he concludes.
About Paul McKenzie
Paul McKenzie is Professional Public Speaker, Life Coach/NLP Master Practitioner, Film Director/Producer and Author.
Paul has enjoyed changing the lives of hundreds of people over the last 20 years.
Through his filmmaking he has developed a platform designed to provide a space for individuals within the community to express their brilliance, speak their truth and encourage the lives of others.
This is achieved by producing short powerful films that highlight specific issues and capture the unique essence of everyday people’s stories, which are now award winning.
These films and documentaries are shared internationally and contain inspirational, thought provoking material, and reaches out to the heart of the community.
Paul remains proud to have contributed to some major changes in the way Youth Unity addresses specific issues that challenge communities, especially the issues that affect the youth.
Follow Youth Unity on Facebook and Instagram to find out more about the company and support their work.
A collaborative initiative set up by two passionate men with the goal to inspire, motivate, engage and support young people from all backgrounds through the medium of sport, music and other imaginative ideas.
Founded in 2017, Michael Wallace (left) and Ashley Levien (right) have seen their non-profit organisation grow into an established youth diversion strategy where long lasting relationships between young people and their local police forces are being built.
Who does KickOff@3 impact?
The organisation has gone from strength to strength, positively impacting hundreds of young people across various communities in the UK through its many initiatives, campaigns and workshops. The pair, along with KickOff@’s youth volunteers, ambassadors and partners, work hard to educate young people, diverting vulnerable youth from criminal activity and violence.
Michael and Ashley have also used their platform to proudly raise awareness and funds for a range of charities that promote physical and mental well-being in young people. KickOff@3 aims to see less youth violence and hate crime and an increase in mental health awareness, physical fitness and inclusion in sports across the UK.
During the last year there has been a massive change in most communities across the UK, in fact there has been a massive change globally. These changes have affected the way all of us live and survive.
There is no doubt that the world has changed for us all.
Coming together as a community became the number one priority for us all. Community projects emerged to help social prescribing and signposting people towards creative projects and services that help them with
Mental health * Housing * Food * Child care
For many of us, we have had to change our life styles. With employment being affected, schools closing for months and the overall challenges of us all facing a global economic melt down.
The Pandemic has truly altered what normal means to us all.
A year ago, the very thought that you would have to visit a food bank was a distant reality, the fact that you would have to wear face covering or be limited to visiting friends and loved ones has challenged the way we carry out our day to day lives.
Although these challenges have taken many lives and limited much of the norms we have become accustomed to, one thing that has stood out across the globe is the resilience that people have when faced with adversity and loss.
Communities have started to work together as one. The word community has definitely become the reality for many living and trying to survive challenges such as loss, unemployment, education and mental health. In fact these very presuppositions have become motivational words that enable us to move forward.
Long gone is the comfort zone of life.
Before the pandemic, many of the community values were questionable, with the decline of support and the never ending issue of serious youth violence and unemployment hanging over us, we have discovered that underneath all of the challenges that we face, we can come together in these times to push forward and create a sense of a brighter future.
Projects have started to include the homeless, hungry and isolated. Many of these projects are managed and run on a voluntary basis, to help those in need to connect with the support that will provide them with a glimpse of of hope for the future.
The vision of a long awaited sustainable community is now a reality. Paul Mckenzie
Young people have been one of the worst affected groups by the events of 2020.
This crisis has hit our older generations hard, but behind the stats and figures we see at daily press conferences are some findings which tell of the difficulties in building the future and entering the new normal: the effect this is going to have on young people.
Nearly 6 in every 10 young people say they are now unsure about what the future looks like for them Young people are three times more likely than older generations to report a heightened strain on their mental healthOur ‘Take the Temperature’ report platforms the voices of nearly 2000 young people: presenting how 2020 has affected their lives and what they’re doing to combat such upheaval.
Their insights, stories and innovations can inform your work and help you to respond directly to young people’s needs. Download the full report for free here:
Keep up to date with what is going on at Youth Unity
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