BY MICHELLE DEY REY
Five barbers are getting teenagers to trade in their knives for clippers as part of a campaign to fight violent crime.
The Lions Society in Croydon has been keeping kids off the streets for the past two years.
The barber shop is used as a safe space in a community ridden with postcode war.
Since the after-school hub’s conception, they’ve started a youth centre, a barbering academy, and a daddy day care.
So far, a celebrity hair stylist, a medical professional and a fashion executive have graduated from the programme.
Director Raymond Robb said: “What we tend to do as an organisation is combat knife crime by talking to young people and engaging and understanding their needs or wants.
“We use a barber shop as a way of engaging. We mentor them, educate them and get them into apprenticeship schemes.
“One guy we mentored now gets flown out to Spain and France to cut Will Smith’s hair.
“Another guy we mentored was getting into gangs and being a nuisance and is now a radiologist.
“Another one now works for fashion rental outfit Rent the Runway. We believed in them, encouraged them and that gave them some sort of hope”.
Since the start of 2019, four people have died from knife crime in the area“They get into knife crime because they’re trying to survive,” said Raymond.
“They’re going to school and work and crossing different areas. They feel like they have to carry a knife to protect themselves.
“They’re scared that people will see them in the streets and attack them for no reason.”
Raymond is no stranger to postcode war.
“Someone we know was walking in Croydon and they saw a young man get stabbed in the neck. My friend was trying to save him and he passed away in his arms.”
He also lost a friend and cousin from knife violence after a heated argument.
Raymond and his colleagues grew up in the area. He says it’s what inspired them to tackle knife crime and mentor young men.
He said: “When we got involved it was so bad. Every week there was another stabbing. In Croydon it’s getting a lot better but we hope that this would just stop.”
The barber credits life experience, learning from his past mistakes, and an older cousin for making him want to start the project.
“My older cousin, Desmond, was my mentor. I could speak to him and he directed me in the right path.
“He was a big influence when the negativity was swallowing me up.”
The neighbourhood haven plans to continue supporting young people for years to come.
The mentor said: “The Lions Society has a vision and a plan to become that agency or that mediator that can really help young people come through mentally, emotionally, and economically, so they can stop falling through the cracks.
“The Government is trying to use a holistic approach when it comes to tackling knife crime.
“They’ve got the resources, finances and people.
“It should’ve been done a long time ago. “They need to support youth centres and excluding young people because that’s what leads to more criminal activity.”
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