Eliza’s story

“An awareness campaign to prevent pre-teens from carrying a knife”- and to make parents and adults aware of the true statistics of the many teenagers who are carrying knives.

I founded the campaign in July 2007 at the age of 14. The toll of teenagers being stabbed due to youth crime and gang culture made an impact on me and others around me. The campaign started with just a t-shirt in bold print to make a statement – which read ‘LIVES NOT KNIVES’. Soon family and friends were asking for the t-shirt and to meet demand, several more t-shirts were printed and sold. This in turn led to my friends and I organising an event with the money raised from the sale of the t-shirts in February 2008.

It was a celebration for youth to have fun without violence. We organised a hall, DJ, local performers and printed and sold tickets to raise additional funds. An amazing 150 youth attended and all enjoyed the evening. Everyone signed a petition to ‘make our streets safe.’

Following on, I have been doing public speaking in City Hall, Fairfield Halls and was invited by the Home Office ’It Doesn’t Have To Happen’ campaign, to join the panel for Choice FM fronted by Richard Blackwood’s Real Talk, promoting LIVES NOT KNIVES and encouraging others to help find a solution to the violence.

After completing the ’Calling the Shots’ programme with ’From Boyhood To Manhood’ , I gave a talk to the year 7’s at Edenham High School in Shirley, about the dangers and effects that youth crime could have on their life and the lives of their families, should they get involved with a gang. With the help of pupils from year 9 and 10 we organised and held an event, showing a wide variety of talents from the school, to inspire the year 7’s and 8’s.

For London Week of Peace 2008, I organised the ‘Speak Up Stand Tall’ event with Safer Croydon Partnership which was supported by Councillor Steve O’Connell. During this event, my friends and I were able to make a lot of important people aware of the effects of knife crime in our community. This allowed people my age to explain and help the older generation understand why some youth acted the way they did, it also helped bridge the gap between youth and adults. I was invited to meet Gordon Brown at No. 10 because of the even organised for London Week of Peace 2008 and also to spend Takeover Day with MP Andrew Pelling in Parliament.

The LIVES NOT KNIVES team then organised a Valentine’s Ball in February 2009 to remember all the teenagers who had lost their lives to knife crime. The event had a huge balloon release. Each balloon had a message from a young person to the person or persons they knew that had died from knife crime and gang culture.

I was really pleased to be awarded the Croydon Community Champion 2008, a local competition run by the Croydon Guardian and asked to be an Ambassador for Croydon by the Croydon Council. All in all, I feel that my friends and I have achieved a lot.

With funding from 02 ‘It’s your community’ I encouraged the youth to write of their experiences of knife violence and gang culture in either prose, picture, art or poems. All these were put into a booklet which was distributed to the youth. David Hanson MP negotiated with the Met Police to print a further 4,000 copies of the booklet to distribute to Croydon schools.

I was chosen as a Battlefront Campaigner in 2010 and they have helped me by organizing two mentors, Albion London who are helping me with my branding and marketing and Livity who have helped me to train peer mentors to further my campaign.

I have been fortunate to secure funding through Croydon Council to take LNK roadshows to Croydon Schools, which will be starting in October.

This is my chance to say thank you to the Guardian and the Advertiser my local press for supporting me, local MP’s and the Croydon Council. I would also like to say a big thank you to my friends and family, who have rallied around helping in every way possible. Finally a thank you to O2 ‘It’s your community’ for encouraging and believing in me and funding my booklet.”