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Victims of violence mix with students for inspirational ‘power hour’ in Angel

People who have turned their lives around after childhoods disrupted by crime shared their stories in a bid to inspire young students.

08 March, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

L – R Milan Morgan (4),LVN founder Rachael Box and performer MaxwellD 

VICTIMS of violent crime, students and entrepreneurs filled a gallery hall as part of a charity’s effort to tackle what it calls “network poverty”.

People who have turned their lives around after childhoods disrupted by crime shared their stories with young students at the “Power of an Hour” event hosted by Islington-based charity London Village Network (LVN) at the Business Design Centre in Angel.

Amani Simpson, a former student at City and Islington College, spoke about how he was stabbed seven times after being expelled from school and got caught up in “county lines” drug-peddling.

City and Islington college student Alexis Shahari (16) interviewing Amani 

“I got caught out,” he added. “I was attracted to street culture and negative things.

“I went through different dark times and ended up in county lines.

“I want young people to know that there are key people out there who have your back in these dark times. Let’s connect.”

County lines are when inner-city gangs exploit children to sell drugs out in rural county areas.

Mr Simpson said he left that life behind after being stabbed and went on to record his story on film and set up his own letting agency.

City and Islington student Alexis Shahari, 16, interviewed him on the night for her media- course.

City and Islington College students Alexis Shahari and Fabiona Kola

She said: “Amani’s story was shocking to hear. But it’s amazing that he turned it around. There are loads of young adults, mixing with teenagers and older people here, all inspiring each other.”

LVN has a partnership with City and Islington College.

Omolade Angel Buckingham, 16, who had a stall at the event, started her own wig company last year and now wants to create a hairdressing empire.

She said: “I want to be the first well-known black hairdresser. I want to go big like Toni and Guy, Rush or Hob Salon. I’m going to take them on.”

Mother-of-two Rachael Box started LVN to support front-line staff, like social workers, police and counsellors, in their fight against the effects of poverty by getting people in jobs by volunteering for an hour.

The Islington resident said: “There is a wealth of talent going into our prison system and we need to work collectively to change this.

“LVN offers a community solution in the battle against the rise in violent crime. ”

Scores of people filled the gallery hall in the Business Design Centre

Volunteers at LVN help raise awareness of the opportunities available to young people by talking about their experiences in any given career and sharing any soft skills they have learned.

Ms Box said: “We need to change young people’s mindsets to help them find their passions and to include them in mainstream society.

“Seven out of 10 jobs still go unadvertised. Many sectors remain the preserve of the more affluent.

“Unpaid internships, family and friend introductions and contacts are out of reach for many, particularly those like care leavers and children in pupil referral units.”

A video shown at the event on Friday, March 1 of Rachael’s friend Paul Wheway, who served a life sentence for stabbing a man to death, brought the bustling space to silence.

Paul Wheway’s warning about the realities of prison life 

Ms Box said: “Paul worked tirelessly after his release to warn young people of the harsh reality of the risks of carrying a knife.”

To volunteer for an hour, download the Lon- don Village Network App in the app store or email knowmore@london villagenetwork.com

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