At the age of 17, Dez was on a murder charge and convicted of manslaughter. He had been leading a life of crime involving drugs and violence. Now, Dez is the director of a national award winning project – Spark2Life, which won the 2007 Youth Justice Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution in Tackling Youth Crime. He now works with the Criminal Justice System to tackle the gang and knife crime in London and is the author of the book ‘Convicted or Condemned’. He is a Christian Pastor and community leader. His main objective is to empower a generation to lead in their community.
Mark was a professional DJ and music producer for 20 years. He travelled the world because of music and regularly had his own radio show on BBC Radio 1Xtra. One day he walked away from this flourishing career in search of something he could give back to society. During his musical journey, the young people he encountered in raves and clubs were often living on the wrong side of the law. Having come from a similar background in his younger days after getting in trouble with the authorities and sitting on the wrong side of a cell door; Mark believed with his own positive and negative experiences, he could reach out to challenged young people. He could show them that they can turn their lives around, just as he had. Mark currently works under our Prison In-reach project that runs in The London Borough of Waltham Forest.
Melvyn moved from South Africa to London in 1999; he is passionate about people and the great city of London. Growing up in a country that was strangled by the system of Apartheid, over time and through many years of intentional, internal confrontation, he became a person who did not allow his circumstances to define and shape how he interacts with society. For the last 19 years of my life, Melvyn has committed himself to helping people rewire their thinking. He does this through: one on one sessions, basic counselling, mentoring and group mentoring. Melvyn has worked within a vast array of capacities ranging from a practitioner in schools and youth groups to supporting those in prison and in the community projects. Henry Ford once said "Don't find fault, find a remedy” – for Melvyn, working for Spark2Life means that he gets to be a part of the remedy. He wants to mentor the youth of the Capital and help them find the true person that lies within – the person who is the answer rather than the problem.
Rio was disengaged as a young teenager, he often found himself in trouble in school. He started attending his local youth group and his life was transformed. He was so impacted by them he went from a disruptive teenager to going to university and getting a degree. He came out of university determined to impact the lives of young people. Rio has worked extensively within the youth sector in prisons, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and schools using his passion for music to engage with young people. He uses his story and life experiences to empower and encourage disengaged young people from underprivileged sections of society. Rio specialises in delivering group sessions alongside one-to-one mentoring and mediating issues around gangs and the gang culture. He wants to see young people reach the best they can be and aim higher in life.
Stephen is the co-ordinator of the Spark2Life Painting & Decorating community project. Stephen has 14 years’ experience within both the building trade (as an entrepreneur) and as a drug support worker in a residential rehabilitation centre. He works with people who have come out of prison, those who are at risk of going into prison or caught up in gang life mentoring them. Through the Painting & Decorating project, Stephen offers people an opportunity to gain the necessary skills and experience needed for them to gain employment.
Paul Dayes is a project co-ordinator and case worker currently doing both prison inreach and outreach with young men in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. He has a passion for this type of work because of his own past and his desire to try and help young people from making the same mistakes that he did. At the age of 14, he was living on the streets, by aged 17 he was involved in gangs; aged 21 he was a drugs dealer selling drugs on a large scale and aged 25 he was carrying out armed robberies. By the age of 30, Paul had joined a Turkish gang and was importing and selling drugs. After 17 years of being involved in drugs, it was inevitable that he would also be using them – at the age of 40 Paul was committing whatever crime necessary to feed his drug addiction. Whilst in prison, doing 4½ years for robbery – aged 47, Paul picked up a bible and began reading. After 27 years of a life of crime, he became a Christian and since then he has been committed to supporting and advocating for people who used to be where he was. In 2012, Paul started an organisation in partnership with Teen Challenge London called Egangs Project, he is now the current director. In 2014, he partnered with Spark2Life as a caseworker where he helps young people to turn their lives around and to realise their full potential.
Danyele is a youth justice graduate with over 10 years experience of working with high risk young people. She has worked in an array of capacities including play schemes, social care, youth offending and probation service. During her various placements, she observed that there are many young people and young adults, in particular those within the care or criminal justice system, who tend to lack self-esteem and opportunities to suit their needs. She also noted that very little work was being done to work with those individuals, be them male or female, focusing on this area. As a result of this, she founded an organisation with a partner – Aspire to Empower – that aimed to support and empower young people. Danyele’s passion for young people was inspired by the injustices and poor treatment of some of her own friends and family, which she witnessed growing up.
“I saw the beauty in them, but the system did not see same…”
Leroy Logan is a retired Superintendent who served 30 years, 1983-2013, in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). His community based career was primarily through borough level policing, focussing on cultural groups that historically have a lack of trust. He is the founder and past Chair of the MPS Black Police Association (BPA) which led him to develop, in 2001, an award winning community engagement & consultation programme that is still ongoing with the VOYAGE programme (Voice Of the Youth And Genuine Empowerment). Since retiring Leroy has set his focus on maintaining safer & stronger communities, especially for young people, through REALLITY (Raising Everyone’s Awareness of Lives Lost in The Youth) his social enterprise & REALLITY Security Solutions (RSS) his security consultancy. Leroy is now working with Spark2Life engagement & advocacy charity, for young people, as their Custody Office Coordinator project. He offers timely & practical interventions for affected people in police custody, with the intention of reducing gang related activities & to assist them in making more positive life choices.
Joel had a successful career in the security industry, on the surface everything appeared to be in order, however, Joel's life wasn't all it seemed to be. His carefree and selfish attitudes meant that he had a hidden life that was spiralling out of control. At the height of his career in the world of security, Joel was a private bodyguard to a high profile British family. During this time he got involved in a violent incident on a night out, this incident resulted in a prison sentence - he lost everything.
Whilst inside, in his darkest place at rock bottom, he came to the realisation of just how much his selfishness had affected the people he loved. From that moment on Joel decided to dedicate his life to being a more selfless person.
"If I can help one person make the transition from selfish to selfless without reaching rock bottom then my experience was worth while."