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.
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.
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 specializes 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.
Paul Dayes is our Newham co-ordinator, he works with young people in a Newham YOT and has a passion for this type of work. Due to his own past, his desire is 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 the 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.
Kiera was often disengaged and had a very negative attitude towards life during her teenage years but despite her disengagement there was one teacher who continued to invest in her which is something she has always cherished. On completion of her A Levels in 2011 she went on to pursue a career within the youth sector. As someone who benefited from mentoring, it has always been something she has wanted to do for others. She has worked within the youth sector for 6 years now in schools, youth offending teams and pupil referral units (PRUs). In 2017, Kiera graduated with a Psychology degree which has allowed her to broaden her knowledge and understanding of individuals and the behaviours they adopt. She is very passionate about young people and strongly believes in helping them achieve their full potential. She is always looking for different ways to invest and give back to the youth as she believes everyone deserves a chance
Temi is currently based in Waltham Forest working as a caseworker. And leads the Detached project on St James street.
Temi was no stranger to criminal activity and was affiliated and associated with gang members from a young age. Lost, young and naive, Temi continued to involve himself with illegal activities and finally all his past endeavours caught up with him. At 18 he was wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison 8 years of which he served 6 years.
Whilst in prison Temi found his faith which made him question his actions and use his story to inspire and empower his fellow prison inmates. He wasted no time in training up as a prison mentor and gaining the necessary skills needed to help his peers.
Temi feels blessed and honored to be working with an organisation like Spark2Life, and is looking forward to growing with the team and helping young people to change their lives around.
Roshad grew up in East London in the borough of Waltham Forest. Growing up Roshad became aware of the reality of the streets, many of his friends were in gangs and this had an influence on his mindset behaviour and experiences. Gun and knife crime was a prevalent issue within his community and Roshad feared that he wouldn’t live to see 18 in light of young people who were dying in his area. At the age of 14 Roshad experienced a turning point in his life when he witnessed his friend being stabbed. Roshad began to reflect on his life, decisions and company, in other words this was a wakeup call for Roshad. It was at this point that he began to make positive changes in his life. Roshad’s faith and commitment to Christ at the age of 14 had a huge impact on his entire life. He began to develop a love and passion for young people, especially those affected by gang culture. By the age of 16 Roshad became a youth worker/leader serving young people from different walks of life. At the age of 22 Roshad is honoured to be a part of Spark2life and is fully persuaded that we can always achieve more in collaboration than in isolation, especially when it comes to the issue of gang culture. He is passionate in playing his part to change the lives of young people from something negative onto something more positive and meaningful.
From 19 years old Nathan was affiliated in gang activity which involved drugs and violence. Due to his involvement he was very well known by the authorities with a multitude of cases for various offences. He was an active gang member that authorities tried to work with through different approaches because of his status. His good characteristics spoke well for him and the nature of his offences resulted in precautions and fines etc. A turning point in his life that had a major impact was when he lost a friend from a rivalry gang retaliation as his friend was a lot younger and influenced by the gang culture. Nathan is now a Caseworker for Spark2Life and is trying to make young people aware of other opportunities rather than the gangs they can engage in and services that are open to them.
From the age of 16 Josiah was heavily involved in gang crime and the selling of class A drugs. He was convicted and charged 3 years later for a possession of a firearm with intent to danger life. Fast forward 6 years, Josiah now uses his past experiences and transformation to stir young people in a positive direction. He has given talks to trainee Magistrates and the Ministry of Justice on positive change. Josiah works with Spark2life as a Caseworker, engaging with and mentoring those with similar backgrounds to his own.