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Getting the message over to young people

PUBLISHED: 16:07 08 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:56 11 August 2010

A TEENAGER, whose 19-year-old cousin was fatally stabbed last year, is urging other youngsters to think twice before picking up a knife. Kevin Mukendi is one of the passionate young borough residents who started an anti-youth crime campaign six months ago

A TEENAGER, whose 19-year-old cousin was fatally stabbed last year, is urging other youngsters to think twice before picking up a knife.

Kevin Mukendi is one of the passionate young borough residents who started an anti-youth crime campaign six months ago, called Life is a Big Deal.

The group, based at Studio 3 Arts, in Abbey Road, Barking, are determined to put an end to the recent spate of violent crime on our streets and are doing everything they can to get their message heard.

Kevin, who lives on Barking's Gascoigne Estate, says he joined the campaign because he never wants to see anyone else suffer the way his family have suffered.

On September 13 last year Kevin's cousin and talented young footballer, Oliver Kingonzila, was knifed outside a Croydon nightclub and tragically died.

The attack came as a massive shock to Kevin and his family.

"You hear about this kind of thing on the news all the time, but you never think it will happen to someone you know. It just seemed unbelievable. It's been very difficult for all of us."

The 17-year-old says his cousin knew the attacker, who recently pleaded guilty to murder.

"There was some kind of argument, but I don't know exactly why he went for Oliver.

"The scary thing is that it can be the smallest thing that makes one young person stab another. I heard about a guy getting stabbed the other day because he stepped on someone's foot."

The sixth-former believes young people often don't think about the devastating effects their actions can have. He hopes the Life is a Big Deal campaign can change this.

To get their voice heard, Kevin and his fellow campaigners, all aged between 13 and 18, have been touring the boroughs schools and colleges with an anti-youth crime play and workshop.

Kevin says the feed back from his peers has been very good, adding: "Young people are more likely to listen to those who are the same age. They relate to us and trust what we are saying.

"One guy actually handed his knife over to the police after watching our play. So our work is obviously having some kind of effect."

And it's not just young people who are listening to the Big Deal campaigners. The group's efforts have also attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police and the charity Crimestoppers, who have both pledged their support.

To raise money for the Life is a Big Deal campaign, the group is putting on a music event on May 18, at the Queens Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch from 7pm. Tickets cost £3. For more information or to book call 01708 443333.


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