Post People: Foodbank founder fights youth crime in Barking and Dagenham
PUBLISHED: 14:59 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:59 18 May 2017
Foodbank founder Obi Onyeabor, 44, tells Sebastian Murphy-Bates about his latest venture to help young people off the streets and into the workplace
“My position has always been that the more support communities offer the stronger they become.
“When I realised the scale of stabings, crime and drug problems around me it made me want to reach out to the young people involved. But it’s not just about getting kids off the streets – they have to change the way they view themselves.
“That’s why my project, Light House, will be launched at 11 am on Saturday, June 3 at the old Abbey Sports Centre in St Paul’s Road, Barking. We’re going to be working to engage young people and reach them through boxing classes.
“The idea is to use the boxing to interact with them in the ring and on the pads, then help them with mentoring schemes. That way we can change their perceptions, specifically the way they see themselves and their community.
“Some young people who’ve been involved in crime lack confidence and find getting a job difficult. We hope to help them become employable because if they have no way of earning money they’re more likely to get back into crime. And having a job reduces the chance of reoffending by 50 per cent.
“Our Back to Work programme has been up and running since 2015. Our 14-week programme offers support from probation officers and all the skills young people need to get back into employment.
“What we have to show these kids is that they’re wasting their lives on crime. It’s easy for us to give up on them because we feel they’re difficult. But I believe we can reach them. If we can reach people who are difficult to reach then they can help reach other people like them.
“I’ve ran a foodbank at the same sports centre since 2012. Since then we’ve expanded to offer cooking facilities for the homeless, where they can come and cook donated food or bring their own along, and we also run a clothes bank here.
“Anybody interested in our services can call me on 07507 648 948.”