Hope amidst The Violence

It’s Brixton. You’re walking through Angell Town.

You know the stories: deprivation, gangs, and violence. But you meet a vibrant community. And you hear stories of hope.

You ask yourself – why can’t there be peace?

It’s unthinkable for many that in the heart of one of the world’s richest and most dynamic cities lie pockets of very real suffering and desperation. Conflict between gangs and violent acts committed by and against young people blights the life chances of many, and harms already struggling communities.

The statistics make for grim reading. In the Coldharbour ward of Lambeth, violence against the person is three times the London average, with knife crime recently increasing by 35%. Mental health poses a significant challenge too. Around half of all lifetime mental health issues begin by the age of 14 (75% by 24). And in Lambeth, only 17% of mental health needs are being adequately met. It’s obvious that many of Lambeth’s young people are being let down. 

CHIPS were first invited to Angell Town by the Reverend Les Isaac of Ascension Trust who connected us to other members of the community, to establish a peacemaking project in response to numerous stabbings of young people from the estate. 

We started slowly, spending a year listening to the community and building relationships. We hired Josh, our youth worker, to be a consistent and positive presence. Youth projects have been short lived in the past, so we wanted to focus on building trust with young people. 

We began building that trust through detached youth work. We met young people in their own space – on street corners, hanging on the football pitch. We played a LOT of football. We began working with St John’s Primary and the Evelyn Grace Academy, running mentoring sessions and lunch clubs. We ate meals with neighbours every week.

Today, CHIPS are a real part of the community. We live on the estate and are involved in a multitude of positive initiatives. Our strategy is to work in the following ways:

Cross-estate youth work
To implement our belief in taking both sides we work across estates where groups of young people are in active conflict. We live in and integrate with these different areas, delivering youth and community work that spans the divide. We find opportunities and activities that enable young people to do practical things together, to build relationships. We’re at the start of this process and making this happen will be one of the hardest parts of our work in Brixton.

Improving mental health through co-production
Mental health challenges are prevalent for young people growing up in our communities, particularly in those who have been victims or perpetrators of youth violence. Our youth and community work uses methods enabling improvement in mental health for all. We have been trained in the Integrate model of using co-production and Streetherapy, and implement these methods wherever possible in our activities. Enabling this emotional well-being by helping young people, families and communities to process the traumas they have experienced in conflict is a fundamental part of reconciliation.

Focusing on prevention
We work with young people of late primary and secondary school age who are at risk of involvement in, or are on the fringes of, gangs and youth violence. We work with the families and communities surrounding these young people, establishing an environment where opportunities are available and positive life choices are possible and encouraged.

Working in partnership, building relationships
We work in partnership with local organisations, institutions and individuals, utilising our joint networks of relationships and varied skills and experience to maximise positive and sustainable impact for the whole community. We recognise that God is already working within the community, so we want to join and work with all those already seeking peace.

CHIPS runs a number of specific activities integrating these overall methods:

  • Detached youth work
  • Schools work, involving
    • tailored sessions for young people at risk of exclusion
    • peer group and one-to-one mentoring
    • sessions in the PRU with young people who have been excluded from mainstream schools
  • Mobile youth club with XLP
  • Community meals
  • Trips off the estate
  • Stay, Play and Pray
  • Girls’ group
  • Music studio sessions
  • Community Organising as members of London Citizens
  • Tailored casework support for individuals and families