Knife murders of young people in London this year are already in double figures. The capital is in the grip of an awful cycle of violence which seems impossible to break.
In 2018 there were 132 murders in London of which 57% were as a result of stabbings. One of those stabbing victims, aged 19, was known to my family and I am acutely aware of the heartbreak and despair each one of these deaths inevitably causes.
So I was immensely heartened recently to meet Jason Allen, who has been carrying out incredible work with the most vulnerable young people in our community, through the St Mary’s Centre at St Mary’s Church, Elsworthy Road. I am very grateful to Jonathan Brandling-Harris, St Mary’s Centre committee member and founder of boutique estate agents the Primrose Collective for introducing me to him. On the absolute frontline of the battle to beat the violence, Jason is every inch a local hero and an unsung one at that.
Jason had an undeniably tough start in life and as a young man was no stranger to the type of crime and violence that impacts the lives of some of the young people he works with. A chance encounter led to his leadership skills being spotted and he was offered an opportunity in youth work at Kings Cross Brunswick, aka KCB; his approach was hugely successful and now he runs the extraordinary youth services offered by St Mary’s Church, Primrose Hill.
Amid the gangs and violence, there is no doubt that Jason saves lives. By being available 24 hours a day, every day of the year; by gaining trust; by genuinely caring about the young people he works with and through having first hand experience of the circumstances faced by those youngsters most at risk in our society, Jason is able to intervene in ways simply not possible for others.
During his time at St Mary’s, Jason has carefully cultivated a team of face-to-face mentors and other helpers, who themselves have previously been supported by the centre. Having once struggled or experienced tough times, they understand the level of support that is needed for young people living in life or death situations, and are crucial to the success of the project.
And it is local kids that Jason and his team are helping. It’s easy to imagine that our neighbourhood is an untroubled oasis, but that is simply not the case. Jason explained to me that these young folk are fragile, traumatised, afraid and in a state of PTSD. Further support would extend Jason’s amazing work and safeguard even more young lives in the future.
So the question is, how can we help?
Firstly, learn more about the work of the St Mary’s Centre by reading this report.
Secondly, donate. The centre carries out all this work on only £68k per year. The Centre’s committee has seen to it that plans are in place to take on another youth worker like Jason but more money is required in order to put them into practice. So, donate here.
And maybe you can give your time. The centre needs volunteers. Find out more about the skills needed here.
Don’t hold back. We can’t allow London to carry on like this; we have to save lives. Jason Allen is carrying out amazing work on the frontline of this desperate situation and if we value our city and our community we have to do all we can to support him.
© 2019 Joanna Reeves, all rights reserved.