Harlesden-born friends set up crowdfunder to open a free mentoring barber shop for children
PUBLISHED: 07:46 17 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:59 19 August 2019
A Harlesden barber has launched a crowdfunding campaign with a friend to expand a mentoring programme to support more young men.
Delroy "Stalie" Latty currently uses his skills in youth care homes where he chats to his young clients and listens to their concerns.
His friend, Chris "Spesh" Smith, who also works with disadvantaged youngsters, suggested he expand his work to any young man needing support.
So earlier this year Stalie set up his charity The Mentor Barber and the pair are hoping to raise £12,000 to open up their own hub and offer hair cutting services and mentoring to young people aged nine to 18.
Setting up a crowdfunding webpage, the duo said they were "movivated to inspire and empower youngsters to achieve at a higher level and to strive to be leaders and not followers". They also want to show how important it is to be critical thinkers when navigating through life.
"We are here to help change a negative mind-set to a positive one".
"I work for a care home and when I was speaking to the children they weren't listening to me," Stalie told this paper.
"But when I brought in my barber's station and sat them down that's when they started listening and I could engage with them a lot better.
"That's when I started to think let me do this and take this to another level."
Stalie started cutting hair when he was 12-years-old and his older sister, training to become a hairdresser, returned home with a kit. "I took a shaver and started butchering people's hair. I knew how I wanted their hair to look and just did it. Then I started getting better and better."
At 15 he received guidance from a person whose hair he was cutting that was to help him much later.
"He asked me to imagine what my business card would say then took me to a printers shop and had them printed out.
He also gave me a mobile phone. He guided me, taught me money management."
Despite this kind of support Stalie "fell in with the wrong crowd", was "kicked out" of Copland Community School (now Ark Academy) and went to what is now Queen's Park Community School.
"Around 14 to 16 I was caught up with a lot of things, I got arrested, that kind of thing."
Later boys who were his friends got stabbed, friends were killed, or sentenced to hefty prison terms.
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"If I hadn't had that guidance to fall back on, who knows where I'd be now."
Both he and Spesh, Harlesden-born, have turned their backs on a life of crime.
They met in 1994 at the Kensal Green Youth Centre, where Stalie mentored Spesh, who is now 40.
"When I first met him I didn't get on with him then found out we had more or less the same things in common," said Spesh, who works with young people in South Kilburn, where he also lives.
"My dad left the country when I was 13. If you don't have a strong male influence at that time it's very easy to go left. I recognise that a lot with most of these kids I meet.
"Children are stabbing each other at every opportunity.
"Parents are not there all the time, they have to go to work.
Some children are from two-parent families, the grass is always greener on the other side isn't it? I was a tearaway myself, I understand all of that.
He added: "When you go to a barber it's the one place where you let things out and seek out guidance from someone older."
The aim is to find a location which they can build into a hub and offer free mentorship programmes to the borough's most vulnerable children.
Stalie added: "We're trying to get a place where I can set up opportunities, a place where kids can get a hair cut, I can learn more about them and put them on programmes."
He hopes to enrol more barbers/mentors and introduce them to projects including photography, IT, engineering and editing.
"A lot of them like to do things that are creative. Anything that can help them start a business if they want to or learn skills that help them go out and get a job.
"We also want to do something for mothers."
Spesh told the Brent & Kilburn Times: "Some parents, particularly young mums who bring their young boys to have their hair cut, can find barber shops intimidating."
To donate go to www.gofundme.com/f/the-mentor-barber