Willesden mother on a mission to save youths from a life of crime
PUBLISHED: 11:58 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:55 13 December 2019
When Yevai Sisimayi sees gangs loitering on the opposite side of the street she crosses the road and asks them: “What are you good at?”
The mum-of-two, who lives in Church Road, Willesden, has launched a campaign - SOS (save our sons) to turn around the lives of young gang members she meets.
Concerned about the number of missing children she saw advertised on social media she began approaching young people to find out what they might know.
But it was when her eldest son was mugged at gunpoint by a group of men that she felt motivated to do more.
"After this incident I saw my son carrying a knife, and knew this is where it stems from. He's not safe, he doesn't feel safe, I'm his mum, and I can't save him," she said.
"That's when I started going into areas, to find out what's happening with the children, understand the fear they're being put through to initiate into gangs."
Now 39, her career has been largely centred around child care and social work so what she's doing "feels natural".
"I'm not doing anything else but saving children like my son, who are on the right path, but at the same time there are people on the wrong path who don't want to be there," she said.
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She drives around, asking groups: "what are you good at?"
When they tell her "stealing cars" she tries to turn their mindset to what they could do with their skills.
She has approached Brent Council for help in finding a hub where she can base herself and has applied for funding.
"I want to build something so the youth can come and get help with everything, get them into the fields they want to," she said.
"I tell them that 'no matter how bad you are you're good for something else with that'."
Last month she used her contacts to hold an event in Wembley where a dozen acts performed for free.
Her son, Kemar, 13, has joined her campaign. He said: "I want to make changes in the streets of London. I see the real reasons behind the associated gang members, involved in gang violence, as I speak to them with my mother. I also fall in a bad place as a teenager.
"Its not safe for us here in London especially. I see a better way to turn their negative to positive. This is why I want to push SOS with my mum."
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