Camilla Yahaya (front left) has worked with For Jimmy since the age of 14 and is now Safe Havens Project Lead
I was 14 when I wrote to Barry and Margaret. I found Jimmy Mizen’s story really sad, it just really got to me. I had only moved to London from Marseille, France in 2008. I didn’t really have friends and couldn’t speak English. When I found out about their Safe Haven project at my school (Prendergast Ladywell Fields in Lewisham), I went to an event with Simon Jones who was then my geography teacher – and now works For Jimmy! It was there that I got to see Barry and Margaret tell Jimmy’s story. It was really inspiring listening to them share their faith and commitment to working with young people, making something good out of their own personal tragedy, Jimmy’s death.
At the event I asked Barry if there was any way that we could help, he said we could continue to work with them on the Safe Havens project. When we got back to school we wanted to figure out the issues affecting young people in the community. A lot of the feedback we got was about the negative perception of young people and how unsafe they felt. Because of this we decided to take part in Safe Havens, so that’s where my journey began.
“I can’t think of anything that I do at the moment that doesn’t relate back to Jimmy and his story.”
At first it was a small group of students, about 10 or 20 of us. We started visiting our local high street, shopkeepers and attending meetings to get our voices heard. By the end of year 11 we had over 200 young people involved. It’s crazy to think about how much has happened since then. We went from 200 young people to getting 10,000 handprints on Jimmy’s Peace Cloth (every handprint represents a pledge for peace). We even shared Jimmy’s story on two trips to America visiting The White House, and took 30 young people to Number 10 to meet David Cameron. I won the Big Society award in 2014 for the relationship that was created in Lewisham between politicians, shopkeepers, local counsellors and young people.
Meeting Barry and Margaret and learning about Safe Havens gave me something to get involved in. It’s where I met all my friends and found my passion for politics. It gave me a route in life. I never thought it would lead me this far. I was just trying to change people’s perspective of young people.
I can’t think of anything that I do at the moment that doesn’t relate back to Jimmy and his story. I’m very excited to be working on Safe Havens as the Project Lead while we take them into Southwark over the next two years. I feel very honoured to be working For Jimmy.