Tomorrow's People - Chris // / by sophie green

“I became involved in a gang as a form of protection in the early 90’s. We didn’t call ourselves a gang but rather a group that would stick together when roaming outside of our community because of the racial attacks we faced from our white counterparts. This unity quickly turned to organisation by our early teens and with no hope of employment by what we saw as a racist, predominantly white work force, we turned to crime in order to generate money. Older peers exploited our naivety and so my life of crime escalated and opened doors to mass drug and violence problems.

I believe that people are drawn to gang life most commonly to have a sense of family, or a need for money and a desire for protection. Other reasons can involve fear, peer pressure, poverty, a family history tradition or just excitement. I believe in the main it’s down to a lack of identity and love, mostly caused by absent fathers.

If I had a chance I would tell my younger self – ‘There is a better life out there for you’. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to exit ‘gang life’ as I had children and wanted to be a role model in their life. I also saw the younger generation becoming worse than we ever were at their age and I decided to use my negative experiences to help others avoid making the same mistakes. I’ve successfully turned my life around and hope I can serve as an example to others to do the same.

Today I am part of a team of 12 people that work for a company called ‘The Bristol Life Centre’. Bristol Life Centre is open to 16-24 year olds, based in Bristol. We aim to help young people who have had an disadvantaged upbringing, including those who’ve been to prison, who are in trouble with the police, excluded from school or who are NEET. My main role is as a mentor and motivator, helping the young people we work to see that there is another way of life they can choose. We enable them to make better life choices and break away from their current negative choices. We help the young people understand their own potential and that there is another way of life they can choose.

We inform young people of the career and education opportunities available and support them to progress and fulfil their aspirations. We also enable them to explore particular aspects of their life through project-based activity such as photography, film and music. We hope in the next 2yrs to have our own office building and to secure more funding to enable us to do more work out on the streets, in homes, prisons, schools and around the community.

Tomorrow’s People have been a pillar of support, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Tomorrow’s People helped me to set and achieve realistic goals. They helped me with my finances and budgeting strategies, as well as offering a listening ear when things didn’t go as planned. I would recommend to anyone who has been struggling to find work, no matter from what walk of life, to get in touch with this life-changing organisation.”

 Portrait // Chris, Bristol. 38.

Portrait // Chris, Bristol. 38.

Chris

"I feel so uncomfortable in front of the camera, I've spent my whole life avoiding them. Where I'm from, smiling and shyness is seen as a weakness."