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Friday, 24 August 2012

'A pastor saved me from gang life, now I want to help others from crime,' says Ideas for London competition winner

Evening Standard

'Positive step': Karl Lokko at the mini hotel on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Pic: Alex Lentati)

‘My peers are still being affected, still going to prison. This has to stop’ - Karl Lokko

Louise Jury

24 August 2012

A former gang member who rejected crime with help from a pioneering pastor wants to create rehabilitation centres for others.
After winning the Evening Standard’s Ideas for London competition, Karl Lokko this week held meetings with police, psychotherapists and youth crime experts.

Mr Lokko, 22, of Brixton, became embroiled in a culture of drugs, weapons and violence when a teenager.

But his drift towards joining his contemporaries in prison was halted by Pastor Mimi Asher, a single mother, who took him and other youths into her home on the Myatts Fields estate.

“She engaged with us, she counselled us, basically she gave us hope,” he said. Instead of lecturing or reprimanding, she offered support from clothes washing to cinema trips. “What she did was not condemn us but love us.”

She kept them away from their old lives — and other gang members — until they had forged new lives.

Mr Lokko now works in the community with organisations such as the Kids Company. He wants to create a therapeutic community which would offer others a haven from the temptations and pressures of gang culture.

He said talks with Lambeth council had faltered. But he had better luck in entering the Ideas for London competition which gives one winner a month the chance to discuss their idea for improving the capital with experts.

A dinner is held in the Room for London, the ship-shaped mini-hotel on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, before the winner gets the chance of a night’s stay.

Mr Lokko said it was “smashing” to have met senior representatives from the Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour, the Centre for Social Justice and the Metropolitan Police who offered backing for his idea and mentoring.

“It was a very positive step,” he said, adding: “My peers are still being affected, still going to prison. This has to stop. And if you look at the costs of people in prison, I’m looking out for taxpayers’ interest in trying to find a solution.”

The Ideas for London competition, run with Artangel, is still open for entries.

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