Two strong and courageous women, both with inspiring Croydon stories to tell, were featured in the Evening Standard this week, as Tracey Ford, the founder of the JAGS Foundation, an anti-crime charity, and Eliza Rebeiro, the founder of Lives Not Knives, both saw their causes awarded significant funding from the newspaper’s Disposessed Fund.
Ford started JAGS after the death of her son in a shooting at Streatham Ice Rink five years ago. She has turned this experience into an opportunity to help other young people at risk of violent crime, as well as other families affected by youth murder.
The JAGS Foundation has received £18,820 from the newspaper to assist with its work, with Lives Not Knives getting a similar grant.
The last time Tracey Ford saw her son Andre was five years ago when he poked his head round the door, said, “see you later Trace”, and left home to attend a friend’s party at Streatham Ice Rink.
A few hours later, Ms Ford, a financial adviser, got a hysterical call from Andre’s girlfriend. “All I could hear was the word ‘shot’,” she said. Her only son, a Croydon-born boy, had been shot twice by a group of youths and would never see his 18th birthday.
That same year Eliza Rebeiro, a 14-year-old also from Croydon, visited her close friend on life support after he had been stabbed in the neck. He survived, but by 17 Ms Rebeiro had witnessed three stabbings and lost two friends, including Wesley Sterling, an innocent 16-year-old who was knifed at a friend’s birthday.
Ms Ford and Ms Rebeiro both responded to tragedy by starting voluntary grassroots groups in Croydon. Extraordinarily passionate and brave, they are among London’s hidden heroes, helping young people caught up in gangs and founding small organisations that have already made a big difference.
Ms Ford, 49, launched the JAGS Foundation — an acronym forged from her son’s name James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford — to support families of murdered children and to empower teenage girls involved in gang culture.
“My son was killed in front of hundreds of people, yet his killers have never been caught because the witnesses were too afraid to speak up,” she said. “Even Andre’s girlfriend was silenced. That was a big disappointment to me. Our programme helps young women develop the confidence and self-esteem to have their voices heard and to avoid gangs altogether.”
Ms Rebeiro, 18, started Lives Not Knives on her 14th birthday, after she had a T-shirt printed at Camden Market with the slogan and it made a big impact on her friends. Today Lives Not Knives has taken over her life and she deploys 76 volunteers to deliver workshops in 37 schools, with demand for their services growing exponentially.
The Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund has made grants of just under £20,000 each to support the JAGS Foundation and Lives Not Knives. They are two of 66 grants — amounting to £1 million — that we are giving to support community groups tackling poverty across the capital.
- For more on the Standard’s Dispossessed Fund, click here
- The JAGS annual fund-raising ball is to be staged on November 17. To find out more about the Foundation, click here
- For more on Lives Not Knives, click here
- My son was shot dead. Now I help families of murdered children (standard.co.uk)
- Race for life Croydon (calmyourbeans.wordpress.com)
- THE DISPOSSESSED FUND: £1 million more to change Londoners’ lives (standard.co.uk)