EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE: Temi Mwale
"THERE WILL come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” This quote by author Louis L’Amour perfectly sums up the journey of Temi Mwale.
When her childhood friend Marvin Henry was shot and killed one month before his 18th birthday in 2010, it felt like the end. Instead of spiralling into a path of self-destruction, Mwale made a decision to seek out the positive in the depth of her grief and founded The 4Front Project, formerly Get Outta The Gang, a social enterprise that aims to reduce serious youth violence by empowering young people and putting them at the forefront.
ON A MISSION: Temi Mwale
“When Marvin died it felt like losing a brother,” the 21-year-old tells The Voice.
“We grew up next door to each other, so his death hit me hard. He was so happy and positive. I knew I had to make sure his legacy lived on and that his name was immortalised.”
The community organisation, which is staffed by Mwale and a handful of helpers, including her supportive mother and family, works with vulnerable young people who have been involved in violence or are at risk of becoming involved.
Young people are given help with personal development, training and jobs and can take part in a range of workshops, which she now takes into primary and secondary schools.
Her work with The 4Front Project has also landed the young entrepreneur with numerous awards, including being named London’s Young Person of the Year.
However, her most notable accolade to date came just a matter of weeks ago, when she was named in the prestigious Forbes Europe’s 30 Under 30 list. The annual list features 300 young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders across Europe who are under 30 years of age and are transforming business, technology, finance, media, culture and more. While Mwale admits that she was overwhelmed by the publication’s acknowledgement of “little old me”, she stressed that accolades are not the driving force behind what she does.
TEAM WORK: Members of The 4front Project
“I don’t ever seek to be named as an individual. If it’s going to provide a platform for me to be able to showcase the work that we’re doing and really highlight the grass root voices and what’s really happening on the street, then I’m always welcoming platforms that enable me to do that,” she said.
“The fact that in 21st century Britain young people don’t make it to the age of 18, or in my Marvin’s case, is killed a month before he turns 18, we have to show these young people there is another way.
“This accolade comes in the most tragic of circumstances, but I thought, ‘wow, because of this, I can shine a light on my area’.”
Mwale grew up on the Grahame Park Estate in Colindale, north west London. By her own admission, she saw “the drugs trade from a very young age, needles in alleyways and watched my boys go to jail for non-violent drug offences”.
She says this destructive cycle in many deprived areas around London makes it difficult to succeed or even think about success.
“You’re thinking about survival and you’re thinking about having your basic needs met. It’s so difficult to think outside the box when these estates put you in such a tight one. This is the backdrop.”
FOCUSED: Temi Mwale
Mwale, who is a final year law undergraduate at the London School of Economics, has always excelled academically but realised early on that education wasn’t a path easily accessible to her peers and friends.
“There’s not a path for them other than the illicit drug market and other illicit routes for financial gain and success,” she said.
She has therefore made it her “personal mission” to teach and empower them through her own education.
For now, Mwale has decided to forgo her childhood dreams of becoming a corporate lawyer and instead vowed to use her degree to help make law more accessible to young people and provide them with “legal empowerment”.
“My degree will give me the platform to [become a corporate lawyer] if I want to in the future, but I’m about to make bigger changes than I could ever make within the legal system. It’s about more than me.”
Her ultimate goal, however, is for The 4Front Project to cease to exist.
“I don’t want to do this job forever. If I’ve done my job properly, there won’t be a need for what I’m doing in the future.”
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