SUPPORT: James Gregory is determined to help fathers build good relationships with their children
IT’S AN experience that no parent ever wants to go through. When I found out that my 16-year-old son Giuseppe had been killed in a gun attack in Manchester, it felt like my world had been torn apart.
He was not the intended target. He was an innocent victim who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a father, his death was extremely hard for me to bear. But it was also tough for the rest of the family, his friends and the local community in Manchester where he grew up.
My life changed that day. In the weeks and months that followed, I felt lonely, unable to share my emotions with others who could understand what I was going through.
I was not in my son’s life leading up to his death, and I will always wonder ‘if I had been would things have been different?’
But in the midst of my grief, I also realised that there was very little support in place for fathers who were going through what I was going through.
I resolved that I must do something positive out of all the grief and chaos. If this tragedy could happen to me, it could happen to anybody. If fathers could identify with my experience, then maybe they would listen to me and try to improve their relationships with their children, especially sons.
I started Fathers Against Violence (FAV) in January 2011. I wanted to create a group that supports and empowers fathers so that they can become better role models, and real fathers to their children. I also wanted FAV to have a mentoring aspect. So the group’s members target vulnerable young people as part of an outreach programme. Once we have built a rapport we aim to help inspire the youths, and build on aspirations for their future in a bid to steer them away from negative or anti-social behaviour.
Since I launched FAV, the group has grown at a steady pace. In addition to the weekly fathers’ support group, we have started weekly football coaching sessions for young people so that we can help them stay off the streets and build positive relationships with them.
We also plan to launch a mentoring and outreach programme, named Intersep, and are in the final stages of the basic training necessary to work with young people.
RECOGNISED: Gregory with with his award
Even better, though, are the success stories which show the FAV approach is working. I have been working with a local single parent father who has two children – a nine-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. The boy has joined the football coaching sessions. Since joining, the mentors have noticed a big improvement in his confidence and social skills, as well as his football abilities.
His father is happy that FAV supports his son, and the child understands the reason FAV was set up, which inspires him to stay on the right path and avoid negative behaviour. In fact, he has expressed a keen interest in becoming a mentor himself, and helping other people of his age in the community to achieve and aspire to a brighter future.
However, it has not been an easy journey. Finding the right funding and support has been difficult.
But I’m determined. With perseverance and patience FAV now has a professional legal structure and is operating to a high standard. And last year, the Home Office supported us with funding, which has enabled me to plan and develop the project even further.
My efforts have been recognised in the city where FAV was launched. Last year, I was nominated for an Outstanding Social Behaviour Award from the Peace Week project in Manchester. I won the award for Outstanding Contribution to my community and for campaigning for peace.
Since winning the award things have gone from strength to strength, and I look forward to working with more families who need the support most in the community.
* If you would like more information about Fathers Against Violence, email email@example.com