From a world of gang violence to meeting Prince Charles and fighting knife crime
Fighting knife crime. Gideon (second right) with Prince Charles and Prince Harry
An inspirational story comes our way this week. That of Gideon Osei-Buabeng, a 25 year-old Londoner who, like so many others, fell victim to the gang culture that threatens the streets of our inner cities.
Born into a loving family but in a troubled neighbourhood, Gideon had grown up surrounded by negative influences and three years ago found himself lying on a hospital trolley with 14 stab wounds, literally an inch from death.
Ironically at the point in his life that he was attacked he had made a huge effort to distance himself the bad influences that surrounded him. But a bid to help a cousin in dispute with rivals in the ‘hood’ backfired badly.
Gideon only wanted to help. He intended to offer words, not violence, but was ambushed by a 30 strong gang.
Today Gideon helps the campaign against knife crime, mentors school children and is an Ubunto Ambassador for the Tutu Foundation UK .
He has spoken at the House of Lords, has met Princes Charles and Harry and has been appointed an Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.
I’ll let him tell his remarkable story in his own words.
Hello…. my name is Gideon Osei-Buabeng.
I have an untold story I would like to share with you. This is in the hope I can make others think about the importance of influence and the fact that people become what they are influenced by.
A little potted history, I was born 1993 in London. I never thought I would be in hospital until a much older age than 21. Sadly, this is where my story unfolds...
Yes, I looked death in the face and found myself lying in a hospital bed in 2015 with 14 horrific stab wounds.
I grew up in a loving home and was blessed to have both my parents at home. On the other hand, some of my friends grew up in broken homes. Single parent homes, violence towards their children and domestic violence, drug abusing parents, father in jail, list goes on. Some of my friend’s parents were living off their son’s illegal money. It’s heart breaking reflecting now because most of my friends didn’t stand a chance.
Even in a loving home, nearly perfect home, I was still heavily influenced by the street culture so imagine if I had been living in a broken home? It’s painful and because of this, Matt has been jailed since 15 for murder, John got stabbed on his way back from college, he was an aspiring footballer and Simon went to jail for gun charges and armed robbery. There was no hope for them, no chance whatsoever!
The primary school I went to was in my neighbourhood. I wasn’t the brightest kid, but happy to be learning although I didn’t find school easy.
Regardless, I take pride in the one strength I’ve always had which was being aware of other people’s feelings and coping strategies. This school was also a mixed school full of different races, backgrounds and cultures, so none of us had a racist bone in our body. However, our surroundings and outside influences was allowing us to inherit the street culture bit by bit.
Let us fast forward a bit, I’m now 12 and I’m in year seven in secondary school. I went to the Archbishop Lanfranc High School, which was in Croydon. It was a whole different ball game now. I’m in school with 16-year olds and I’m being exposed to everything they’re doing and because of the influences I have already been fed in primary school and in my environment, I’m now looking for the same people to mix with.
As the years go on, the wrong influences become stronger and stronger. As the influences became stronger it becomes harder to escape. I knew my friend James wanted a way out of this but at the same time he knew if he left us, we wouldn’t speak to him again. Nobody wants to feel left out. Nobody wants to lose their friends even if it means you now must do things you may know are morally wrong. We started to form gangs, started staying out late and lying to our parents, saying we had sports after school when often we didn’t. Started low-level crime on the streets, having fights, smoking and selling weed.
We were being mischievous on the streets for example playing knock down ginger, throwing eggs at people, banging on people’s doors and running. Naturally, as time went on we got worse. We started throwing stones and bricks at people’s houses. We found it fun and exciting. Call it an adrenaline rush to feed our egos. I am not condoning this now, but at the time it seemed acceptable. Peer pressure played such a big part in this culture and still does today.
Reminiscing, in all of this I always had a heart. I always use to stick up for those who were bullied in school the “weak and vulnerable” Whenever I witnessed bullying or unfair fights, I would make sure I’d put a stop to it. Maybe I thought I was a bit of a vigilante. Just for the record, I never stole from anybody and if I did throw stones at someone’s house or fight it was because they offended us.
During all this disruptive behaviour, me and my friends were performing well at school while keeping up with this mischief. My ex best friend and I at that time were also the fastest in 100m, 200m and relay in our year group in school and the fastest in Croydon from 2005-2010 in 100m, 200m and our relay team. My ex best friend became the third fastest in the U.K when he was 17/18 but ended up in prison a couple years later. All that talent wasted, right?
On a brighter note, we played rugby too and came second in the league in year 11 and one of my friends stuck to it and now plays rugby professionally. Good on him. I wish I could have stuck with sport. Anyway, we began to love what this life brought to us which was the status, respect, street fame, girls and money. We were “hood “celebrities at the tender ages of 15/16 and thought we had it all! Imagine walking down the street and every second someone is saluting you. It was a great feeling having that power and influence. Status, respect, females and money turn grown men crazy so imagine what it did to teenagers from deprived backgrounds.
I’ve never carried a knife because I knew it could kill and I did not want to kill anyone, even if they were my enemies. It felt morally wrong. Some of my friends were in deeper than I was in the gang culture and needed to protect themselves. One ended up using a knife out of being afraid and is now facing life in jail. He was a victim of his circumstances he was born into and is now a killer. Who is to blame?
I remember my mum getting called into school by my headteacher, when I was in year 10. I was 14. They told her that they thought I was gangster. My mum broke down in tears in front of my headteacher. I’ll never forget that day. Something shifted in me. I thought to myself “Gids, is this all worth it?’.
Unlike some of my friends, I had a choice to leave this life. I had a family and people that cared about me at home. Some of my friends didn’t even have two per cent of what I had at home. So, after my year 11 exams I made a conscious decision to drift away from this lifestyle.
I knew If I stayed in this, I’d end up dead or in jail. Simple as. So, when it came to applying for a colleges to go to, I decided to apply for the sixth form because the colleges I was looking for had the same influences I was trying to stay away from. Also, sixth form is stricter, and I thought “yeah only good and smart students go sixth form” because all my street friends applied and went to colleges.
I did three years at sixth form because my GCSE’s were not as good as they could have been. I confess this was due to spending too much time losing my way. I went Harris Academy Merton sixth form. I loved it there because I was growing up, becoming wise and understanding life. I did still have a few minor fights/issues but nothing to write home about. It wasn’t easy making the transition, but I did learn from my mistakes and did start to perform better. I made a conscious effort to branch out with the right people and mix with better influences and environments away from trouble.
In my second/third year of sixth form I started to talk to my younger friends and started advising them about the street culture and the best way to handle situations that they were currently facing. I knew I couldn’t save everyone but could play the role model I never had growing up.
Ifinished sixth form in 2013 and got the grades needed to go onto university. Look at me! Failed my GCSE exams, picked myself up and finally able to make something of myself. To say I was extremely happy is a real understatement. I was now in a good place mentally and emotionally at 18 years old, the past was behind me. I had learnt from all my silly mistakes (a thing of the past) and now I was looking forward to the university experience that everyone talked about.
I enrolled on a Business Management course at a University in the Midlands, although not 100% sure on the course I felt that feltthat, being generic , it would give me wider options in the future. Being away from home, although nerve-racking, did mean I could move away from the social influences. Sadly, I never got to graduate despite having passed my first year without any hurdles, my second year also was proving successful until the day before my first second year exam in April 2015.
I was at home all day revising for my exam on and off the phone to my girlfriend. Things changed when my cousin phoned me saying there was a disagreement with his friends and some other guys and he wanted me to meet him. A lot of people around me ask for my advice on disagreements and on issues so I thought it would be of similar nature, so I met up with him and his friends. Apparently, there was a disagreement with them and then the environment started to become uneasy. Cars started to drive around, about 30 young men (18-25) started running towards us. It was like an ambush that had been planned. With my heart pounding we all ran in different directions. How I wished for my sprinting background to kick back in! I had chosen the wrong path and was blocked in my tracks.
Now stationary as they edged towards me, I felt like I was being chased by a group of cheetahs and I was their prey. Then it all started, I tripped, they pounced and punched with sticks, gym poles, crutches, you name it, they had it. I recall it lasting for about 2 minutes, but it felt like it was never ending. How did I end up in this state?I’d turned up to help, may I add “not with violence” but more as a mediator.
Thank heaven one of the local neighbours screamed “police police”and the guys all ran off after. Too weak to stand, I fell over and was helped by some kind-hearted locals to a bench. In the mist of what happened my body was out of control, I couldn’t slow my heart rate down, like I had run a 100-metre race. Adrenaline was pumping and disguised the true seriousness of the injuries I’d sustained… for the wrong reason. The police on arrival asked me what happened, and I said I was attacked by the large group. At this stage I still didn’t know I had been stabbed being in an emotional state and sore from the attack.
Then Boom! The officer informed me that I have been stabbed multiple times. The first thought that came to my head was when my parents hear about this and how they will feel…. Irrational I know, but was worried as things had been so good and this isn’t something I should have been caught up in.
Suddenly hunched over in pain, the initial rush of energy stopped and all I could feel was pain, especially from my deepest stab wound which was on the right side of my stomach. The ambulance put me on the stretcher and wheeled me into the van. Seriously it was like being part of Casualty and I was involved. Grateful of helpful medics, but soon I was gripped with fear. Was I going to die?
The rest was a bit of a blur.As I dipped in and out of consciousness I asked God “wow is this really the end for me?” It would break everyone’s heart and I do not deserve this, part of University life was to make something of myself and for my family to be proud. I was thinking about everything, also to be forgiven for my mistakes as I wasn’t ready to leave this world behind.
That was the last thing I said.I woke up having had a full body X-rayand that was when they told me that I’d sustained 14 deep stab wounds all over my torso, thighs, bottom, with the deepest wound an inch away from my vital organs. Relief however kicked in when they said I should be fine. I was lucky!
I was still scared though because I’ve heard on many occasions that people are in a stable condition, but they still end up dying. The next couple weeks were filled with all my loved ones coming to visit me as well as extreme pain day in and day out and crazy nightmares for about 5 weeks straight. Seeing my mum, dad and other family members and close friends was what kept me going and of course God. I left hospital after two weeks and a bit and spent all summer going to my local GP and getting my wound dressing changed every day. This also involved learning how to walk again, which was a weird sensation as an adult.
The court case is still on going three years down the line due to complexities which I do not want to speak about. I always believe in looking forward and have my life to be grateful for.
Having left university, I wasn’t intending to go back after this incident and wanted focus on my health and well-being having dodged death.
It took some time to get back on my feet, but I was determined to get back into a normal routine. September 2015, I then went back into retail work with Waitrose, which spearheaded re-thinking my long-term plans.
Truth be told, I was lost and didn’t have any direction on what do. I tried a few things but none of them went to plan. One thing that never left me though that was my urge to help the younger generation. I had former friends that had been stabbed once and didn’t survive. I was the cat with nine livesand wanted to give back.
I told my story to Dr. Habashi, one of my regular customers, she was so moved that inJanuary 2017 she kindly introduced me to the Tutu Foundation and the Ubuntu Youth Project. This is when my “support”journey started. I became an Ubuntu ambassador.
From that day on, I have worked with various youth charities providing a “voice of experience“and supporting others. I was also given the opportunity to speak at The House Of Lords with another project I was involved in which was a fantastic experience.
Currently, I am a volunteer at a youth violence organisation and I’m also a part-time mentor working at primary, secondary school and PRUs, mentoring, advising and helping people in any way, shape or form makes my soul smile.
Dr. Habashi then pointed me towards the Prince’s Trust where I got an e-mentor who showed me how powerful my story is and how much of a service it can be for young people.
Becoming a Prince’s Trust Ambassador, being invited to the Prince’s Trust event, meeting Prince Charles, Prince Harry and the actor Tom Hardy, just to name a few was overwhelming. It all hasn't sunk in yet!
I was amazed that when I spoke with Prince Charles, he was genuinely interested in my experiences and what I had to say. It was like speaking to a friend! We spoke about youth violence and what needed to be done to address it. I was also introduced to Prince Harry.
I am extremely happy I got invited to the Prince’sTrust Youth Violence event because like Prince Charles said “Enough is Enough”! It’s a great feeling to know that Prince Charles and Prince Harry want to help find a solution to the problems young people are facing.