Former gang member teaches first aid to youngsters in Wapping

Former gang member Fola Odebunmi teaches first aid skills to youngsters at St Paul's Primary School

Former gang member Fola Odebunmi teaches first aid skills to youngsters at St Paul's Primary School in Wapping. - Credit: St John Ambulance - submitted

A former gang member has joined forces with the parents of two murdered teenagers to teach youngsters about the horrors of violent crime while showing them life-saving first aid skills.

Former street thug Fola Odebunmi, who used to arm himself with a samurai sword or baseball bat but has since turned his life around, has been working with pupils at St Paul’s Primary School in Wapping.

The 10 and 11-year-olds were taught basic first aid skills needed to deal with a medical emergency after hearing harrowing accounts from bereaved parents about how senseless street violence destroys lives.

The initiative, which is set to visit other schools across London, is being run by the St John Ambulance, as part of the charity’s Respect, Inspire, Support, and Empower (RISE) project, which works with deprived young people.

It has the backing of Margaret and Barry Mizen, whose son Jimmy was murdered a day after his 16th birthday in Lee Green in 2008, and Grace Idowu whose 14-year-old son David died after being stabbed in Southwark in 2008.

Margaret, Barry, and Grace are taking it in turns to visit schools to talk about the suffering caused by youth violence, while Fola – now a RISE youth development officer - urges the children to shun violence in favour of learning valuable life skills.

Pupils at the school in Wellclose Square learned how to put an unconscious person in the recovery position and the best way to treat severe bleeding in a series of hands-on training sessions.

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St John Ambulance’s social inclusion manager, Ruth Jalloh, said: “Our message at St John Ambulance is that everyone can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

“By reaching these children at such a young age we hope to prevent them from becoming involved in violent crime.

“And by teaching them first aid skills, we’re giving them the ability and confidence to save a life when faced with a serious emergency.”