A man who set up a youth club after his teenage cousin was stabbed to death is preparing to walk hundreds of miles to raise awareness of gang violence.

Steve Barnabis founded The Soul Project in Walthamstow’s Wood Street to give teenagers and young adults a safe alternative to hanging about street corners and getting into trouble.

The 45-year-old of Woodford Green has become increasingly concerned about escalating levels of violence in Waltham Forest and is now training to take part in the Big Walk and the Big Lunch.

The annual charity event run by the Big Lottery Fund aims to shine a light on initiatives making a real difference in communities across the UK.

Mr Barnabis said: “The therapeutic impact on vulnerable individuals exposed to violent crime transforms lives.”

Growing up in inner city Bristol, Steve benefitted from a youth drama programme which sparked his desire for working with young people.

He went on to work on projects in LA which aim to prevent youths from disadvantaged backgrounds from being sucked into gang activity.

Upon his return to the UK, he qualified as a social worker and became a foster parent.

In 2004 Steve lost his 16-year-old cousin who was stabbed by a 15-year-old boy after he went to the aid of a neighbour being harassed by a gang.

It was this tragedy which propelled Steve into founding the Project and he is looking forward to sharing his ideas with fellow community workers at The Big Walk.

He added: “I have a real interest in projects run by committed people for the benefit of their community and our own project for engaging with young people in positive activities is based on working in partnership.

“Visiting other initiatives will be a chance to share ideas, thoughts and good practice.”

The Soul Project includes a radio station, music studio, editing suite, café, soft play area and event hall.

After 12 years, the club is now looking for a new home after the site in Wood Street was bought by a property developer to turn into luxury flats.

Mr Barnabis is part of one of four groups of walkers who will each cover a different corner of the UK for the charity event, stopping off along the way to visit different community projects.

His 250 mile journey will begin in Morecambe, Lancashire on Wednesday, May 16 and end in Walthamstow on Sunday, June 3.

Last year 9.3 million people took part in 96,000 Big Walk events across the UK.