Teenagers and young adults have praised the organisers of a programme set up to address the rising levels of youth violence in Waltham Forest.

Mother-of-one Mahnaz Bhatti enlisted the help of Waltham Forest police officer Jason Hill and several up-and-coming young artists from the borough to launch the SICK project.

At the opening event at Waltham Forest Town Hall on Sunday, November 4, Kemal Sami-Miller hosted a panel of speakers which included reformed gang members to discuss ways to deter youngsters from criminal activity.

“There were a lot of good ideas and suggestions put forward, some more practical than others,” said the 22-year-old performing arts graduate from Highams Park.

“They highlighted the need to speak to students who are at risk of anything that could lead them into gang violence.

“One speaker said there needs to be more inspirational role models going into schools in Waltham Forest for workshops targeting young people.

“The younger there can be intervention, the better. I would say as young as Year 6 would be a good start to prevent them from going down another route.”

Kemal commended organiser Mrs Bhatti for investing her time in the young people of Waltham Forest and taking them under her wing.

“Mahnaz was really brave to do this. She had a lot of courage to do it and she’s done a really good job,” he added.

Mrs Bhatti got tips from a friend who works with former gang members in Chicago when setting up the SICK programme earlier this year.

The life coach who lives in Chingford said: “I am so proud of the young people who have taken part in this event and helped to pull it all together.

“Their energy inspired me, as well as their passion for what they do.

“I really want to thank local community groups and sponsors for their support – Waltham Forest Council, YIAG, WFYA, BCA, Feet On The Streets, Horizon Cafe in Leytonstone, The Bell, The Stow Brothers, MS Action, Leaders Community, Waltham Forest Community bub, Silience, Through Unity and BuzzOnEarth.”

Cllr Sally Littlejohn, Mayor of Waltham Forest, who attended the launch event, praised the speakers on the panel and the singers and musicians who entertained the crowds.

“I was inspired by the positivity, energy, insight and sense of responsibility of the panel, and wowed by the performers. Thank you for organising it, “ she said.