Dez Brown is the CEO and Founder of Spark2Life.
Dez founded and has pioneered the Spark2Life project since 2006 while leading a large inner-city youth ministry with 80+ in attendance. Dez enjoys building teams and developing leaders, in 2012 as both projects were demanding he handed over the vibrant youth programme to a person who came through it.
Dez is a reformed offender is married with four adult children; he has an autobiography – ‘Convicted or Condemned’. He’s an ordained minister, qualified therapist and a cultural architect. Dez has been going into prisons for over 20 years and now offers training, coaching and consultation to the sector.
Jamela has been working with young people for 22 years. She became a Maths teacher in 2000 and progressed onto becoming a Deputy Head Teacher of a north London Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in 2012. She is committed to advocating for, supporting and investing in young people who are marginalised because they are considered disaffected and hard to reach.
She strongly believes that no young person should be disregarded, and all are worthy of our best care.
Jamela is the Spark2Life manager who under the direction of the CEO provides strategic oversight of the implementation of policies and procedures across the life of the organisation. She also oversees the contracts in a number of east London boroughs.
Arnold was born and raised in East London based in Waltham Forest. It is at the age of 17 that Arnold decided to separate himself from the negative influences so that he might inspire those with a similar background to his.
Arnold is a Senior Coordinator and oversees the Schools and Community Department in Spark2Life. Through schools, young people are positively impacted by the specialised support. The aim is to foster resilience and promote personal growth. With the Community work, the aim is to empower young people and Parents/Carers with knowledge, skills, and provide emotional support.
Arnold is passionate about people and he is committed to helping people both realise their potential and then release that potential in a positive way showing that people can challenge the negative stigma associated with them.
John was born and raised in South London, growing up in an area heavily influenced by crime and gang culture. At age 14, he fell into a life of crime and was immersed within a gang culture that landed him in prison at 19 years old.
John is now a Senior Co-ordinator overseeing contracts and caseworkers in both South and East London.
He is a positive role model and mentor to the young people that he supports as well as his colleagues. Due to his own lived experience, John is often able to relate to the young people he supports and despite now being in a leadership position, is still dedicated to providing support that will prevent young people making the mistakes as him.
He is passionate about working with young people because he has seen so many dreams killed because of a lack of self-belief.
Byron has been working with young people for over 10 years in both the statutory and charitable sectors. He began his career volunteering in a North London Youth club in Haringey, Tottenham, where during the summer holidays, he would help with the music and sports programmes. This is where Byron first found his interest in this line of work.
Byron would then go on to study Youth work at University and eventually find his place at Spark2Life.
Byron's current role is to manage and oversee the Therapeutic coaching and mentoring service in the Newham Probation’s Y2A HUB, which is delivered by a consortium of organisations who are also our partners: The Safety Box CIC, Wiper's and Exit Foundation. This service is for young adults from 17 ½ years old, transitioning to Probation and for those up to the age of 25 who are already on Probation. He also oversees a contract running in both Lewisham and Redbridge.
Beth was born and raised in East London. Growing up in a family where faith was of paramount importance, she became strong in her values from an early age, however those close to her sadly fell into a criminal lifestyle which led to them spending time in prison.
After completing her degree in Journalism Beth spent time volunteering at other criminal justice charities and writing for social justice magazines. She then worked as a full-time journalist covering Walthamstow which is how she was introduced to Spark2Life. After learning of the amazing work that Spark2Life carry out, Beth came on board to put her multimedia skills to use and she currently works in social media and admin.
Beth is passionate about second chances and more opportunities to empower young people to become the best people they can be and contribute positively to their communities.
Georgina was born and raised in Leytonstone, east London. Being brought up in a single parent household, she experienced a lot of hardship throughout her childhood.
Georgina was exposed to a lot of criminal activity from an incredibly young age and become a mum at the age of 17 which quickly shifted her mindset. She is now able to use her own lived experience to empower young people in a variety of ways.
Starting out as a volunteer for Spark2Life after completing the Wholistic Community Mentoring course, she then went onto become a caseworker and school worker as well as raising awareness through her own life story. as she always had a heart for young people,
Georgina has always had a huge heart for young people and currently works as a Business Development Officer within Spark2Life where she is able to further Spark2Life’s vision of empowering young people.
Alison grew up in East London, based in Barking and Dagenham. In her teenage years, Alison faced a significant amount of trauma which in turn led her down a path of destructive behaviours. It wasn’t until she was in her early 20’s that she had a life altering experience which allowed her to make a change and work through the pain of her past in order to walk into a better future.
For 7 years Alison worked within various different fields within the ambulance service. Through this work she saw many young people who were suffering with mental health issues or using drugs and alcohol to combat the feelings caused by many different negative life experiences. This work spurred Alison on to working with young people in more of a preventative way so as to help them make better choices and so she moved from this field of work into youth work.
Alison is passionate about seeing young people make positive life choices regardless of where they are from or what they have been through.
Bradley was born and raised in Sri Lanka (Colombo) and then travelled to Australia (Melbourne) with his family. The family came to the UK in 2001 when Bradley was 11 and he has lived in East London for the past 18 years. At the age of 12, Bradley got involved with a gang in East London and it was in his 20’s he decided to step back from the lifestyle and started to focus on his education, this change was difficult but through the support of loved ones he was able to start a new life. Bradley realised that his risk-taking behaviour exposed him to exploitation and this impacted on his family and those he loved.
Bradley attended East London University in Stratford and achieved a degree in Social Work. This enabled him to train in Southwark social services during his placement year. During this placement, his eyes were opened to the significant impact gang affiliation had on young people, reflecting on his journey in life and the experiences shared by others made him more determined to focus on working with young people and helping them make the right choices and empowering them to make a change.
“Don’t let the past blackmail your present, to ruin a beautiful future”
Tobi was born and raised in western Nigeria – Lagos to be precise. She was raised in Mushin, a very rough part of Lagos, but by reserved parents who prioritized discipline over anything in life. She lived with her mum and sister before joining her dad in London 2019.
As Christians, Tobi and her family hold service to humanity dearly and she always wants to help people solve their problems in whatever way she can.
Tobi is passionate about seeing young people make positive life choices regardless of where they are from or what they have been through. Tobi also gives people the benefit of the doubt, she believes everyone deserves a second chance.
“I am very much excited at the prospect of developing within the role of Office & HR administrator as Spark2Life continues to blossom.”
Richard was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica (the best island in the world).
Prior to working at Spark2Life, Richard worked for Allen Robyn Associates Ltd for over 6 years. He decided to make the transition to S2L because he was aware of the impact S2L has within the BAME community and wanted to a part of the solutions being provided.
Richard currently works as a Financial Director at Spark2Life and has been an asset to the team.
Aaron was born and raised in Islington then moved to Manor park, and now lives in Dagenham.
Aaron has always had a heart to work with people and has always wanted to understand those who can be easily misunderstood. Within his friendship group he has always been the go-to person for people when they are struggling in their lives, or struggling with being pulled into a criminal lifestyle he is, for his friends, the person to give advice and to speak positivity into their lives, without judgement.
Aaron decided to join Spark2Life, as despite his former love of money, he was able to avoid any trouble with the law, he then discovered a purpose for his life that was greater than money.
Spark2Life's aim also resonated with Aaron due to him seeing those around him involved in criminal activity, and feeling that they were cheated by the system which lead to limiting their futures and self worth.
Aaron is currently a Detached Caseworker, where he mentors young people with hopes of opening their eyes to see a different way of living, presenting them with options of a different path, while also advocating for them in spaces where their voices are sometimes not heard.
Aaron was born in east London, Whipps Cross hospital and grew up in the Waltham Forest area.
Before joining Spark2Life, Aaron spent many years trying to figure out his path in life, which lead to being drawn into things of a criminal nature. However, he also worked in hospitality, retail and admin giving him wider experiences of professional environments.
Aaron joined Spark2Life due to his passion for people, especially those from similar backgrounds who may have faced similar challenges to him.
Aaron is currently a Caseworker at Spark2Life where he mentors and advocates for young people from 13-25, he says he has enjoyed learning and developing as a caseworker which has in turn helped to develop himself.
Aaron said: "Spark2Life really have a great culture within the organisation which we look to spread to the people we work with. I believe no one is born bad and every one deserves a fair chance to prosper and enjoy life as it should be."
Daron grew up in Peckham and was involved in the gang culture within the area and subsequently, the criminal justice system.
Daron has always wanted to work with like minded people who share the mission of helping young people who are facing similar problems to himself and others with lived experience.
Although this was Daron's main reason for joining Spark2life, he has been working within the youth work field for years and has run his own workshops with young carers.
Daron's role within Spark2Life is a Caseworker in the Lewisham area, which he finds to be a highly rewarding role.
Éva was born and raised in Hungary and moved to England at the age of 18.
She is passionate about helping people and takes an active role in her community. Many of the local projects she has taken part in involve supporting those suffering from addictions. She also loves working with young people and children.
Éva is now the Community Coordinator in Buckinghamshire for Spark2Life where part of her role is to recruit mentors to support young people transitioning into secondary schools.
She said: '“It takes a village to raise a child” as the saying goes, I believe that it is a real gift to have positive role models in children’s lives and try my best to encourage it."
Ezarick was born and raised in South East London. Ezarick worked in a special needs school for several years in a range of roles, including learning mentor, behavioural support and working as a teaching assistant.
Ezarick grew up in a single parent home with his mother and 3 older brothers, the absence of an older male role model impacted his life more than he realised. As he grew up in his teenage years the issues and challenges he had not dealt with were highlighted. As a result of this Ezarick has always wanted to give what he didn’t get in efforts to help youth and young men make the right choices and become everything that society says they can’t.
Ezarick has over 10 years’ experience working in youth ministry and is an ordained minister and is currently a Youth Pastor at his church.
One of Ezarick’s goals is raise up the next generation of leaders, that will bring change to the world.
Gavin was born and raised in South East London. He lived on an estate with his family until his dad passed away when he was 7-years-old causing him to live with his 16-year-old sister and 13-year-old brother.
Whilst growing up, Gavin was exposed to various crimes, he witnessed shootings, stabbings and many other crimes within his area.
Although Gavin had friends who were caught up in criminal activity, he realised he had a choice to make, so he slowly distanced himself from the negative influences of his friends.
Gavin joined Spark2Life because he understands the importance of having somebody fighting for you, in your corner. He aims to be relatable when impacting others as he believes everybody deserves another chance.
As a child, Ishia lived in Berkshire where home life was rather chaotic. With family members facing addiction and involvement in criminal activity, she witnessed first-hand the destruction that came with the territory.
At the age of 9 her older brother was sent to HMP/YOI Feltham and her mum was incarcerated. Consequently, Ishia had to move schools and started a new life with her dad, in Buckinghamshire.
Ishia felt a deep desire to help young people who were caught up in the criminal justice system and to understand the reasons for their offending behaviour. This led to a mentoring role in a young offender’s institution and support work for families in the community.
As a Spark2Life Family Support Worker, Ishia helps families across Buckinghamshire with transitional support from primary school into secondary school.
Jared was born in Hackney where he lived with his family till the age of 5, they then moved to Leyton where he has lived with his family ever since. As Jared got older, he started to notice that the negativity within his environment was affecting his decision making.
In 2020, things changed for Jared as he was offered a role at the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) he used to attend - this is where he began his career working with young people. Jared then moved onto work at Norlington School for Boys where he was a School Mentor for 2 years.
Jared currently works as a Caseworker within the Waltham Forest area, he said "My favourite thing about my role is getting to work with young people - it's refreshing."
Kerrie was born and raised in South London in the heart of Brixton, where gang culture and financial hardship was common place.
Kerrie worked in Early Years and Education for 18 years before changing her career to work with young people, after the life changing experience of her 17-year-old godson being stabbed to death. As a result, Kerrie dug deep into her passion of oil painting and writing poetry, to try and express her feelings of grief in a positive way. Kerrie’s experience also gave her more empathy towards young people, especially those who have been affected by the impact of gun and knife crime.
Kerrie is passionate about seeing young people thrive despite the situations they may find themselves in.
Nathan was born and raised in East London. At a young age, he believed the only way through life was to commit crime. He decided to lead a lifestyle of illegal activities as he thought he would be able to choose his own hours & be his own boss – ‘getting fast money!’ Unfortunately, this cost him his freedom.
Serving time in prison not only gave him time to reflect on his past but also a chance to explore his passion for wanting to be active in his community in helping young people avoid the lifestyle he had chosen.
Having received support from Spark2Life himself, Nathan felt as if he had been given an opportunity to show his potential and he wanted to fully engage with young people to actively help them change their perception and views of life.
Nathan uses his past experiences and knowledge to educate and encourage the youth of today to explore opportunities within education and employment.
Niall was born and raised in East London, he grew up on an estate where from a young age he was exposed to a lot which began to shape his mindset. From his early teen years, knife crime was very prevalent and a lot of people Niall knew became victims of knife crime.
There were times when Niall himself doubted making it past his teenage years, but the more he saw, the more he reflected and realised what he did not want for his life.
Niall started voluntary football coaching and then through working across different fields found his place contributing to the development and growth of those around him who lacked understanding.
“What I enjoy most about Spark2Life is the commitment to being an effective and positive influence across London”
Nikaela has worked with young people for over 10 years and is passionate about supporting their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Nikaela has worked with many vulnerable and at-risk young people and she is committed to transforming the opportunities for those who are effected by SEMH (Social Emotional Mental Health) difficulties.
As the Therapeutic Coordinator she manages the Community Mentoring project within Waltham Forest and is developing a counselling service within the organisation which is integral to the trauma-informed approach that Spark2Life has adopted when working with its clients.
Omar was born and raised in South London, growing up during a period where gun crime was prevalent helped to shape his mindset from an early age concerning the value of life.
Omar has lost close friends and family to gun crime. Although Omar grew up in church and he knew right from wrong, it still didn’t curb his desire to be the next “Nino Brown”.
Omar knows a lot of his close escapes were down to his praying mother. Inevitably, Omar was once again arrested, but it was different this time, due to the birth of his son. While being in that cell, Omar vowed that he didn’t want to have his son visit him in prison. Omar then began the slow process of changing his mindset.
Omar currenlty works as a Caseworker in Lewisham.
Raz grew up in Hackney, East London in a single parent household with his mum and two sisters. Being the only man in the home he began to feel pressure to fulfil the role as the man of the house. Unfortunately due to a lack of wisdom and guidance, Raz’s attempts to fulfil this role led him to making some bad decisions resulting in numerous encounters with the law.
It wasn’t until being introduced to a man who indirectly mentored Raz, that he started looking at life from a different perspective which had a big but positive effect on his decision making. Raz began to feel passionate about finding ways to prevent young people from making the same negative choices that he previously had made.
Raz is a qualified football coach and uses his coaching as a way to positively contribute in his community, he is also a mentor for young people. At Spark2Life Raz is employed as a Detached Coordinator and is an asset to the Spark2Life team.
Rickisha (aka Star) joined Spark2Life in the summer of 2021. She began working in a Pupil Referral Unit delivering 1:1 mentoring and group sessions as well as providing additional support for the students. She is now a Project Coordinator for Spark2Life leading on our Stop and Search Advocacy programme and Parent Champions project.
Rickisha was born and raised in Waltham Forest and has always had a heart for young people. She believes in being a voice for the misunderstood and empowering young people to see and be the best versions of themselves, despite their background.
Rickisha has worked with young people (primarily in Waltham Forest) for the last 11 years, so she has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area and with the community.
Wane was born in (without question), the most beautiful island of Jamaica. He is married with three adult children and is currently living in the London Borough of Redbridge. He is a keen gardener and enjoys spending quality time with his family.
He worked for many years in the Railway industry, leading teams and fulfilling many Managerial roles in Health and Safety and Training and Development.
Wane is an ordained Minister with the AOG of Ireland and Great Britain and serves as an Elder and Trustee at Emmanuel Community Church International.
He is passionate about supporting and encouraging families to fulfil their true potential. Family life is under intense pressure and so whilst working with Spark2Life, he is committed to bring his years of experience to the role to make a difference. He is excited to be a part of what Spark2Life is doing, bringing change and transformation to so many lives across the different London Boroughs.