A centre in Hanover Park is helping gangsters turn their lives around.
The First Community Resource Centre in Hanover Park is a non-profit organisation that was started by Pastor Craven Engel. The organisation also works in other communities like Lavender Hill, Kewtown and Manenberg. The organisation provides counselling for youths involved in gangs or using drugs as well as abused and neglected children.
The centre has created a team of ex-gang members to speak to current gangsters and meditate conflict between gangs that are currently fighting. The team is available 24 hours a day. For example, gangs have a principle called "picking up blood." This means that when a gang member is killed, the remaining gang members will seek revenge. When a gangster is killed, the ex-gang team tries to intervene to stop revenge killings by talking to the surviving gang members and encouraging them to come to the centre and find ways to stop the violence.
The centre has a support group that assists drug addicts. It also trains people, including gangsters, and helps them to find jobs or re-enrol in school which many gangsters have not finished.
Albert Matthews is 26 years old and an ex-gang member. He decided to change his life when he witnessed two of his friends shot dead in front of him. He says that one was shot 14 times. "At the time I was staying in Kensington but my parents moved to Hanover Park. I decided to stay in Kensington because I was a member of the gang but when my friends died I moved to Hanover Park and was introduced to Pastor Engel's centre. When I got to the center I was sent away with the team [of ex-gangsters] for 3 months. I came back and attended the support group and received a bursary to study social work. I completed the course and am currently working at the centre helping youth get off the streets. Gang violence is not the way into our future."
Engel is proud of what the centre has accomplished, "Many youth have got jobs through our programme, are now off the streets and becoming successful. We want to continue with this programme and reach out to many communities to stop violence."