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Lennox Rodgers

Co-Founder & CEO - Refocus Project

I was born in Oxford in 1963 and then taken to St. Vincent in the Caribbean, the country and home of my parents till I was 3 years old. I am the youngest in my family with seven sisters and no brothers. Things were relatively good until I was about six years old and then I saw another side to my family which was very strict and what they called discipline, was actually child abuse, often ending with me getting many beatings with the belt amongst other things and my neighbours calling the police to my rescue. During my early years, I also suffered sexual abuse and rape at the hands of a relative. It was a culture shock living back in the UK. At the time, Oxford to me, seemed like it was a racist society and it had gangs in every area that were commonly referred to as Boot Boys that were mostly skinhead gangs but there were Mods, Rockers and Football Firms too. The remnants of the signs which read; “no blacks, Irish, Indians, (some signs read Paki’s), Chinese and no dogs,” were still blatantly visible on guest house windows and windows of private landlords. The school was difficult because there was seven or eight of us from minority groups and every day a student would stand in the middle of our playground and shout, “blacks against whites.” Teachers would watch from classroom windows as we got battered by an onslaught of racist kids, our only help came from some Irish and Scottish kids who fought on our side. By the time I was 11 years old, I had been to court five times, and I was kicked out of every mainstream school and was subsequently taken into care. I was put into a variety of Children’s homes and juvenile secure units and during this time I was groomed into a gang to be trained as a pimp.

22 Armed robberies and one decision to change:

After my school years, I had two failed attempts at joining the army and then committed an armed robbery to bail my father out of debt. I became a drug dealer and got known as a knifeman because I stabbed lots of people. I was headhunted by a drug-dealing gang to be used as an enforcer and I was introduced to an organised crime gang who were made up of bankers, lawyers, various people in business like jewellers, east end gangsters, people in the police and government. I did a lot of armed robberies for them and planned murder and other dirty jobs including laundering £50k of counterfeit money.

During my reign of crime, I was in and out of prison for a 21-year period and I was in 16 different prisons. My life finally changed and took a turn for the better when I was homeless on the streets of London, having lost everything and my body was shutting down and I was dying. I found myself in a very dark alley, having committed a violent crime, broken and full of hurt, shame, and guilt, I sat between two industrial bins sobbing. It was here in this dark alley that I had an experience of my lifetime. I left that alley and handed myself in at the nearest police station. 

At court, I was meant to receive an automatic life sentence as I was on a strike for knife crime, but my sentence was 3 years. During my time in prison, I rubbed shoulders with some Columbian Cartel and many other shady characters. 

 New life: 

 I was offered a new life in a new home and area with other ex-offenders, and it was during this new start that I met my wife Bali. I was asked by a local youth service called “Choice to Change,” to speak to a local gang about prison. The gang was about 40 strong and they listened to me for two hours and then quite a lot of them decided to leave the gang and change their lives. While talking to them and watching their young faces, I thought, “they could be my kids, how could I stop them from making some of the same mistakes that I made. Refocus Project was started a short time after and it wasn’t long before schools, youth services, YOTS, police and young people themselves and parents, started seeking our services. We were also privileged to be allowed to take young people into prison to get a first-hand experience so they could see where they could end up if they made wrong choices. Fourteen years later we are still doing it but with a lot more training and experience behind us. Having been on the news many times, one day one guy was listening and said he heard my cry for help, and he decided to pay for my book to be written. The book is raising money for the Refocus charity to enable it to continue its valuable work across the board and reflect our increasingly multi-cultural communities. We aim to raise up more fathers and mother role models and people who have been there and done it who want to put something back and make a difference. 

Buy it today from Waterstones copy link below