Each and every African at home and in diaspora has a unique story. Many have been through experiences which can only be described as miracles. Tragedy and strife turned around through faith and perseverance. So in July 2012, BellaNaija embarked on a mission! Our mission was to share OUR Stories and OUR Miracles. The response we received has been overwhelmingly positive and BN Our Stories, Our Miracles is now an ongoing feature on BellaNaija in 2013.
Duro Oye‘s story is truly incredible. Having made choices in life that led him to running with the wrong crowd as a young Nigerian in London, Duro was part of a gang in South East London. As he grew older he realized that it was time to make a change, the life on the street wasn’t going to get him anywhere. The interesting part of the story is what he did with his life after making the swift turn around – 2020 Change Foundation was birthed. We hope you are truly inspired by his story and we encourage everyone to try and be the change they want to see in the world. It truly begins with us.
Who I am
My name is Duro Oye the last born of a family of 6, graduated with a BA in Graphics and advertising from the university of Bedfordshire. When I’m not working I watch films lots and lots of films. I also enjoy eating out when I get the chance I’m a huge fan of fine dining. I would describe my style as “The 1960’s slim-fitted suits, white shirts with pocket squares” If I had a super power, it’d be the ability to be invisible. I’m a little attached to my iPhone and if I was stuck on a remote island I’d like to have the SuperTohan2020 with me. 😉
My Life as Part of a Gang
People say ‘gang’ but when you’re in it you don’t really see it as a gang so describing how I got ‘into it’ is somewhat difficult but here it goes……We started as a group of friends that just chilled together, played games and went to parties. I was never your typical ‘Gang Member’ I was both book and street smart majority of my friends were the same. We all had good upbringing and came from respectable families; the problem was we wanted a lot more than our families could provide for us at the time. We created our own family and started providing for ourselves.
A Turn Around
Coming out of it was challenging because once you’re used to a way of life for so long changing that way of life becomes difficult. I made the decision in 2006 to be a better person. I felt like I had reached the highest point I could living that ‘Gang Life’ looked around and said there has to be more to life, I had everything I dreamt of as a child but I still wasn’t happy/satisfied that joy and peace that comes when you achieve something you’ve always wanted just wasn’t there. I started to feel like I went about things the wrong way so I started again and told myself ‘This time I’ll do it RIGHT’
My Professional Life
I worked for a Christian TV station for about 4 years, this is where my passion for film and all things media grew, I went ahead to enroll at the Met Film School to enhance my knowledge in filmmaking after which I went on to make films, shoot videos. That was where the idea for the documentary came about. I decided to use my filmmaking to make a change.
My Vision & Inspiration
I was going to change the lives of young people by helping them discover their hidden potentials. I got tired of seeing young people waste their lives, chasing after the wrong things and getting caught up in things they have no business in. I decided to do this because I felt -how long are we going to sit around and watch as our youth are killed on the streets, sent to prison or mental institutions?
When I talk about people that inspire me some people look at me like I’m crazy but I’ll be honest with you. David is one of my greatest inspirations, King David from the Bible how he was able to turn 400 men that nobody wanted into some of the greatest men of their time. When I think about 2020 Change and what we do I remember what David did.
It All Began With a Film About 6 Men
With my background in filmmaking, I never thought I would start a foundation helping young people, all I wanted to do was make films. To be honest like I said before I thought just making the film would be enough to show people what life was really like on the streets of south London through the eyes of ex-gang members, I hoped that current gang members would watch it and want to change and that the government would want to help them change. Yeah, I was wrong! It was not enough, I found that gang members did want to change but they felt that nobody was willing to help them. I also found that the government wanted to help them but didn’t know how or where to start.
We spent 18 months making the documentary during that time I got to know the boys and their stories very well. The one thing that stood out was the fact that they felt that they couldn’t be anything other than what they were – until someone told them they could be more. I thought other gang members would watch the film and think the same way but it wasn’t enough to just make the film. So I set up the 2020 Change Foundation to do just that, to deal with the core of the problem the Mind-Set of the individual.
Funding for the Film
Funding for the film…that didn’t come easy because in my mind I had an idea of how much it would cost to make the film, so we started with that. The more we filmed the bigger the project became, the more money we needed, so I asked my brother, my cousin and his friend and another friend of mine if they could help with some funds. I shared the vision of the documentary with them and they were willing to support.
Ups & Downs
One of the major difficulties would have to be the boys themselves, having to work around everyone’s schedule, getting them at locations on time or even to show up at all. It’s funny looking back at it now but it was not a laughing matter back then.
Public Response & Support for The Project
Everyone that has seen the film has had nothing but great things to say about it. It paints a true picture of what the current state of the streets are, giving you an insight into the mind and thought process of a gang member, which is something that is very rare to find.
We have a lot of support for the foundation even from people who have not seen the film they have just heard stories. The film will be released on national television later this year. The film and the results of the foundation we hope will make maximum impact pushing us into 2014! Most people come to us via referrals from their friends, other organisations and our promotional videos too, social networks and etc .Although at the moment we are just London based but the plan is to go national by 2014.
We are completely self-funded. We found that most government funding comes with some kind of string, so we just want to do things our way with our own money then seek government help to expand our operations.
The Rehabilitation Process
We have a 12 month voluntary programme that is split into four parts. Each part lasts for three months, but remains tailored to each individual.
Mentality: The mindset is the most important part of any change, as one will only change their actions once they have altered their thinking. This part starts of as group sessions and workshops, but we try to bring in their individuality into it.
Education: Within three months, we look at what level they reached and if they wish to complete their qualifications, we help them.
Training: Whether it be apprenticeships, work experience, or pairing them up with someone who has a business in a particular field, we assist them to find appropriate connections.
Mentoring: The last crucial stage is where we get a mentor to give them that step by step guidance to help them achieve their goals.
I have an effective team of 6 people with different focus areas; we have our facilitators and junior facilitators they are in charge of delivering the sessions. We have the media team who take care of all our media needs from videos to designs and photography, we also have a marketing team they come up with the most creative ways for us to get gang members attentions and lastly myself and the programme manager who manages the day to day running of the foundation.
A typical day starts at 5:30am I am up and out the house by 6:00am for my morning walk/quiet time session which always ends at Caffe Nero, depending what day of the week ill go to the gym then back home to get dressed and head to the office.
The working day usually starts between 9-10am; I respond to emails, make calls and work on session plans for that week. I aim to wrap up everything I’m doing and leave the office by 6pm but that hardly ever happens.
By the time I get home I have enough time to eat, catch up on the events of the day then sleep. (Quiet Life)
What Drives Me
My passion for change is the driving force that keeps me going, I am proof that change is possible, not saying that I am where I want to be; but I am most certainly on my way and I am willing to help as many people as I can on my journey. For me making the transition was difficult because nobody around me knew or could relate to what I was going through. Now, with the foundation we a number of people who have been there and have turned their lives around making it easier to help others do the same.
Staying Off the Streets
We can’t ensure that people stay off the streets because that still boils down to the individual. Our programme is a voluntary one and we expect 70% commitment to change from the individual and the other 30% would come from us. It’s a year long programme where we give you options show you different exit routes from the streets, our job is to help the individual map out he’s own exit route and help him stay on course.
Challenges and Plans for the Future
Challenging situations come up all the time especially when dealing with people. When new members sign up to our programme it is always difficult to get them to engage, commit to the programme and attend sessions. We just never give up. Not on anyone we keep our end goal in mind seeing that individual changed and become self-sufficient.
In 10 years we will be international, gang/street culture is an international problem, youth unemployment is still on the rise all over the world. Although we started the foundation here in the UK our vision is global, if we can tackle the problem here we can tackle it in any country. My goal for the foundation is to help young people who have been affected by gang/street culture make that transition from ‘Streets2Life’ enabling them to become upstanding members of society.