Jimmy Mizen’s father shares his hopes for a safer community during an annual walk in his son’s honour

Barry Mizen with participants and volunteers at ‘Walking For Jimmy’. Pic: Deniza Primbet

“After my son was killed, there was a determination in the family of two things: we were not going to be beaten by what happened and something good had to come from it.” Barry Mizen is talking about the passing of his son 11 years ago, and how it changed his family. For him, ensuring that Jimmy’s memory could bring something good was vital.

“We wanted to do something positive,” he says.

This is where Walking for Jimmy comes in. The fundraising walk across 21 bridges in London is on the third weekend of May. Last Saturday the annual event raised over £25,000 last and brought 150 people together.

Jimmy died in 2008, a day after his 16th birthday, at the hands of Jake Fahri, who threw a glass oven dish at him following an altercation at a bakery near the Mizen’s home in Lee Green, Lewisham.

The charity, ‘For Jimmy’, was founded by his family a year after his tragic death. Their main office is currently based in Ladywell Fields.

Both of Jimmy’s parents, Barry and Margaret, are often invited to travel across the world and to visit schools in the UK to share their son’s story. The couple has also done prison visits, where they spoke to convicted murderers “to see a bigger picture in their criminal behaviour”.

Based on those conversations that Barry had with the criminals, he reflected: At the moment, there are some very damaged young people in our society, and I believe a lot of that damage has to do with lived experience. It is what most people are subjected to at a young age.

If a person only ever had a violent upbringing and all he knows is violence, aggression, physical abuse and anger – that’s it. A person is likely to reflect that experience throughout his entire life.

“In the end, the perpetrators are victims too. And again, I’m not making excuses, the person who killed my son is in prison and quite rightly too, but it is our responsibility as a community to see the bigger picture here,” he added.

They were both awarded an MBE by Prince Charles in 2014 for their outstanding charitable contributions.

Through the charity’s Safe Haven program, the Mizen family hopes to inspire a community response in order to reduce violence in Lewisham.

The scheme offers local shops and businesses the chance to identify as a ‘safe haven’ for younger individuals, should they ever feel threatened or unsafe.

The initiative is currently supported by the Home Office, which provides government funding for the cause.

‘For Jimmy’ also receives a part of its revenue from the family’s chain of Good Hope Cafes.

One of the cafes, which is located in Hither Green, was originally used as the charity’s headquarters, but has since been turned into a standalone business that continues to support ‘For Jimmy’.

“We were trying to form the charity so we made half of the cafe the main office and the other half a coffee shop, and the money that the coffee shop made supported our charity,” said Barry. “That was the beginning of it.”

Barry Mizen with Sam Reynolds. Pic: Deniza Primbet

The role of chief executive at ‘For Jimmy’ is filled by Sam Reynolds, a former student at Goldsmiths, University of London. He began as a volunteer at the charity in 2013, when he was completing his Master’s degree in Community Development and Youth Work.

Reynolds shared his admiration for the work of Jimmy’s parents with Eastlondonlines: “It’s inspirational when you consider what the Mizens went through, their own son was killed and yet they can stand up and say ‘What can we do within our own communities’ instead of saying ‘What should the government be doing?’”

“If they can do it, surely the rest of us can join in to improve our community and make it safer,” he added.

Jimmy’s father believes that everyone has a personal responsibility to preserve London’s status as a relatively safe and civilized city.

“There’s always violence. In London, it goes through phases, so if we accept it’s always going to be a part of life, how can we reduce things?” he said.

“It’s about trying to encourage people to be responsible for their own areas.”

Jimmy’s father sends a message to all Eastlondonlines readers: “It’s about community response. If you want a community to be different; if you want to make things better, what are YOU going to do personally? Let’s not criticize or demand things from the police or the government, let’s change society through good messages together!”

“We all want the same – our world to be a safer place to live in because we care. Let’s not lose that.” 

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