David Johnson, Youth Development Worker

Introducing David Johnson, Youth Development Worker

David was born and brought up in Lewisham, London. Although both his parents were born in Jamaica, he has managed to trace within his family a Cuban and Chinese ancestry line.

His parents had a strong work ethic and expected all their children to excel at school. David admits he wasn’t that academic as he was more interested in working with his hands.

By secondary school, he got really good at building computers and loved passing on his skills to the younger pupils at school.

I’m a doer, not a watcher. I’ve never really been into being a spectator at things like sports events.

My passion is music—I sing and rap and I’m heavily involved in the arts. This eventually led me to becoming a sound engineer and I recently started my own company specialising in sound engineering for live concerts.

When David was 17, his family moved out of the city and started a new life in Basildon. His family loved their new surroundings, but, for David, this is when it went all downhill for him.

He found it hard to re-adjust; he became lonely and felt isolated. Just one year later, a chance encounter with an old school friend on the streets of Basildon ruined everything he had worked so hard for.

Within a very short time of meeting what he thought was a trusted old friend, he was being followed around by a gang of young men. His friend was hanging out with and introducing him to some very dangerous people.

It wasn’t long before they threatened him with an ultimatum—sell drugs or get stabbed.

The gang also started harassing his sister and family.

Fast forward four months and David was under arrest for supplying drugs.

It was actually quite a relief. I got eight months and I put my head down.

Of course, I lost all the job offers I was hoping to apply for. I decided then that I was going to learn from this experience. I soon saw that once you’ve been arrested and served a sentence, people are really quick to judge—but anybody can make a mistake.

My first job after getting out was as a car mechanic, but it took me three long years to get my first proper job. That was as a youth worker.

The people that hired me gave me a second chance and took a bet on me. Since then I’ve had lots of great opportunities. I never gave up and I’ve got a great support system around me. It’s kept me grounded.

When I met Nathan at LifeLine, everything clicked. Nathan cares about the future of young people and LifeLine is based on love and care. They’ve helped so many people.

In the future, I’d love to start an organisation to support young people and be really honest with them.

You know, intellectual fighting is a lot better than street fighting.

How did you get involved with LifeLine?

I ran into [LifeLine Projects CEO] Nathan at a youth violence forum in Thurrock and that is where the journey began. I’m now a youth development worker with the SW!TCH team.

What do you like most about your job?

Just being able to see a young person grow and mature. Being able to take them from a place where they had no hope and giving them the strength to fight on.

How has LifeLine helped you with your career?

Being part of LifeLine has allowed me to reach out to more young people than I could alone, as well as build a range of healthy relationships with the various partners we work with.

What do you like most about LifeLine?

I like the great feeling of family and community that you get working here. I’ve made some lifelong friends and been given some amazing opportunities.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My alarm! 😄

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These articles may contain testimonials by LifeLine staff members and service users of our programmes and/or services. These testimonials reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of such staff members/ service users. However, the experiences are personal to those staff members/ service users and may not necessarily be representative of all staff members/ service users of our programmes and/or services. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all staff members/ service users will have the same experiences. Individual results may vary.

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