'Penpals' to smash postcode rivalries: Charlie Burns 'would have been proud of his mum' for anti-knife plan
PUBLISHED: 10:55 25 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:00 25 December 2015
The mother and aunt of stabbing victim Charlie Burns are on a mission to smash knife crime - by linking up youngsters in rival gang areas as "postcode penpals".
Keeley Burns and Rebecca Luisis have created the Charlie Burns Foundation in memory of the 19-year-old trainee plumber who was stabbed four times in his chest and back in the street last year by a 17-year old – who cannot be named for legal reasons – in a row over £150 debt.
Since his death, 19 more teenagers have been killed by knives in London.
The idea behind the not-for-profit organisation is to “show children the right way to go”. Ms Luisis said: “This is in Charlie’s memory, it’s something that keeping the family going, we feel like we are with him every day as we are doing stuff in his name.
“We want to stop this silliness going on, I know it’s a long job but we have got to try, we don’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through as a family.
“It doesn’t end, Christmas is coming and we have got to face it, getting through that day is going to be agonising, for his mum and dad, and his brother and girlfriend, and us as a family.”
Ms Luisis, who gave up her job as a teaching assistant to set up the foundation, continued: “Charlie would have been really proud of the Foundation, and especially of his mum.
“Keeley is usually very shy, but she has given speeches – she knows how important this is to her and her son’s memory. It is really helping her.”
The Postcode Penpals project is already underway, linking up pupils from Charlie’s old primary St John of Jerusalem in Well Street with others from London Fields Primary.
The three-year project sees the youngsters writing letters to each other in the first year, progressing onto meeting each other, and going on school trips together.
The plan is to roll it out into more schools in the future. Meanwhile the Postcode Parents project is taking place in Kingshold Community Hall every Friday.
Parents can get together to discuss concerns and show children how they can all get along.
Ms Luisis said: “We are trying to build positive relationships. We want children to get to know each other from a young age, and for their parents to get to know each other too, so there is less chance of them hurting each other when they are older.
“We are trying to give them some morals and make the youngsters into future role models.”
The pair have also started up a fund for underprivileged children at St John of Jerusalem school.
“If the school notices the child needs a pair of shoes, we will pay for it,” she said.
“Charlie was a very giving person, if all the boys were going out to eat he would take them and pay, he didn’t like anyone being left out. That’s something that Charlie would have really appreciated, and once we start getting money in from the charity we can do that on a bigger scale.”
Postcode Parents takes place on January 8 from 10am to noon.