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Diana Award for teenage anti-knives campaigner
A teenage tearaway turned anti-knife campaigner has received an award set up in honour of Princess Diana.

Eliza Reberio, a sales assistant from Croydon, was just 14 when she set up Lives Not Knives after seeing a number of friends get stabbed in gang conflicts.

Eliza, now 17, said she was “suddenly faced with a very different side to life” following her expulsion from Coloma Convent girls' school for bad and disruptive behaviour in 2006.

“I saw and heard about friends being stabbed and I thought it was normal,” she said.

“I would get texts saying someone had been stabbed the night before and I wasn't shocked. Then I looked at my friends' little brothers and sisters waking up to those texts and I wanted to change things.”

Lives Not Knives, which began with Eliza's decision to wear a T-shirt bearing the message, sends volunteers into primary and secondary schools to engage with at-risk pupils before they become involved with gangs and anti-social behaviour.

Now the campaign has received a Diana Award, named after the late Princess of Wales, which honours young people “who show compassion and a commitment to improving the lives of others”.

Eliza, who has previously been arrested for assault, said: “We don't work with the police. I have been arrested myself and there is a lot of negative feeling toward the authorities, which is what I want to change.

“But we have to feel like we can do it ourselves. People won't engage if police are there, it undermines their own decision-making.”

Lives Not Knives, which has 20 trained mentors, received £30,000 of funding from Croydon council in July. The council's chief executive Jon Rouse said: “We are immensely proud of Eliza and what she has achieved through the Lives Not Knives campaign.

“She has an extraordinary ability to galvanise young people into action while also influencing decision-makers. Over the last couple of years we have seen reductions in serious youth violence in Croydon and Eliza's work is part of the reason.

“She is both a role model for young people and an ambassador for Croydon.”

Eliza was presented with the award at a ceremony on Friday at Barclays' headquarters in Canary Wharf.

Maggie Turner, chief executive of the Diana Award, said: “It is groups of young people like them, who have the courage to challenge the ongoing cycle of violence, that will create a safer society in which we would all like to live.”

The Diana Award was established in 1999 as a legacy to the Princess who believed that young people have the power to change the world for the better.

Lives Not Knives campaigners have been filmed for a Channel 4 project called Battlefront.

Soure: This is London

20 Dec 2010

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