Monique Rebeiro

I was fortunate to have been brought up in a secure, fun-loving, family orientated environment.  My strengths were compassion, wisdom, kindness, generosity and overall humanitarian.  I had the ability to manage money and creativity was my forte. From a very young age the values that were instilled into me by my mother were: enjoy life, be independent and strive for my goals, because there are no barriers and I am in charge of my destination.

Encouraged by my Headmistress at secondary school, I started volunteering from the age of 14.  I regularly visited various mental health institutes and children’s hospitals and helped with various chores. This experience enhanced my knowledge of the outside world and sparked a curiosity to accumulate more worldly knowledge.

This curiosity steered me into an apprenticeship post 16.  It enabled me to earn money whilst studying.  My mum advised me to study for a trade, if I did not want to continue studies in a formal educational environment.  I followed my creative instincts and began an apprenticeship in hairdressing.  At this point my life blew up! The fast paced, ever changing world of the fashion industry.  The vibrancy, the innovation, the 24/7 work mentality and the perfection to intricate detail.  This is where I was taught and able to action, strong, dependable and reliable work ethics.

During my working life, I would make sure I always put monies aside to travel a new country, to further gain knowledge of various lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. I enjoy learning by experience and believe that lived experience is a very valuable tool.

"Entrepreneur" was a new word for me at the age of 19 and I wanted to know more.  I had already qualified as a hairdresser, built a strong client base and purchased a moped.  I was mobile and ready to take on the world.

Money was never my driver. At this time of my life I just wanted to discover other parts of the world.  I have always been a supporter of skill swapping so, scissors in hand, I packed my bags and went to explore.

After a couple of years of soaking up various cultures and swapping many skills, I decided it was time for higher education.  I already knew the fashion world and my mother was keen to start a millinery business.  My hairdressing enabled me to earn and support my children, whilst studying fashion and design.  With my mother as my business partner we slowly but surely founded a millinery business, which proved very successful, both for my ambition to be an entrepreneur, but more so for the opportunity to work and learn from my very inspiring and extremely talented mother.

This chapter of my life was where I was grateful for my mother’s support. We attended evening classes together in bookkeeping, business, marketing and project management. We then developed a five- year business plan and test marketed our product.  Our brand was established, and later exhibited at numerous international fashion expos and we worked with some super talented designers.

Both our manufacturing range and bespoke range proved hugely successful and it opened many great opportunities, both in the business world, fashion world and personal life. I developed many life-long friendships, attended various networks, and was able to support philanthropic opportunities. Mostly, I enjoyed two decades of enjoying life to the fullest.  More importantly my children were part of this life and experienced a happy-go-lucky lifestyle. Ultimately I learnt that if you enjoy your work, then life doesn’t get much better than that.

The year 2007, was a significant year for me. A multitude of personal life experiences led to my life changing direction.  My daughter was unhappy at school, mainly due to the Catholic beliefs of the school being imposed upon her (possibly the first time since I divorced my husband that it had affected either of my children’s lives). I also had a major operation due to a large tumour found on my cervix and I lost my grand-dad to cancer. 

During my time of recuperation, Eliza was being home schooled.  We spent a significant amount of time together and this is the period where she openly spoke about youth crime and specifically knife crime.  I was concerned that she thought that knife crime was considered a normalcy and part of adolescence.  We discussed the issue at large, both as mother and daughter and then with her peers.  At this point I said to her and her friends “What are you going to do about it?”.

Eliza and her friend took the initiative to create a t-shirt with the slogan "LIVES NOT KNIVES". At this point I offered my business skills and a small monetary donation to support Eliza to create a campaign, which developed into a pressure group.  This is when home schooling became less of a chore and more of a life changing experience for both Eliza and I.

Due to the need of Lives Not Knives in the community, LNK grew significantly, as did the work load. I embarked on seeking advice and propelled into the then unknown to me, the world of the third sector. I first established a CIC (Community Interest Company).  This allowed LNK to be a registered not-for-profit business and raise funds for LNK community services.  Eliza and I knew that prevention and an intervention programme for schools would be the best way forward.  This was a time of garnering support, offering a place to convene with significant stakeholders, people in our community that could make a difference, in order to listen, learn and collectively move forward to solve the issue of youth crime and knife crime.

By 2013 I had attained knowledge, acquired skill sets in project management, events management, bid writing, fundraising, evaluation, policy writing, safeguarding, marketing and PR and an overall strategy for LNK.  Armed with a diverse board of community members, I was confident to register Lives Not Knives as a charity with the charity commission in the UK. I was elected CEO and continued that role for four years.

During those four years LNK

  • Created LNK educate – A school intervention programme, which has developed over the years and proved very successful.
  • Created - LNK Back to Work programme, working with the Department of Work and Pensions
  • Created a youth work apprenticeship programme working with various learning providers
  • Continued the school roadshows, which we started in 2008

LNK grew by working closely and with support from

  • The Home Office
  • Local Authority
  • Metropolitan Police
  • Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund
  • Department of Work and Pensions

I also sat on the following boards to share best practice and represent young people affected by youth crime -

  • Youth Crime Reduction Board
  • Helped form the Gang Strategy in the Borough of Croydon 
  • Violent Youth Crime Board - Home Office
  • Youth Violent Crime and Knife Crime -Youth Justice Board
  • I chaired the Board of Governors at Saffron Valley Collegiate
  • Set up and chaired the Safer Neighbourhood Board in Croydon. 

More importantly to me, Eliza, the various LNK team of youth workers over the years and I, have witnessed changing the life chances of numerous young people.  Most of which were born into a life with barriers of multiple socio-economic circumstances, which made them feel that they could not succeed because they felt the odds were stacked up against them. However, by managing their expectations, teaching them to slowly break down those barriers, advising each young person that they can change their lives for the better, by offering them support, guidance, encouragement, reliability and continuity. We have had the pleasure of watching these young people develop and grow, witnessing their growth in confidence and their determination to change their life chances.  This is very powerful and it has not only affecting that young person but, also their families and their wider community.

Presently, I work as a consultant for LNK – I am a bid-writer, policy writer, I oversee the funding strategy and I manage the LNK Educate programme for the Youth Endowment Fund.