Eighteen-year-old Shafik Ali was born and brought up on the Mozart housing estate in West London. At a young age his father passed away and Shafik’s role models became the drug dealers and gang members running the estate. Before he even entered his teens, Shafik’s only priority was to get enough money day to day - for basic things like food and running errands for the drug pushers and the gangs. It wasn’t long before Shafik began dealing in drugs - the norm in the area - to get the cash he wanted.
As Shafik himself says: “Growing up on my estate I had no role models. I wanted quick money, I wanted the clothes the drug dealers wore, I wanted to drive their cars and I wanted the money they had in their pockets, I wanted cash in my pocket and wanted it quick.”
Shafik made his first court appearance for ‘possession of a class A substance’ when he was just 12 years old and 12 others followed over the next two years.
It was at his 13th appearance in court that he finally realised that this wasn’t the way forward and there had to be another way, so he started to turn his life around. Shafik remembers the moment clearly, “I was electronically tagged and the magistrate told me if I was arrested again I’d be going to a young offenders’ institute.
“The magistrate then made me turn around and look at my mum who was broken. She sat in court sobbing. They say you need to hit the ground hard enough to wake up, I hit the ground really hard that day, I was at rock bottom, but luckily for me, that set my mind towards improving my life and not ending up inside like many people I know.”