OBV Profile: Gavin Jacobs

Two years ago, Pastor Jacobs, 50, founded the Youth Alliance. The organisation's principal aim gives young people a voice, makes them aware of their culture and empowers them to become community champions. This is achieved through various personal development programmes and outreach work, enabling them to realise their potential.

He says: "The idea for the Youth Alliance came about during my prison ministry work with juveniles. I decided that it was important to start remoulding youngsters' minds in prison and even more so before they get to that stage to enable them to empower themselves more positively."

Currently Pastor Jacobs is also working on a number of other projects. He plans to hold a Reformed Gang Leaders Conference in July and in the same month he wants to launch 'What's Under the Hood?' a programme where gang leaders educate young people about gun crime and gangs.

Gang warfare was a growing concern for him in his community in Cape Flats, South Africa. He says that gang culture became a real problem as the number of fire arms increased. As a result he started an operation in the neighbourhood called People Against Gangsters and Drugs. Despite the operation's stark warnings and ultimatums to local gangs, within a space of three months 46 of the areas notorious gangsters died in a hail of bullets.

Pastor Jacobs grew up in Cape Town as one of six children. It was at a time in the early 60s when apartheid was heightened by segregation laws and racial conflict.

He says: "We were among the first people to feel the raft of that segregation. Our houses were bulldozed in the early hours of the morning. I think I was about eight or nine years old. I'm 50 now and I can still hear the sounds of the rumbling of houses coming down."

His family were sent out to Cape Flats, an area notorious for poverty and which in former years was used as a dump site for councils. He lived with his grandparents in the same area while his siblings lived with his parents.

Growing up with his grandfather was a completely different experience to how his siblings grew up. He was influenced by his grandfather working in the military whereas his parents and siblings were influenced by the African National Congress (ANC) which they later joined.

He says: "My grandfather became my role model because no matter what the government told him about the colour of his skin he stayed true to himself."

Pastor Jacobs followed his grandfather's footsteps and spent 18 years in the military, a time he reflects on, he says: "I came from being oppressed to being the oppressor of my own people. While I was serving my country on the borders to protect white people, my sister was in prison for serving the ANC. So that had a great affect on me."

The release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 was one of Jacobs' most prominent political memories. He says: "It is my most pinnacle memory. Watching how he forgave and expressed his love with a handshake to the guards was unbelievable to witness. Seeing his release was a great highlight in my life."

The married father-of-three came to England in 1999. Settling in England he completed a Theology degree at Liverpool University and later in 2004 was sworn in as a Pastor in a Pentecostal Church in Islington, which has now moved to Tottenham.

Today much of Pastor Jacobs outreach work involves going to schools and talking to young people about issues such as gang culture and racism. He says: "When I go to schools the question I ask youngsters is what do they understand about racism and how does that affect them."

During the apartheid in South Africa he recalls that out of 38 beaches one was for Black and coloureds whereas the rest of the beaches were solely for whites.

Jacobs has a lot of hopes for the future he says that he wants to generate enough funding to take young people out of their struggles and for them to succeed. He adds: "I want to see more Black faces in business and law - they should reap the benefits of their forefathers and become leaders in this country."