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Inspire Awards 2013: Helping young people make the right choices

Witnessing the death of a close friend by a gang of boys led to a life-changing decision for Ethan Bernard. He now heads up Vessel Works in Lewisham, south London ...

Ethan grew up in Peckham on the Gloucester Estate which was notorious for gang violence. While he himself wasn’t officially part of a gang, he was involved in some street life activity and felt he was untouchable. 
Everything changed when, at the age of 19, he witnessed the death of a very close friend who was brutally murdered by a gang of boys. Ethan was at his friend’s side as he took his last breaths. It had a huge emotional impact on him.
During this difficult time, Ethan called out to God and said: “Lord if you are real, show me.” When asked by a friend to be a godfather, he went to the church service and heard a message from the pastor which spoke directly to his heart. There and then he gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Knowing Christ changed Ethan's life. Having finally discovered the love of God he wanted to make difference in the community, and inspire other young people to make the right choices in life too. 
He gained experience working in Kids’ Company, which led to him to become a youth worker for JUMP (Jesus Use My Potential) before joining the Christian youth charity XLP. During his time at XLP, Ethan was inspired one day as he read a scripture and felt called to set up Vessel Works.
A volunteer based, non-profit organisation located in Lewisham, Vessel Works was formally launched in 2011 to engage young people through music and media. It aims to mentor, encourage and support these young people on their life journeys. 
Lucy Olofinjana, who nominated Ethan for the award says: “He approached our church, Crofton Park Baptist, to use our junk room for the project and funded the transformation of the room into a production suite himself.”
Today, Vessel Works continues to grow, helping young people to stay positive and making a lasting difference in the community and society. There are 10-15 young people currently attending regularly, but Ethan has supported many more along the way. 
As Ethan’s wife Nadine shares: “Ethan meets with parents who are concerned about their child outside of work hours, receives calls in the early hours from young people who are in trouble and has provided food and a place to stay for young people in difficult situations.”
Many more young people want to join, but at the moment Ethan has to turn them away because there is not enough space in the room.

There's still time for you to nominate your unsung hero for a 2013 Inspire Award – just fill in the form HERE. Closing date for entries is 16 September 2013.


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