Barber who overcame homelessness launches Pick a Trade Not a Blade


Barber who overcame homelessness launches Pick a Trade Not a Blade

Yasin Hafid is using his standing in the community to link young people with employers (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

A former homeless teenager who turned his life around is creating job opportunities to help young people escape drugs, gangs and knives.

Yasin Hafid says the streets of London are ‘the worst they’ve ever been’, with a tide of gun and knife killings claiming the lives of two close friends.

The barber has founded a scheme named Pick a Trade Not a Blade and has already helped four young people into work since its launch in March 2021.

He knows first-hand the pitfalls ‘on the roads’ of the city, having overcome ADHD, which led him to leave school in Year 10, and experiencing crime and violence on a daily basis.

Despite being kicked out of home and narrowly avoiding prison, he qualified as a barber and set up a London-wide mobile business known on social media as Yazdebarber.

The first success story from his project, set to become a charity within days, is a 21-year-old man whose close friend was fatally stabbed last year.

Yasin told Metro.co.uk of his ‘pride’ in steering young people away from gangs, drugs and fast cash which he believes are fuelling what the Metropolitan Police say is on track to be the worst year of teenage killings in more than a decade.


Yasin Hafin is helping young people turn their lives around with his fledgling enterprise project (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

Yasin Hafid is helping young people turn their lives around with his fledgling enterprise project (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

He said: ‘Right now the streets of London are the worst they’ve ever been. There are individuals out there who have no fear and no respect for life.

‘They look up to gangsters “on the roads” who they see as the way forward.

‘I truly believe a lot of these youngsters are trying to live an American lifestyle in terms of gangs and fighting over areas and postcodes.

‘They are living in complete denial and it’s a mindset we need to change, we need to demote it as a cool way to be and make it cool to pick up a trade, pick up a career and to be successful.’

Yasin left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications and had many scrapes with the law growing up in Barnes, West London, but established his London-wide business with help from a youth worker.

‘I was a hyperactive kid with undiagnosed ADHD and I didn’t make it through school,’ he said.

‘I was just an anti-social kid and I was one arrest away from going to jail.

‘I grew up in an area where there was a lot of racial abuse and I was bullied, so I acted up to fit in.

‘I got kicked out of home after rebelling against my parents’ rules and went through the social housing system.

‘I was dealt some pretty shit cards but I decided to use them to prove the doubters wrong and make a success out of my life.’

The father-of-two suffered the loss of his ‘cousin’ Sofyen Belmouadden when the 15-year-old family friend was stabbed to death during rush hour at Victoria train station in 2010.

Another tragedy came last year when another childhood friend, Archie Beston, 19, was stabbed to death in Kingston, southwest London.


Yasin has used his connections as a barber to get his youth enterprise project off the ground (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

Yasin has used his connections as a barber to get his youth enterprise project off the ground (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

Yasin realised that through his community ties and high-profile standing as a barber he could act as a link man between potential employers and people at risk of taking the wrong path in life.

‘I’m in a neutral position as I’ve seen both sides from people involved in gang culture and individuals who have worked their way out,’ he said.

‘I see it and hear about it on a daily basis and I’ve witnessed people being stabbed. I’m a middle man and I can talk to both sides because they know exactly what my position is and what I stand for.’

Yasin encountered another obstacle in his life when he suffered mental health issues during the lockdowns.

It led to a diagnosis for ADHD after he sought help and, together with inspiration he took from a memorial for Archie, prompted him to set up Pick a Trade along with a crowdfunding appeal to support the project.

Yasin, who now lives in Richmond, originally aimed the project at the hairdressing industry but it has expanded as he forges connections with a wide range of charities, groups and businesses across the country.


Yasin Hafin has reached out via social media to link young job-seekers with the world of work (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

Yasin Hafid has reached out via social media to link young job-seekers with the world of work (Picture: Yasin Hafid/#PickaTradeNotaBlade)

The mentor, who has a strong association to networking group Barberstop UK, trained up his first recruit as a hairdresser but the young man, who was also a friend of Archie’s, has since found employment as a roofer through Pick a Trade.

‘When I was young there were more resources such as youth centres but as the years have gone on they have closed down, Yasin said.

‘Being a barber in the heart of the community I have noticed there are quite a few individuals out there who have legitimate plans and can be given a way out of gangs, drugs and crime by learning a trade.

‘I want to help them put their entrepreneurial skills into that trade and make it their own. It furnishes them with freedom and self-fulfilment and they can earn a very good wage if they work hard.

‘The response we’ve had has been amazing, to place four individuals in jobs since March is beyond anything we could have hoped for.

‘It’s a proud moment to see these young men change their lives for the better, it’s a similar feeling to being a father. We’re driven by passion not money, and to get their messages of thanks saying what a difference we’ve made is payment enough.’

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