Eliza grew up in a tight family unit, but like many teenagers, her friendship circle was hugely influential. When a friend was stabbed in front of her at age 14, Eliza responded by printing a t-shirt with the words ”Lives Not Knives”. Momentum grew and the Lives Not Knives movement has become a nonprofit organization, which works with over 10,000 school students per year, teaching them about knife and gang culture, in the hopes of preventing violence.
Read Eliza's story below.
Young But Mighty Bracelet
Eliza’s bracelet is an embodiment of the chance she took at a young age to set up a charity – a freedom to choose that few 14 year olds experience.
In the centre of it all is a nod to her family with the Lover’s Bond link. The silver Hummingbird and Risk It links stand out against the bronze foundation of the bracelet, while a Black Rubber X link adds an edge.
YOUNG BUT MIGHTY
Eliza Rebeiro is in the enviable position of being able to call her mum and grandma her best friends. As a child they would travel abroad together, along with her brother, spending six weeks at a time in destinations like China and India because her grandma felt it important that the children experience poverty first hand.
In spite of this grounded upbringing, Eliza was asked to leave her all-girls school at age 13. It was a turning point, one that would lead her to founding a social movement at just 14 years old. As Eliza describes it, “that [being expelled] put me in a completely different environment and I made friends with people maybe I wouldn’t usually hang around with... these people were amazing, they just led a completely different lifestyle.”
The most glaring lifestyle difference; some of Eliza’s new friends felt they had to carry weapons to protect themselves. Eliza does not judge or berate their decision, noting that many who carried had been victims of similar crimes themselves.
At that time it was not uncommon for Eliza to receive texts saying that a friend had been stabbed and was now in hospital. In fact, the more messages Eliza received, the more she accepted that this was just the way things were. Sensing the distortion, Eliza’s mum ”had to explain to me that this wasn’t a normal way of living and it was only because my head was in that environment that it felt like that was fine.” When a friend of Eliza’s was stabbed right in front of her, she knew she had to stand up and address the issue.
Eliza’s response was to print a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Lives Not Knives.” When others saw her wearing it, they wanted one too. And it all just snowballed from there, with a dance organised to show teenagers that violence was not a pre-condition for fun.
Of course, even the best ideas have detractors: “I first started Lives Not Knives when I was 14, so I’ve been told endlessly that I’m too young to make a change, but I’ve also been asked why do I want to help young black males, or what do I know about knife crime?”
Within her peer group, Eliza was suddenly cast in the role of the rat, with some friends worrying that she might be blabbing to the police. This was especially tough when initially Eliza had no idea if this was something she wanted to do forever, if it was something that would take over her life.
But take over it did. Lives Not Knives programs are now delivered to over 10,000 primary and secondary school students, educating them about knife culture. The premise is that knowledge will allow them to make choices, “rather than being brought into a lifestyle they don’t understand.” Additional to the school programs, LNK also assists 16-24 year olds to rise above their circumstances and move away from a lifestyle of violence.
Self-confidence is at the crux of the equation, and Eliza ensures that the young people they work with are trained in English, maths and IT Skills. “They’re competent, but they just don’t know their own potential, so it’s about drawing them out and making them a bit happier, because I guess when you’ve tried and tried at that age you can feel like life already is down. We’re trying to make 16 year olds see that life is just beginning and that’s exciting.”
For Eliza, it’s the ability to make a difference and make others happy that she most cherishes about her work. Sure, there are moments when it all seems overwhelming and she thinks about quitting, but those are only fleeting; empowering other people is a source of strength for Eliza. Indeed, she believes that when you work for the good of others you won’t be sad in your job.
At just 22, Eliza is an accomplished and inspiring woman. But she won’t take the credit, as she sees the LNK success stories as a team effort, driven by the very youth they’re trying to help. And of course, not to be forgotten are her “queens”, her mum and her grandma, two extremely strong women who provided Eliza with the solid grounding in compassion and empathy which motivates her today.
ELIZA'S PERSONAL BRACELET DESIGN