A volunteer has urged more men to join a mentoring scheme he believes could have saved him from gang violence as a teenager.
Vilas Sedov, of Thornbury Avenue, Osterley, was just 12 when his mother separated from his abusive alcoholic father.
With no one to turn to outside his family, he fell in with several gangs and frequently found himself involved in violent street clashes before turning his life around.
Now a 23-year-old supply chain analyst, he is part of Hounslow's Community Service Volunteers (CSV) scheme - set up to help similarly troubled teenagers.
Vilas and his 14-year-old 'buddy' meet every fortnight for about four hours, doing everything from playing video games to gokarting.
"Teenagers who've already had to deal with so much - because they've lost touch with parents and family - need someone they can talk to and who can understand them on a level they feel comfortable talking at, so that sharing problems and finding solutions isn't uncool," he said.
"My buddy's been on the wrong side of the law. But he's a talented kid, with great potential and I feel our friendship creates stability in his life and an opportunity to share problems.
"If I'd had someone to talk to outside the family at that age I think things would have been easier."
CSV Hounslow helps youngsters at risk of falling off the rails - often those in long-term care - who have been referred by social services.
The charity has about 40 volunteers, all of whom are known to their buddies by first name only and must maintain confidentiality at all times.
But there is a desperate shortage of men, according to project manager Rebecca Evison, who says having a male role model can make a 'real difference'.
Vilas has been with his 'buddy' since May last year and says he has seen a huge difference in that time.
"When I first met him he was getting into trouble almost every week but now he's got more focus in his life," said Vilas.
"I don't know how much of that's down to me but it's definitely helping.
"I picked up some slang when I was in the sixth-form at Heathland School and I think it helps that we speak the same language."
For more about getting involved with CSV Hounslow, call Rebecca Evison on 020 7643 1411 or email email@example.com