26-year-old Londoner Omar Sharif knows the devastating impact of street violence first hand having lost three of his friends to knife crime as a teenager.

He grew up just off Edgware Road in Marylebone where the fear of being robbed or attacked at night made going around in groups and carrying a weapon the norm.

He started carrying a knife at 15 and became involved in gangs to "feel safer." But after several friends were stabbed to death on London's streets and others went to prison he knew things had to change.

At 18 Omar decided to escape gang life and left behind the group he used to "go out fighting" with.

But turning his life around was tough and his journey from gangs to life-coaching has been far from straight forward.

Pride of Britain Awards winner Omar Sharif escaped a life of street violence and now helps other young people do the same

He's battled with unemployment, depression and even homelessness, but this year Omar won the Prince's Trust Young Achiever at the 2018 Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards for his incredible journey and inspirational work with young people.

Now based in Coventry, we spoke to Omar about moving away from the capital's gangs and what advice he'd give young Londoners looking to do the same.

Omar started going around in gangs to make himself feel safer. He said: "When you're young you want to stay out late, it gets dark and then at some point you start getting a bit scared. It was very common for people to get hurt or to be robbed. So you start walking around in bigger groups to stay safe.

"I was in a gang. There were some friends I'd just go out and have fun with, we'd go bike riding, the cinema, but then there was another group of friends who I wouldn't call 'good'. I wouldn't blame them because it was me who made the decisions to do those things but we would go out fighting a lot."

"Things got stolen, people got hurt, I hurt some people in fights in self-protection. I've seen people stabbed and nearly die."

Omar grew up in central London and first started going around in gangs aged 15 to "feel safer"

At the age of 16, 17 and 18, three of Omar's friends were stabbed to death in separate incidents and a handful of others went to prison.

"You shouldn't act on rage- that's when you'll make a mistake you regret"

Asked how he dealt with the grief after his friends were stabbed to death, Omar said: "At one point you feel rage and it's not exactly like you seek revenge but it feels unfair. But I would say people shouldn't act on that rage because that's when you're going to make a mistake that you're going to regret for the rest of your life.

"You should try and be there for the victim's family, be supportive. And don't try and take things into your own hands because that's when mistakes happen. I saw people taking revenge and that's when I made a very conscious decision to deal with it. Revenge is like throwing logs into a burning fire - it's not going to do any good for anyone. I saw people go to prison for taking revenge."

Omar's parents knew how his friends died but had no idea he was involved in gangs. He said: "I kept what I was getting up to from my parents, when people died obviously they were concerned but there was no direct link to me - it happened so often."

Tragically Omar lost three friends to knife crime in just three years

In a bid to escape gang life, Omar attended college but found it wasn't for him: "I'm a hands on guy, I have an entrepreneurial mind and learn by doing stuff", Omar explained.

After dropping out of college he struggled to find a job and started his own business selling health drinks. But when things didn't work out he became homeless and slept hidden in a mosque's shop for months.

A family friend spotted Omar at the mosque, took him in and gave him work. Once back on his feet Omar decided to leave his London past behind him and join his then fiancée, now wife, in Coventry, where he lives to this day.

When he first moved to Coventry he struggled finding work again and had fallen into depression when he enrolled in a Prince's Trust programme to help 16 to 25-year-olds find work.

The programme put him back on his feet and equipped him with the skills he needed to set up his own fitness business as well as becoming a life coach.

He now goes into schools and prisons as a motivational speaker and hopes gives students and young offenders the confidence and mentoring they need to turn their lives around like he did.

How to escape gang life

Money is one of the main draws to being in a gang and makes it hard to leave with teenagers able to earn up to £1,000 a week.

Omar said: "The motivation not to leave a gang comes from the fear of what will happen to you and the money - if you leave and you haven't got a job then you're broke."

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Omar's journey out of gangs was tough - he had to change his number and didn't see even his closest friends for six months, he said: "Trying to leave the gang was an issue because I had information on them. I put it to them that I was was done and that it wasn't for me anymore. But for a long time my phone was turned off, then I had to change numbers. That's also kind of why I slept in the mosque for a long time because no one would expect me to be there."

Asked if there were anything bad happened to him after leaving Omar said: "I got into a couple chases, I'm quite a fast runner so I managed to get away, but that was it - I was never caught."

"You don't need to carry a knife"

Asked what advice he'd give to people currently carrying knives in London, Omar said: "My first bit advice would be you don't need to carry a knife. It's a good deterrent and it has worked for me in the past but if for a split second you're full of rage and anger, and you hold that knife in your hand, that five seconds can cost you five years in prison, so it's not worth it.

"So I'd say seek help, if you don't need be out late, don't be out - it's not cool. Things rarely happen in the day time so if you know you shouldn't go somewhere at a certain time - don't do it. Don't try to be a hero because that's when things happen."

Omar dealt with unemployment, depression and even homelessness before getting to where he is today

Asked what he now does to help the young people he works with, Omar said: "It's all about aspiring to do more - that's what I try to teach young people when I go into schools and do workshops and mentor - to be more comfortable in yourself and to know basic things like how to dress and behave in an interview. Schools teach you Maths and English but they don't teach you independence. I want to teach people how to be their own boss (if they want that)."

"I wouldn't have been so proud"

"If I could go back and do things differently in London I would have sought the help I needed. I would have let my parents know what was going on, I wouldn't have been so proud. But I think things happened for a reason when they did.

"If I hadn't moved to Coventry I probably wouldn't have won this award and met the people I have on my journey since.

"I would definitely like to come back to London one day, but I'm glad I got away when I did."

The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, will broadcast on ITV November 6 at 8pm.