From the calm tone in Pam Hothi’s voice you would have no idea that she was sitting among a raging inferno. The heat coming off the trio of burning buildings was nearly overwhelming, but regardless she kept composure. Pam’s slight figure and slender frame is contrast to an eye-of-the-storm disposition befitting an action hero, but the career youth worker, who now serves as Head of Violence Interruption for The Chaos Theory (CT), a UK-based CeaseFire replication, was polished in her professionalism amidst the London mayhem of 09 August.
You also probably would not realise - listening to the patient assurances she offered a panicked mum on the line - that she had already handled half a dozen such calls back-to-back. On the other end a mum expressed her fears that her son may be among the rioters, perhaps even participating in the havoc. Pam does what she can to weave some small thread of order into the madness. She listened to the mum, acknowledged her fears, and offered to try and make contact with him, see if he was okay, and confirm he wasn’t involved. Pam did this same thing, phoning around, trying to get hold of young people call after call, crisis after crisis, with a seemingly inexhaustible patience and understanding.
For Pam, one of the founding members of Chaos Theory, it was the gap of resources for those at the highest-risk for violence that led to the formation of the organisation. As a youth worker, she had witnessed firsthand a number of violent incidents that could have been disrupted if there had been some mediation structure in place that would help both sides talk through a conflict and save face. This is what led her and her Chaos Theory colleagues to seek training from CeaseFire. At present, during the riots, the right now situations were exhausting the available in-the-moment resources.
“My phone didn’t stop,” Pam explained, “people were calling worried about where their children were; neighbors and residents were calling to update me on what was going on down this block or that.”
As curls of acrid smoke filled the air Pam drove to different areas, while making a plea for peace with any young person she could find.
The Chaos Theory is a small upstart. For the past two years the staff has worked on a voluntary basis. Only recently did they receive donated office space, lock in their charity status, and secure funding to cover salaries and expense. The next steps for Chaos Theory involve expanding a credible street presence similar to the one in Chicago and continuing to peacefully promote justice in the community in the aftermath of the violence.