Heathfield MP, Huw Merriman, met local young people involved in the Heathfield Works! employment project when he visited them at Heathfield Youth centre and at their work placement last week....
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Depression and substance misuse marked the young Garry Birchall’s life. In March 2010, aged just 22, he was in complete despair and felt he had little to live for.
This background explains why, when Garry joined a Tomorrow’s People Working It Out programme in Merseyside, he seemed shy and preferred to stay on the edges of the group.
But the supportive atmosphere of the programme was the change Garry needed. He began to contribute a lot to group sessions, and became well respected by the others on the programme.
He completed several sessions designed to build up his confidence and skills, including drug and alcohol awareness, healthy eating, interview techniques and money management.
Garry had left school with no qualifications, but he achieved several certificates to boost his CV, including Health and Safety and First Aid.
Garry became interested in becoming a youth worker himself, and we helped him get a placement with the Fairbridge organisation, leading outdoor activities for disadvantaged young people.
His tutor says: “He went on leaps and bounds. He wanted to become a youth trainer and he just went for it. I can’t speak more highly of Garry, he is one of the nicest kids I have ever met.”
Garry’s motivation and determination paid off – he has his own accommodation and now, aged 23, is in full-time employment in Liverpool as a Youth Development Officer.
Nicola Collard says her dad left home when she was too young to remember him. She was bullied at school for being overweight and went to five different schools in four years.
As a teenager she met a man who started her on crack cocaine, and a career of crime to fund her habit followed.
While trying to wean herself off drugs, she heard about Tomorrow’s People and successfully applied to join a Working It Out course in Plymouth.
In her own words: “It helped me so much. When I was given the team leader role it gave me a real confidence boost.”
Nicola recently achieved the major milestone of being clean of drugs for a year. She joined Ocean Quay, a drugs rehabilitation centre, as a temporary volunteer, and so impressed her employers they asked her to stay on.
She now mentors prison leavers helping them back in to a positive routine. After 20 years, she also traced her father and is establishing a relationship with him for the first time.
Nigel Birt worked as a chef and commis-chef for more than 20 years. He worked for leading employers, but could never hold down a job because of his recurring, and serious, addiction problems.
When he started with Tomorrow’s People his aim was to become free of drugs and to keep a job long-term. Working alongside the Bristol Drugs Project, Tomorrow’s People helped to put together a CV, bought Nigel a suit and covered travel costs for him to attend interviews.
Finally the chance came to take part in a five-day work trial. He was on the 7am bus, and he got the job.
It led to a full-time position with an employer, Sodexo, who is committed to helping him gain qualifications to back up his extensive experience.
His employer says: “Nigel has been a great addition to our team and we look forward to developing his career here.”
Since getting work Nigel has been able to rent a flat, giving him a secure base. He has a place for his son and he is able to help care for his father, who had been ill.
A year on, he says, "My job is still going really well. I now run the kitchen and I am hoping to move further on up in the future. I have completed my NVQ and hopefully will be starting my level 3 pretty soon."