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In 2019, I graduated from university after studying psychology and moved back home to live with my mum. We had a difficult relationship and after living away at university, I felt like I had lost my independence. It soon reached the point where it was no longer possible for me to live at home, and I temporarily moved in with a friend.

Someone told me about YMCA MK, so I applied for a room online and a member of staff called me back to explain how the charity could help me. On 21 March 2020, I was finally able to move in. I took three buses carrying two suitcases to move all my belongings. When I first arrived, I felt nervous and worried because it was a big move for me. However, once I unpacked it felt surreal. For the first time in my life, I had my own space. I had a nice, warm and safe place of my own. It just felt like home and was a fresh start for me.

As I was working full time in a warehouse, I moved straight into Independent accommodation. Unlike residents living in Supported and Shared, I didn’t have a communal living space to meet other people. But I didn’t have to worry, as it wasn’t long before the Activity Coordinator introduced herself. Staff at YMCA are really keen to get everyone involved in the activity programme, as it’s a great way to socialise and build skills and confidence. I enjoyed taking part in all the activities in the Residents’ Lounge such as painting, yoga, breathing exercises and the film club. I even contributed to the yoga class by sharing what I learnt at university about the benefits of mindful practices. It was nice to be able to have a voice and participate in that way.

A change in direction

Due to the pandemic, my hours at work were reduced. This made me feel really anxious and my mental health deteriorated. As a resident at YMCA, I was able to access free counselling in the Wellbeing Suite. I had received counselling before moving to YMCA, but these sessions were different – in a good way. I was able to talk about a whole range of things and it helped me to understand my feelings.

Once I started to feel better in myself, I began to think about my career options. The university I attended was helping alumni students to find internships, and I found a local police staff opportunity. With the help of the Employment Team, I was able to get support with my application to ensure that I fully understood the questions being asked. I was also given interview skills training, which really built my confidence.

I collected character references to submit with my application. I received seven in total, including one from a member of staff at YMCA. Reading what other people wrote about me made me feel better about myself and improved my self-esteem.

After submitting my application and going through three interviews, I was offered an internship. I was really happy to be given the chance to gain experience in a sector that I feel passionate about. It was a steppingstone in the right direction for me and on completion of the internship, I knew that I wanted to join the police force in the future.

Since then, I have applied for and been offered a position as a Trainee Officer. I will start my role in 2022 and I’m really excited about the opportunity and look forward to the next chapter in my career.

Personal growth

After nearly two years of living at the YMCA, I would say that I’m more resilient and can tackle problems head on. In the past, if I encountered a problem I would give up. But now, I think to myself, what can I do about this and what support or advice can I get? No one should ever feel embarrassed or ashamed of their background, and that is why I focus on pushing forward to prove that I am worthy of what I want to achieve.

If it wasn’t for YMCA, I don’t think I’d be here today. I couldn’t see a future for me before, but I do now. It has been challenging at times, and I’ve had a lot to work through. Growing up, I thought my experiences were normal because I didn’t know any different. It was only when talking things through with YMCA staff that I began to understand that they were not OK. I now have a better understanding and can process the things I’ve been through.

Political commentator Ayesha Siddiqi said, “Be the person you needed when you were younger”. That is why I’m passionate about working in a role that helps people who are experiencing trauma. I want to use my experiences to help others. I want to tell young people not to give up and things can get better. There really are people out there who genuinely want to help you. I’m now excited about my own future and what lies ahead for me.

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