I once looked back at my life and wondered if I even got a first chance – let alone a second one. In a family where my father didn’t think I was his biological son, I experienced both physical and mental abuse throughout my childhood. I felt a lack of significance at home which left me wide open to other influences. I found significance in ‘the street’ – where my journey went further and further down the wrong path.
After losing my sister to cancer, I had a mental breakdown which led to heavy use of drugs and alcohol. I became reckless. Before I knew it my life had spiralled out of control, and I woke up one day in a prison cell, alone, with a long sentence ahead of me.
I spent my whole time there working to become the person I was always meant to be. I invested my time equally on university-level education and therapy to deal with childhood trauma, as well as personal development, which allowed me to eventually subscribe to a pro-social membership approach with confidence.
It also inspired a beautiful shift in values. I remember after almost four years in therapy, I sat at the end of my bed with tears rolling uncontrollably down my face. They were tears of joy, because for the first time in my life I felt free. I felt free from emotional discombobulation, and in doing so had unlocked a lot of pain. I felt free from self-loathing and a lack of confidence. I felt very different, and it was at that point I knew my change had arrived. I was going to become a remarkable person. Could you imagine what that might have felt like?
I left that place a while ago with better mental health, hope, and determination. I have continued to live my life remarkably and with renewed purpose, in memory of my sister. Inspired by this purpose, I recently founded the community focused health and wellbeing brand, Troothshop.com. I was supported into self-employment by Resume Foundation – the very same team who has employed me as their Partners Support Manager.
After spending many years in prison, was this my second chance? Looking back at my childhood, this appears to be my first chance – and I’m making the most of it. It feels like my life has only just begun, and I’m happy with ‘better late than never’. There is a reason why marginalised individuals are incredible when they are placed in healthy, progressive environments. It’s because life has taken our motivation away – and replaced it with determination. Individuals with determination do not need to be motivated, therefore you get a self-sustained and consistent individual on your team.
My role as Bridge Of Hope’s Partner Support Manager allows me to support individuals like myself on their journeys of personal development, as well as the same organisations who gave me so much. I now work with over 80 charities as they integrate ‘untapped talent’ back into meaningful employment. My work is driven by my experiences with re-entry. For example, I think back to my time in prison when I joined the Bounce Back Charity, which, at the time, was training prisoners in construction. I chose painting and decorating even though I didn’t like it. However, they soon found out that I wanted to set-up my own business in modular construction, and they changed their support approach to align with my dreams. This flexibility was crucial, and I am now a proud ambassador for Bounce Back (who are also great friends of mine).
During my time away, I also encountered Key 4 Life Charity who helped me to build more confidence and unlock more of my childhood pain through equine therapy. Working with horses has made me a more patient mentor, which has been invaluable as I am now mentoring several remarkable young men. Through Key4Life I was introduced to Ruebik – for which I am grateful for simply being brilliant and inspiring me when I launched my business.
Today my work is about inclusivity, and finally the world is waking up to the potential benefits of having a truly inclusive team. With Bridge Of Hope, we are unlocking the hidden potential in some of society’s most resilient and determined individuals, who have suffered and struggled with barriers from disability to discrimination. I myself have faced discrimination in many ways: I am Black, over 50 years old, have a disability and the stigma of being an ‘ex-offender’. But in my heart I am not an ex-offender. With the work I put in on rehabilitation and personal development I feel more like a ‘Returning Citizen’ than anything else. I have finally become the person I was always meant to be. My life is now dedicated to supporting others and creating pathways for progress, equality and aspiration.
It is determination that keeps us knocking at the doors, it’s time to let the rest of our human family into the arena of equal opportunity. It’s time to realise that “we are more alike than we are unalike”, to quote Maya Angelou. Imagine talent you don’t need to motivate, simply because they are already so determined.
Join us on our mission to make ALL employment truly inclusive employment. Non-profits, be sure to get in touch if you have untapped talent. Inclusive employers – we can help if you’d like to expand your talent pool.