“My name is Sarah, and I want to share my story. I grew up in a big family, I have 5 sisters, 3 brothers, I was born and grew up in Luton. Growing up I was described as stubborn and always wanted to find my own way of doing things, and more often than not; it was to the dismay of my family. My actions were deemed not acceptable for someone of my ethnic background to do and eventually this resulted in me being put into care. I was different.
As a young 13-year-old in care, I was scared, lonely and all I wanted to do was to be at home. However, I was not ready to conform to someone else’s idea of how I should live my life, so from the ages of 13 to 16 years old I spent my life in and out of care with foster placements. I was difficult.
A day before my 16 birthday my social worker said that she had a placement for me within a supported housing project. I remember, I came to view Mary Seacole Housing Association in my school uniform, this was the first time I become a client. I was apprehensive.
I had my interview, and the place was not as bad as I thought it would be, actually it was quite nice; the staff were welcoming and very down to earth. I decided with my social worker that I would give this place a try. I was open-minded.
When I moved in, I was in charge with my social worker for making my own decisions for my life such as health, finances, education, learning to live independently. Although I thought this is what I always wanted, it was really daunting; even with the round the clock support from the staff. I was overwhelmed.
Staff were always on hand to support with any issues but during this time, I started to go out to parties, drink too often and got involved with the ‘wrong crowd’. This lead to a safeguarding concern which resulted in me moving out of Luton for my own safety.
Although I spent some time back at home, the arguments started again and after a brief time living abroad, another placement opportunity arose with Mary Seacole Housing Association. This time I grabbed it and never looked back. I was determined.
I will never be able to quantify what Mary Seacole Housing Association has done for me, but some of the things that come to mind are, they let me express and be myself, there was no more fighting between the two cultures. The staff took on responsibilities such as attending parent’s evenings with me, teaching me to carry out all the day to day tasks that you learn growing up. I was developing.
The support on offer is not just to sort out your life for the present, but they strive to tap in to your long term goals and what you want to do with your life going forward. The staff look at your aspirations and work towards helping set foundations for the future. I was encouraged.
I had turned 17 years old at this point. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but I felt that staff were always on hand to support me with whatever my needs were at the time; as a person suffering from poor mental health; I could not put a price to this. I was heard.
I was not sure what I wanted to do when I came back, so I became heavily involved with Mary Seacole Housing Association’s training programme. I learnt so many skills from cv writing, first aid, knife crime to infection control; so many varied subjects that helped me grow.; not just my knowledge but my self-esteem and my social skills too. I, even became a director of my own company through a programme called Young Enterprise and I tried my hand at public speaking in front of an audience of hundreds of people. I was learning.
Through the training provision I learnt that I wanted a career in Care, I was inspired to want to make a difference in someone else’s life; like Mary Seacole had done for me. Staff supported me to explore my options, helped me look for jobs; and prepared me for an interview with a local care home, I got the job! I was becoming independent.
I was working hard and having a job meant I was earning my own money; I was not relying on anyone else, this was something that I always strived for. I was feeling happier. I needed one more thing to feel accomplished, this was my own home. I was striving.
I worked closely with the resettlement team, learnt all the skills required to manage my own home from learning about tenancies to managing my own bills. When I turned 18 years old, I was recommended for housing, and was shortlisted for a new 1-bedroom flat. I had achieved.
Moving out into my own flat was a bittersweet moment, I felt ecstatic that I had achieved my goal but I was really sad to leave Mary Seacole Housing Association, this place had become home. I am happy that staff have continued to support me through their outreach programme, providing me with home visits and access to Mary Seacole training unit so that I am able to contact all the relevant organisations to sort out my housing concerns. I am not forgotten.”