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Gwen’s story

Life had taken a downturn for Gwen. Unable to cope with being bullied, she dropped out of university, and when her relationship broke up she had nowhere to live.  But thanks to the opportunities she found at her local YMCA she has started to rebuild her life and is making positive choices about the future.

Gwen’s first contact with YMCA was when she took part in a 12 week Prince’s Trust Team course. She found it helped her to decide what she wanted to do with her future, and subsequently she started on a nursing degree at university.  Unfortunately she was subjected to bullying, and after just six weeks she dropped out.  Gwen says, “I was OK until my relationship with my boyfriend broke up and I had nowhere to live.  At that point I spent about a month in a night shelter, having to leave after breakfast every day.  There was no one my age there and I really wanted somewhere safe to live.”

She was offered a room in the local YMCA hostel. Although she was unsure of what to expect of hostel life, she was happy to move in with people her own age, and she knew some staff already because of the earlier Prince’s Trust Team course.  Over the following months she took advantage of the opportunities that came her way.  “When I first moved in I was really quiet and kept in the background.  But I found living here I could try new things.  There used to be an Art class that I really enjoyed.  And then last year I was able to go to Costa Rica with Raleigh International.  That was an amazing experience.  Since I’ve been here I’ve developed more confidence and I’ve learnt to be more assertive.”

And what does the future hold for Gwen? She is moving out of the YMCA into her own accommodation, and she’s also raising funds to go to Tanzania in September with Raleigh International Citizen Services.  “I’m interested in overseas relief work.  I’ll be in Tanzania for about three months, and we’ll be working on sustainability and clean water projects for local communities.

“I feel I’ve now got a vision for the future. I’m planning to go back to university to do a Nursing degree.  I’ve had great support here, and been given opportunities I never expected to have.  I would say to others don’t give up.  There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  I could still be staying in a night shelter, but instead my life has really been enriched.”