Things started to go wrong for me from about age 15. I lived with my mum and her partner in a caravan, which was overcrowded and uncomfortable. Both my mum and her partner were alcoholics and would always fight together and with me. Mum needed the drink to cope with losing her sister but when she drank, she wouldn’t think about me. She used to call me lazy and put me down, which made me feel bad and depressed.

She threw my brother out, which left me alone with them. I felt lost. Even though, as siblings, we’d fight, my brother understood how I felt. When he was gone I had no one in my corner. Home was a bad enough place to be even when my brother was there, because there was never any food in or someone was always angry. Without him, it became so much worse.

I tried to make the most of my situation. I found a job as a waitress and attended an Art & Design course at college, but things started to go bad in my relationship. My partner started hitting me and became really violent and abusive. I didn’t know where to turn to for help. I really struggled with everything and became so unhappy in myself. I ended up leaving my job and college and then, not long after that, Mum threw me out as well. I was 16 at the time.

I moved in with my sister and her two children, sleeping on her sofa for a few months, but I knew I couldn’t keep doing that. It wasn’t healthy for any of us. I tried to get help through a few places and then Llamau was mentioned to me. I asked them for help and within a few days, I moved into one of their supported accommodations.

I felt welcome as soon as I arrived. I remember feeling so nervous and scared walking in, with everything I own in two bags, but my support worker, Liz, made everything feel better. I have a lovely room here and feel safe.

Shortly after moving in I was given a Step into Education leaflet, which looked interesting. I’d left school at 15 with no qualifications and even when I had attended school, I was hardly in class.

I can honestly say that Step into Education has changed my life. I’ve completed so many courses through the programme and achieved many Agoreds. Considering I’m dyslexic and struggled to read and write when I first started my classes, it’s hard to believe I’ve come so far.

Step into Education is different from school because classes are small and it’s easier to learn. There were about six or seven in my class. We all got on so well and became friends. My tutors, Anna and Lorraine, were always there for me, not just to help with my classwork but also to talk to if I was having a hard time. I always had their full attention when I needed it. The rules weren’t strict either, so when you needed to clear your head and take a break, you could. 

This may sound silly, but through the Step into Programme I also learnt how to cook. It’s a basic skill but I didn’t have a clue how to do it before attending classes. Just being able to cook myself a meal gave me confidence and I felt independent.

I successfully completed an Inspire 2 Work course last year, which Anna helped me get onto. It helped build my confidence up so much. I had to catch a bus every morning and evening for a week, which was an achievement for me because I used to be so scared of public transport.

I’m the type of person that always needs to be doing something so, even though I’ve now left Step into programme, Anna has still supported me and helped find me an evening course focused on my English and Maths.

I still see a lot of my friends from the Step into programme at Llamau. They all have jobs now and I want the same for myself. I’m applying for jobs all the time and hopefully I’ll find something soon. Some days when you’ve just found out you didn’t get a job it can be hard to keep moving forward – it can make you feel worthless - but I know I’ll find something soon. I can’t stop now when I’ve come so far.

I don’t really have a relationship with my mum these days, but I’m coping okay. I’ve never really had many friends, but the ones I have are good friends and my partner really cares for me and helps build my confidence.

If Llamau hadn’t helped me I think I’d probably still be sofa surfing - either at my sisters or somewhere else, or I could be homeless. I try not to think that way though. Llamau, Anna, Lorraine, they’ve all helped make a big difference to my life and so I just want to keep learning and moving forward.