Member Stories
Member Story - Dave

What was life like growing up?

My childhood was a mixture of ups and downs. My family moved from Uganda to Tanzania when I was quite young, and we lived with one of my dad’s aunts who was quite cruel – it certainly wasn’t an easy start to life. We ended up moving to England, where I encountered a lot of prejudice towards the fact that I was African. This made me toughen up, which consequently got me into a lot of trouble growing up. I was really smart academically, but just had this outward layer of rebelliousness.


When did things start to take a wrong turn?

I think it was a combination of things. Growing up with my aunt was really hard, and when we moved to England, those childhood traumas were never addressed, I didn’t have access to any counselling. I was left feeling empty and alone, not really knowing what to do. I think my behaviour at the time really reflected my upbringing.


What was it like being in prison?

I was 18 when I first went to prison. It was horrible, and really took me by surprise, I didn’t think I’d ever end up in jail. I was still a ‘mummy’s little boy’! Having said that, I did cope with it as a youngster, I didn’t have much to lose. When I went back to prison 10 years later, it was different. I had 1 child and 1 on the way. Just kept thinking to myself ‘how the hell did I end up back here?!’ I had a degree and had been a teacher. It was crazy.


How did you hear about Clean Sheet?

I just found you online when I got out. I didn’t want to waste any more of my life, I was 29 and just thought to myself that I couldn’t do this anymore. I was looking on websites for jobs I could apply for when I found Clean Sheet and thought it’d be a good opportunity.


How did we help?

You guys were just spurring me on! There were times where I thought ‘what’s the point?’, but my Employment Team Adviser was really good, the fact that there was a person there to talk to really helped. I wanted to rebuild my life and ended up moving to a new city which was really lonely. Having someone there to help you and make sure you know there are options there made a big difference.


What’s it been like job hunting during COVID?

Crazy!! I first got a job in construction through a recruitment site, it was really hard work but I was grateful to have a roof over my head. I found my current job during the second lockdown, and they actually approached me! They heard about me from the agency, who described me as a ‘great labourer’.


What’s life like for you now?

Life looks great! I’ve reconnected with my kids and their mums which is the most important thing to me. I’m making up for lost time and recognising where I’ve gone wrong in my life, my kids come first now. I’m at the best place I’ve been in years right now.


What advice would you give to someone in your shoes?

There are 3 things I’d say:

  • Always search for help – it is out there
  • Put your pride aside
  • Want the best for yourself

(Name changed to protect identity)

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