I’m 17. I’ve been in SASH since the start of September last year.

My mum died when I was four years old. I was living on my own in my dad’s house from the age of 14 because my dad had a girlfriend in Hartlepool. I couldn’t live with them. His girlfriend has two disabled children and they didn’t have the room for me. My older sister left home when she was 12 to live with my aunt. I don’t know exactly why I didn’t go with her.

At first I was still going to school. I don’t think they realised that I was living on my own. My dad would ring me every morning. He checked on me all the time but it’s not the same. He used to send me some money for shopping or do me an order online. It was strange but I thought it was fine.

Some other people took advantage. They got in the house and I had no means of getting them out. They were mainly older than me. They were causing trouble that was going to get me into trouble. And I didn’t want that because I wanted to have a future for myself.

When things got really bad it was due to my dad getting cancer.  He was getting treatment in Middlesbrough, so he couldn’t drive or come and visit. This was just before my 16th birthday. He was still sending money but it wasn’t much because he wasn’t able to earn any.  I had no other income other than that. It was tough at times. Usually he would send me money for a week, but when he was in chemo for long periods of time he couldn’t send it across. Once he sent some whilst he was still recovering in hospital because I had nothing left.

I did well in my GCSEs, I got quite high grades, but I took on too much at A levels. I was doing four, including English and Maths so they were quite academic. I just found it overbearing the amount of work that I was doing. I understood it, but there was just too much of it. I get stressed quite easily and my head couldn’t cope.

I stopped going to college. I didn’t know what I was doing to do about my future. To be honest I wasn’t thinking about it.

Then it clicked in my head that I needed to do something. I looked online and found the catering course at Scarborough College. I’d wanted to do it before but I didn’t think it was using myself to my full potential, but I’ve realised that I need to do something that I want to do, it’s not all about the money. I’ve always loved cooking. I used to cook with my grandma and it was something that felt right. As soon as I saw the course I just wanted to do it and I applied.

I got an interview, but I couldn’t get there. The educational social worker came to see me and I told him and he helped sort out a new interview and got me referred to the Scarborough Hub to look at housing options.

I was desperate to be on this course. So they put me in Nightstop first so I could get to college, but in the end I stayed there for Supported Lodgings as my host was happy to have me there. She’s an amazing lady, she really is.

As soon as I walked in she was so welcoming, I felt instantly at home. We sat and talked for ages, we found we had a lot of things in common, because she used to work in the catering industry, and where my grandparents are from is the same place as her.

I’m enjoying the course. We’re busy but it’s relaxed, and you have an end product, something to show for your work. I know that I will pass with what I’ve got so far, but even if I didn’t pass, I’ve got skills still for the trade. I enjoy the patisserie side of things most, the pastries and the sweet things.

I’m hoping to go on to the level 3 course after this year. After that I want to go to Canada to study patisserie at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Ottowa. As of yet I’m not too sure how I would fund that but I will find some way of doing it hopefully. I’d like to work in an artisan bakery.

When I was living alone, I would cook whatever I could. When I went shopping I’d try and find the things that were on offer, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have had enough food to last me the week. I’d eat simple things, not particularly healthy. But if I was still living on my own now I’d know that I could make a much better meal from cheap ingredients, you can still do that, but I didn’t realise that before.

My experience has taught me lessons in life that I’ve learnt a lot earlier than some people. In some ways it’s a blessing because I know I a lot of things that other people would never had thought of until they were a lot older. I understand money a lot better than some people. I have two wallets. When I get my money on a Friday, I put aside some savings in one of them and in the other what I need for my bills. I give what I owe my host right away, that’s my priority then there’s nothing can happen to it.

Before I came into SASH, I was just really down all the time, I was upsetting my dad with what had happened at the house. Although he knows he made a mistake in not being there all the time, but the fact is that he put his trust in me and I let him down. I know that I should have done it better and he knows that he should have done it better. But now we don’t have anything to argue about and we have a good relationship.

Without SASH, I can’t even think what I would be doing. I’ve been in almost five months now. I have been back to the house with my dad a couple of times to collect things that I want, and I don’t like being there at all.

“I feel that I’ve come so far from when I was there, that I don’t want to be back there again.”

It wasn’t a good time. I can’t even think how I would describe myself before- it seems like that wasn’t me. I feel like a completely different person now. I’m a better person for it

Being SASH I’ve felt so happy all of the time, just everything is a high at the moment. It’s the house, the people, even down to when we went for the Christmas meal. I’ve got a support network now that I didn’t have before.

I feel proud of myself sometimes. I’ve never felt proud of myself before. I’ve done some things recently like the assessments that I thought I would struggle with and I’ve passed. No one has changed me, that was all myself, but I’ve had the help to change how I want to. I’ve had the help to change for the better.


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