"I needed help and I got it."
Lewis* spent a year sofa surfing after leaving care. He was regularly abusing drugs and alcohol and was at a “very low point” in his life before he came to live at one of The Benjamin Foundation’s accommodation centres for young people. During his time with us, he has changed his life and is almost ready to take his next steps to independence. We spoke to Lewis, now aged 21 about how things have changed for him over the last two years:
“It was New Year’s Eve 2019 when I moved in. It was really daunting as other people were living here too but I managed to make one good friend really quickly. At that time I didn’t have much going for me. I’d been sofa surfing so I didn’t have many possessions. I couldn’t hold onto jobs or maintain relationships, I was partying all the time and I just didn’t believe in myself.
I settled at The Benjamin Foundation really quickly and then obviously Covid hit. Just as I’d started to build some motivation, lockdown made everything harder. There were fewer jobs, and even essential key worker jobs at supermarkets were snapped up really quickly. Lockdown was difficult and I lost my motivation again.
I later started to get some perspective and appreciate the small things – like the opportunity to pop to reception, have a cup of tea and chat with the staff.
I get on really well with the staff. I’ve often chatted to them when I’ve felt down. They have such a positive approach – they help you to see that there is something there for you and you can still change your life. They want us to be comfortable but also encourage us to always be doing something like volunteering or education.”
They’ve really helped with life skills too – budgeting, washing up – even folding a fitted sheet! They will always help or find ways to make something work for you.
The turning point for me was after about a year and I realised that I’m surrounded by positivity here and as long as I try to help myself too I’ll be ok.”
In ten years’ time, I think I will honestly look back on this as the best time of my life. There have been so many highlights. Just one was as we were coming out of lockdown, we [staff and residents] all gathered in the courtyard and had a takeaway. It was so amazing to do that after so long. Another time, the staff were pretending to be ‘Charlie’s Angels’ while they were decorating and wearing jumpsuits! It’s moments like that which have created so many memories and highlights.
The help from the charity’s supporters is amazing – the people and companies who help us. I’ve now been able to make the best of things and my confidence has increased ten-fold, as has my patience. My self-esteem and mental health have also improved. The key is that I needed help and I got it.
I’ll be moving on soon to a self-contained bedsit. I’m scared in a way as there will be less support but it’s an opportunity to spread my wings, although I won’t miss the midnight curfew!”
Lewis is looking forward to starting seasonal work again when the holiday season begins. He also hopes to give back to The Benjamin Foundation in future.
“I’d like to work or volunteer here some time to give back for the help I’ve had. It’s the best thing to ever happen to me.”
Thank you to Lewis for sharing his story.
If you would like to make a donation to support more local young people like Lewis, please visit https://benjaminfoundation.co.uk/donate/ or contact us on [email protected] to discuss other ways to get involved to help young people in Norfolk and Suffolk to finally feel hopeful of a better future.
*Name has been changed.