I live locally in Ruchill and I have been coming to NUC since I was 8 years old. Today I am a youth worker. I love my work and I feel I understand the young people round here. Things are going well; but it was not always like that.

I used to be difficult, challenging you might say, confrontational. Not very nice. I hated everything and everyone. Yet despite that I still came along to NUC, if only to pick an argument. I’d yell ‘I hate you’ to the youth workers and I’d give anyone who crossed me a hard time. I must have been a total nightmare: but NUC never gave up on me.

After a while I began to see that I could be as horrible as I liked, it would not change their attitude. Eventually I got tired of being a pain in the neck.

How did I get like that? Truth is, it was not a bad home we had. Maybe it was me, and maybe it wasn’t just me, I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I had a lot of anger.

It impressed me that the youth workers, even though I was pretty nasty to them, were never nasty back. I think that this showed real strength. After a while I realised I needed to do something, because deep down I was not the person I was making myself out to be. I knew I could be a person people could turn to for help.

So I started volunteering at NUC. Jill, the leader, got me some training courses, and when a placement opportunity came up with a neighbouring youth project, I put my name down. Then my big break came: I did so well they kept me on as a member of staff. I have been working there for 2 years now. I think I am good at working with young people, but I am at my best with the wee ones.

If I could give a young person who is not coping some advice I would say – come in and talk to someone. You will feel better, maybe find a way through and change your life. It worked for me.

When did I start coming to NUC? I feel like I have always been coming: they have always been there for me, and I have worked for NUC, too. I am working towards a qualification in Social Care, then I am going to do a degree in Social Work. It is going to be hard, but I will get there.

What motivates me? My experiences growing up: I had to grow up too soon and later, I had to overcome the past. Now I want to help other people.

It started when I was about 9. My Dad was involved with drugs and some bad people. One time things went wrong and he was shot: he didn’t die, but he was in a bad way. Then he disappeared from hospital while they were treating him. My Dad got in touch by phone briefly, afterward, but I have not seen him for 12 years. My family had to get away from the area as we were thought to be in danger. My Mum was alcoholic and suffering from bi-polar disorder and my older sister, who was only 16 at the time, became very troubled and suicidal. There was a lot of conflict and fights at home. My Mum found a new boyfriend, someone younger than herself and I did not get on well with him.

I started coming to NUC about then. I was difficult, ‘a wee bitch’ some might say. People would try to be friends and I’d be horrible to them. Looking back I realise that I had a lot of issues. I did not trust anyone. At NUC I would walk in and swear and scream and fight with the youth workers. I played truant and my education suffered. But at NUC they did not give up on me, no matter how appalling I was. I realised that no matter what I threw at them, they could take it and not be put off by it. Somehow I kept on going, week after week. It took a long time but gradually I learned it was a safe place and I could reach out to other people. It was then at the age of 12 that I decided that this was the kind of work I wanted to do.

A year later I met my partner Jason. I felt so safe when I was with him. He was a bit wild, because that is just how it is where we lived, there are gangs and fights. But he never destroyed or stole stuff. Jason had a great Mum and I got along well with her. When I was 15 she invited me to come and live with them both because, she said, she couldn’t stand by and see me living the way I was.

Jason’s Mum was a nice person but I had problems joining in with the family, I used to stay in our room and not mix. I suppose it was the one place I felt
I could call mine, and yet it was not mine. How would I describe myself then? The only word is lost. The people I needed and wanted were not there for me. My sister left home, my Mum had mental health and addiction problems and my Dad was, well, nowhere. I did not have a normal home life. Even now I feel embarrassed and bad about it, even though obviously, it was not my fault. The fact is: no one wants to be the object of pity, with everyone in the neighbourhood talking about your family.

When I was 16 I put my name down to get a flat. Within a year I was living in my own place at last and I invited Jason to move in with me. I began work after leaving school with few qualifications, starting with a wee cleaning job and then moving on to become a care assistant. But I never forgot my dream of doi

ng social work. NUC helped me find a training course and they offered me the chance of a placement. I really enjoyed it and I have been told I have good potential. My schooling was patchy but it has not held me back. Though the essays are difficult, I have got round that and found help I needed. I have been though a lot but one good thing about it is that I am not easily beaten.

I still feel sad sometimes, I admit. My Dad’s family has sent me presents at Christmas but recently I asked him not to send me any more: I want a proper relationship with him, not presents from his family. Maybe one day I will see him again, but if this never happens I know I will cope. There are some things in my past that are difficult to forget and my Mum and sister still don’t get on. Finding a partner, a home and training has given me confidence and makes me feel happy. All along the way NUC helped me with these things. I owe them so much.

I am looking forward to studying social work! It is going to be tough but it will open so many doors: I want to get more understanding, I want to meet new people and maybe make a difference. But I am under no illusions that it will be easy for me. It might sound strange but my Mum is a role model to me in the road ahead. There were times when she was not there for me, but she had a lot to contend with that was not her fault. She kept trying to do better no matter how bad things got, and that’s what counts.

The turning point for us was when our kids were taken away from us. That day we swore we would get them back, somehow. It took us three long hard years.

You see us today, we look just like anyone else: back then you wouldn’t recognise us. We were in a bad way. We were addicts. Not only were we shoplifting, to support our habit, we were selling drugs.

Our home was a cramped tenement flat, three kids in one bedroom, us in another. It was in a street where there were other people with addictions. We could not get away from the scene. Not that they were worse than us – no one was worse than us, we were terrible neighbours. We were constantly getting busted by the police and we ended up in court on charges.

Neither of us can claim we came from a bad home, in fact we had great parents, both of us. The childrens’ granny and grandpa suffered such pain, because they were worried for us, and we pressed them to loan us money too. That’s how bad things became, taking money off pensioners.

The day the children got taken away our first thoughts were we were terrified at letting them into someone’s care. Our children Jordan, Josh and Jamie are
the dearest, most precious things in our lives. Our second thoughts were how we were dreading telling their grand parents that we had our children taken away. Those thoughts were more than we could bear.

Probably it was the realisation that we’d failed the people we cared about most that made us turn round and take a look at ourselves. We did not like what we saw. At that time we thought maybe it is for the best – maybe our children deserve better, maybe we are not good enough parents for them.

We’d get a couple of hours of supervised visits and when we saw our children we knew the love we felt was too strong to let them go.

We got to know the children’s foster mother, Jeannette. At first we were not sure how we would get on with her but she was just amazing! The children just loved Jeannette and her family: meeting her turned out to be a lucky break: she inspired and encouraged us.

Jeannette said: if you want your kids back you’ve got to speak up and tell the social workers that! You’ve got to find
a way to fight and win them back! In addition she said – I am taking care of your kids, but I am taking care of them for you! So they will be fine when you get them back. Jeanette’s belief that we were good for our children was the first chink of light.

Joan at NUC helped us find our way through the maze of support that was available to us. We started to get clean. We were helped by the addiction support people at Phoenix Futures.

We attended a wee club where we were encouraged to talk and share experiences with other addicts. It helped us to find our voice and speak up, and that gave us more confidence.

We needed all the confidence we could get when it came to attending meetings with our social workers. There were times when we really hated them. It seemed sometimes they had all the power.

There was one meeting we will never forget: the permanency review. When children get placed in foster care the social workers will consider whether they should make fostering permanent. James stood up and said there was no way that this should happen and we wanted them back and we were going to do everything we could to make it happen. We realised from their reaction that they wanted this for us, provided we were able to look after the children properly. We had realised that if we ‘owned’ our problems we had the power to fix them and get our children back.

We went on parenting programme Triple P, which is first rate. We learned how to deal with not just being clean but staying that way. We had setbacks, we let ourselves down by getting caught with possession. There was one point when we had to say – we want our children back but we need more time, we are not ready.

Though at first we did not much care for our social worker over time we came to respect her. Joan from NUC helped us by explaining how the social work team were managing our case and she encouraged and reassured us when we felt everything was against us. Sometimes it seemed a confusing and harsh way of doing things, but Joan helped us realise our social worker was just doing her job. Now we think of our social worker as someone who was doing her best for everyone: when she said that ours was the most successful case she had worked on we realised how much the well being of our family, especially our children mattered to her. The day she said we could get our children back was the best day of our lives!

Now things have moved on: James’ father passed away not long ago but he lived to be reunited with his grandchildren.

Unexpectedly we were allowed to stay on in his home and now we have a great house with a garden that is big enough for our three active sons. We are so proud of what we’ve done.

But every day we live with a little fear that some how we will slip. I do not know when that will go away but we know that Joan is always there for advice. Leeanne is working towards getting a job now and we would love to get involved with helping people who have their kids taken away from them. So many people give up hope when that happens. They just go to pieces. But you can fight back and win. We are the proof.

I am a fully qualified sports coach and I have over 30 years experience. We host football games and coaching three nights a week. For most it is a chance to get out the out of the house, off the streets and have fun with friends. For some it could be the start of a lifetime in sport.

What do people get out of it? They learn what it takes to be a sportsman: commitment, developing skills, resilience in the face of challenge, a willingness to work hard to improve yourself. In a word, stickability.

But even more important is the great football atmosphere: mutual encouragement, enjoyment of the sport and sharing time together as players, as families and as a community. It’s good for young people and it’s something I am passionate about.

I’ve seen some talented young players start out here, and I have supported them to junior club level. But they can’t always attend training – which can be 3-4 times a week – as they progress in the sport. A hurdle as simple as travelling a long way to practice or play can stop a player developing, or stop friends and family coming to support them.

It scares me that we have great players and we’re in danger of losing them. Why? Families don’t always have the resources, even if they would like to support the youngster. That is why we are planning a Football Academy so we have the support right on our doorstep.