Hannah’s story

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.