I spent most of my life angry. I grew up surrounded by violence and this was a way of life for me. After leaving prison in 2014, I didn’t want to return to my old lifestyle. I started volunteering with World Wide Volunteering who referred me to the Freedom Project. To begin with, I thought I wouldn’t complete the full 20 weeks, however Freedom has taken me to where I am now. I’m happy. When I come here, I smile.

After leaving prison, I was living in a hostel surrounded by anti-social people who were a negative influence. I wanted to break out of this cycle. Mustard Tree helped me manage my temper. By volunteering on the shop floor and working with other people, it’s taught me to be understanding of others, something I’d never learnt before. Situations that used to make me angry and violent don’t any more. The way I speak to people and approach people is different.

Soon I was considered no risk to the public and my support worker was able to write positively of me. Because of this, I managed to gain a 1 bedroomed house with a back garden. Having never lived alone before, I found this difficult to begin with, but Mustard Tree gave me a routine and got me out of the house.

Before starting I also had a bad impression of asylum seekers. In prison, people only grouped together with those that were the same and I was influenced by everything I’d read in the newspapers. Since joining I’ve made friends with them though and learnt about what they’ve been through. They’re nice guys. They’re people I’d defend.

After finishing 20 weeks with Freedom, I am starting a qualification with Seetec which will involve 5 days a week. I have never done this level of commitment before and am nervous, but this is my next goal. After this, I will be joining Freedom for another 20 weeks to benefit from the support here, with long term aspirations of gaining employment.

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