I've known Mike for around 7 or 8 years now. I first met Mike when I was going to Ignite youth clubs and football classes. I had just moved back home after 2 years, after having my twin girls. Things didn't work out with the girls' mum so I had I had to move back home. At that time I had a lot of family and personal issues going on. I was in some ways a lost soul. I couldn't find a job to support my girls or pay bills so I turned to crime, the only way I thought I could get money quick. Mike saw what I was doing and how I was getting by. He pulled me to one side and had a talk with me about it and how it will not make for a happy ending if I kept going. He explained he went through the same things as a young man - having kids early, trouble finding work, problems with crime and at home. Mike helped me take control of my life in the right way. He got me in the gym and also got me doing some voluntary work with young people to help me see how good it feels to do things right and see a smile on someone's face after you have helped them. He got me a job with Ealing Council then with a warehouse company.
I was working supporting my girls and doing more for people everyday, which I love, but then my dad got cancer and everything started to fall apart. I was doing a lot at home and started to neglect work, the gym and other things that got me to my happy place. Before I knew it, I lost my job. The mother of my girls was not letting me see them because I didn't have money to give and then my dad passed away. I went into a bad depression. I started to heavily smoke cannabis. I was avoiding all my family and friends and just using them when I needed money. My habit got so bad I started selling cannabis to support my habit. I got arrested, was given a 1 year suspended sentence and had to do 1 year's drug and alcohol and go on probation as well.
I was in a really bad place but I bumped into Mike one day and had a quick talk, exchanged numbers and decided to meet up one day and have a proper talk. For a bit I was avoiding him because I didn't want to talk to anyone but he kept calling me or dropping me a text to see how I was, so I met up with him and had the talk.
Now I'm working full time as a support worker and have been for 7 months now. I've sorted out my family problems at home. I'm still in the process of sorting out custody with my children but I'm in a much better mindset to deal with it all. As a whole, Mike has been an inspiration and role model for me, more than he ever knows. The world needs more people like Mike, real people like Mike. A person who knows what it's like to fail or get knocked down but to get back up time and time again. A person that goes out of his way for people and knows there's plenty of ups and downs and smiles and frowns around every corner but keeps marching forward. The trouble with the wold if there is too many people that are shepherding people through life with pretty, fictional stories that don't actually relate to real life. The world needs real non-fiction stories that relate to real life like Mike's.
When I felt lost and bewildered, Ignite was a home to me. At the age of 16 I felt so confused about what I wanted and I was unable to find a path that I wanted to follow. Dealing with family, love and mental health issues I thought that I was alone and secluded from everyone. I remember thinking to myself "I don't even want to leave the house today." or when I woke up in the morning "Why am I still alive ... I wish I would never wake up again". At that point in my life I felt like the walls were closing in on me, like I had no control over anything and all I wanted to do was break down into tears. Little did I know! One day an acquaintance took me along with her to Ignite and I found that I wasn't alone. In fact, I was more like others than I ever thought before, as everyone has their demons. At Ignite I met a mentor - someone who had my back no matter what and was able to guide me in the right direction even though I would constantly stray. She saw something special in me which my teachers and even loved ones had failed to see. To be honest "mentor" is the wrong way to describe her. To this day she is still my closest confidante (especially when times are hard) and someone who has been there for me no matter what. Ignite helped me go from a confused truant to a confident young woman with a clear life plan and the drive to achieve what I am so determined to do. To be honest, I thank God for providing me with the opportunity to meet the people I met at Ignite as they provided me with clarity and hope when I had none. My grandmother always told me "God places people in your life for a reason." To this very day I can say that he does do this. Now I'm applying to University, working and constantly progressing towards my goal to be a lawyer. I realise that none of this would have been possible if I had decided not to leave the house and go for an hour or two on Wednesday and Monday evenings at Ignite. I found someone to talk to, advise me and guide me to become the best I can be!
I would like to thank you for all the help you have given me.
I started with really low confidence and really bad anxiety. But after doing a fun course with Ignite where we did a range of activities in and outside I began to improve on so many levels.
Afterwards I became a new man, I went off and begun my voice acting career voicing in feature films like Capture the flag with Paramount Pictures which was shown in cinemas worldwide, voicing in short films including the award-winning Cerberus, promos for Radio, my own TV show pilot and video games such as Oddworld, New N Tasty on video game consoles among more. I also host and produce at Radio Harrow where I won a Jack Petchey award along with working part-time at Barnardos.
I’m glad I had a chance to work with you guys during the X16 program.
Thanks and all the best,
I am known as Artha. I first heard about ignite through the Youth Employment Programme Manager in Harrow. She told me about the great opportunities which you can have at Ignite. They were running a project called x16 to help young people learn skills that will help them into employment. The youth workers there did an assessment and I was told I lacked social skills but I had great confidence and they told me about my potential and helped me think about my future. While at Ignite I met a youth employment worker called Darlington Mutsekwa. He became my coach and mentor. I also met other great people there, including Kerry Gilbert (ex-arsenal football player). Ignite helped me get into sports such as boxing, football. After the x16 course ended I stayed involved with Ignite and they helped me get through tough times such family problems, involvement with the police and hospitalisation. Darlington was motivational and inspiring and if It wasn't for Ignite I wouldn't be in employment and planning for my future. Now I want to help other young people so I'm applying for prison listening volunteer scheme.
Coming to Ignite was one of the best decisions I've make in my life it has transformed me from a person who was very anti-social and didn't make friends easily. When I start coming I was welcomed by people that showed me care immediately and I felt a sense of belonging.
Ignite is a great place to have fun. Everyone is so nice. Before I didn't even play Football but now I am a good goalkeeper and I know how to play. I used to swear a lot and smoke heavily but in Ignite we are not allowed to swear or smoke so I learnt to be disciplined.
Ignite is just perfect for me and other young people that want to be more positive and need support to reach their full potential.
Before being mentored by Ignite I was a student who was always in trouble because of my lack of focus in class and the fact that I had no control over my mouth. The things that I would say and the way I would answer teachers back would do me no justice at all. I got moved from one school at the end of year 8 and I was forced to start afresh with new teachers, new friends and a new building.
I was OK for just over 6 weeks but I felt lost and confused, then I got involved with negative friends that just took me back to square 1. September 2016 the beginning of year 9 I was introduced to Ignite by my inclusion teacher, I started a mentoring programme that was feeding me with positive things. I learnt how to control my mouth in the hardest moments when I want to lash out and get angry. I have understood that I must think about my actions before I take them.
Today I could say that I am a changed student … not perfect … but as I continue my mentoring with Ignite I look forward to the future and I know what I want to get out of school. I am more positive and I have been shown by Ignite another way to see things. I know that great things will happen if I stay positive and learning day by day.