When Gareth was little, his mum and dad were in an abusive relationship. They split up when he was seven and they moved out of the area. Due to the trauma, Gareth’s mum was in a fragile mental state. She also had Addison’s disease as well as diabetes and she struggled to manage her condition. This meant she would end up in hospital a lot, sometimes every week. Gareth quickly learnt how to look after himself.
“I would wash and iron my shirts for school, make my food, that kind of thing. I didn’t want to go in to school looking scruffy or be seen as ‘the poor kid’. I remember being at my granddad’s once and he needed something ironing, and I said ‘I can do it.’ He was really surprised. I didn’t realise it was uncommon to have all those skills at a young age,” he says.
Fortunately for Gareth, he had some really inspiring teachers at school that encouraged him, especially his PE teachers. “They would always listen to me and check I was OK. I learned techniques to manage stress and vent my anger through sport. That’s when I began to think about PE and sport as a career,” he says.
Going into care
Just before Christmas when Gareth was 17, his mum passed away and a close friend of his mum’s became his foster carer. Because his brother was older, he didn’t go into the care system. Gareth thinks that put his brother at a disadvantage. “He didn’t get the same opportunities as me. I had access to the leaving care team who helped me out in lots of ways. They helped me to realise my dreams and gave me support to achieve them, but he didn’t. He ended up in bedsits without much support.’
Gareth went to college and did a Coaching and Fitness qualification and applied to university to do a BSC in sports coaching. He got in.
“I graduated from university last year. Only six percent of care leavers go to university and only four per cent graduate, so to be part of that statistic is my biggest achievement and something I’m really proud of,” he says.
Gareth on graduation day
Help from Centrepoint
Whilst at university, Gareth lived in student halls and then in a shared house, but after university, Gareth had no family to move back in with and his leaving care personal adviser suggested Centrepoint. “When I got there it was really nice and all of the members of staff were incredibly supportive. While I had picked up many life skills early on, there were still things I wasn’t sure about and my support workers really helped me, they made me feel that no question was too small - little things like how long to leave my washing out to dry that I’d never really figured out," he says.
Gareth also benefitted from the Centrepoint bursary scheme.
“When I came to Centrepoint in September, I was told about the bursary, but I didn’t think I was able to access it for anything non-academic and since I already had a degree, I thought I wouldn’t be eligible,” he says.
“My main ambition has always been to be a PE teacher and I decided to start taking my coaching seriously and I spoke to Chloe from the engagement team and because of my connection with Barnsley football club and the fact that I’ve got an FA level 1 coaching course, she suggested that I seek help from the bursary to get my level 2.”
“Chloe came with me to talk to Barnsley Football Club and they agreed to pay half of the course fee and the Centrepoint bursary would pay the other half - £175. I’ve also applied to the bursary for help with travel as the course is in Halifax. I don’t mind the travel because I really appreciate the opportunity, but I can’t afford the train fare. So the bursary is going to help me with that as well.”
I couldn’t be more thankful to Centrepoint for giving me this opportunity.”
“In the future, I want to support young people who’ve been through similar things to what I’ve been through, and I think that having my own experience will help me relate to them.”
Gareth recently attended the Kings Cup Regatta with his keyworker and met one of his heroes John Bishop who was skipper for one of the other charity boats.
Gareth is looking locally for a flat share with his brother and hopes to move into his own place soon.