Lola describes her adolescence as wild. “I was living the street life – alcohol and drugs. I had quite a lot of abusive relationships because of the people I was hanging around with. It was very scary and emotional,” she recalls.
“I was around gangs – I didn’t get involved in craziness, but I was around bad influences and I had people in my ear, pressuring me – I’d think it was acceptable, but it wasn’t. I believe people get involved in gangs due to family issues. Mostly it’s not having someone there to talk to you and guide you in the right way so you turn to someone else. Sometimes that person can be a bad influence, but because there’s no one else, you stick by them,” she says.
When Lola got into a new relationship, she left her foster family to move in with him. Her new boyfriend was involved in a gang and after a short time, he started become abusive and Lola felt trapped. “I felt I could only depend on him. He used to poke me on my arm and legs with sharp objects like knives. Not deep, just a little poke to shut me up. At that point, I wasn’t really in my right mind – I thought that was acceptable. I didn’t have anyone else to lean on. I didn’t care what he did,” she remembers.
Lola ended up at Centrepoint when she left her borough – “there were too many bad memories and I just wanted to get away. Luckily, my new council found Centrepoint for me and I was there for about a year. When I turned 22 they helped me to secure my own flat,” she says.
“When you’re a Centrepoint resident, if the staff see that you’re vulnerable and don’t want to do anything with yourself, they will check up on you and encourage you. They always make sure you’re OK and are very keen to help you.”
Lola has completed a wood-laying and printing course through Centrepoint and The Prince’s Trust. She has also completed a catering programme at our training centre and is about to finish a hospitality traineeship at a major media corporation.
“I didn’t really cook much before I came to Centrepoint; I just loved eating. The staff were always telling me about this free cookery training. One day I decided to go and eat some of the food. I came; I ate the food; they didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. The next time, I went a bit earlier and gradually they started to get me involved. The earlier you get there, the more opportunities there are to prepare the food. I started coming earlier and earlier and people would tell me how good the food was and it was just such a good feeling to see they were enjoying what I’d prepared. It makes me happy to know I’ve contributed to their enjoyment. Now I love cooking” she says.
“Because I’ve passed my hospitality assessment with Centrepoint, Tom, the hospitality trainer at Centrepoint, connected me with a great traineeship. Tom is so cool. He’s a great guy, good chef. Very easy to understand and gives me really clear instructions. He’s great to work with.”
“Centrepoint link you up with great places. They won’t link you up with fast food outlets, they’ll link you with companies where you feel you are making progress, where you want to do your best and you don’t want to give up,” she says.
“I’m really enjoying my traineeship. I love it; I love serving the customers and presenting food on the plate, it’s fun and creative.”
“If I hadn’t connected with Centrepoint, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be thinking about education or achieving my goals. Centrepoint makes you want to do better. Sometimes making the staff proud of you is a real buzz and I want to make them proud again. A lot of the young people at Centrepoint don’t have family to be proud of them. You start feeling you can do better because the staff lift you up. They believe in me and that helps me to believe in myself.”
*names have been changed
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