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England Country Final

Meet the winners from our England Country Finals of The Prince's Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards. 

The Watches of Switzerland Group Young Change Maker winner is... Ben Jewers-Pettinger

Ben, 23, from Leeds, began struggling with severe depression and anxiety during his A-levels. “I went from being a grade A student at GCSEs to failing every exam I took in my last year of school. After I left school, the depression took over and I retreated into myself for years.”

Eventually, Ben worked up the courage to sign on at the Job Centre, where he was referred to The Prince’s Trust Team programme, a 12-week confidence and skills development scheme for young people. Ben was nervous at first, but soon started to come out of his shell and grew in confidence day by day. The residential trip to the Lake District got him out of the house and his comfort zone, and Ben rose to the challenge of working collaboratively others in activities like caving, canoeing, and abseiling.

Ben’s Team Leaders describe him as an “inclusive leader” who welcomed everyone equally and made sure that no one was left out. “The programme was exhilarating. I made lots of friends and my confidence and self-esteem skyrocketed.

“Part of the programme was a work experience placement. I worked with construction company Balfour Beatty for a few days, and they said they saw my promise and wanted me to work for them.

“I started in an administrative role there in June 2020, and then in May 2021 I was taken on as a Data Analysist Apprentice. I always thought I couldn’t have a job, and now I’ve held one down in a pandemic!”

Ben recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at work. Reflecting on his mental health now, he said: “It’s not about magically overcoming your mental health conditions; it’s about finding the right support and coping strategies to live with them. I talk to my employer about taking small breaks in the day to help me recentre on a bad day, and I take mental health days off, like we do for physical health.

If you’re unemployed and struggling with your mental health, focus on taking small steps forward.

"Job searching can be daunting, so find small ways to advance your confidence before you put your applications in; try to go out the house, have fun with your friends, and take steps to reach out for support. There’s help out there for you, and you are worth it.”

Ben is now a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador and has continued to grow his confidence while inspiring hundreds of people by sharing his story and destigmatising mental health. In June 2021, Ben was invited to St James’s Palace to speak on behalf of young people at a Prince’s Trust event hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales.

“It’s almost unbelievable that I’ve gone from not leaving the house two years ago with severe depression to speaking with royalty and being interviewed by CNN!"

The Community Impact winner is... Felixstowe Team

Five young people signed up for The Prince’s Trust Team programme with Inspire Suffolk to build their confidence, meet new people and gain employability skills. But they made more of an impact than they could have ever expected when they decided to tap into the wisdom of their community’s older residents.

Talena, Lawrence, Poppy, Mason and Cameron were all unemployed and facing challenges in life – from poor mental health to low confidence and anxiety about socialising – when they embarked on Team. As part of the twelve-week programme, the Felixstowe Team took on a community project to make a positive difference in the place they live.

The Team wanted to support individuals over 65 and were keen to design a project that broke down age barriers and reduced loneliness; topics they knew were particularly important due to the pandemic. After speaking with a Care Home Manager, they found out that a lot of residents were facing loneliness which was detrimental to their mental health.

The group chose to link up with three local care homes where they asked residents to submit letters with life advice for their 16 year old selves. They hoped to gain wisdom from the older generation in the letters and help give those writing a sense of companionship and community.

The young people received 15 letters back and with the help of a local printer made the letters into a book. They then visited the care homes to speak to the letter writers and asking more questions about the residents’ lives, which brought two very different age groups together.

Poppy, 22, said:

The project helped me come out of my shell and made a difference to individuals who experience the negative impacts of loneliness.

"The ‘Letters to my 16-year-old self’ meant I got to listen and read about other people’s life experiences and stories of when they were younger and how they overcame obstacles they faced.”

Finally, the Team also handed out information leaflets in Felixstowe to signpost support for loneliness, which pushed them to leave their comfort zones and talk with elderly members of the public loneliness and how to tackle it.

Steve (an individual aged 65+ who participated in the ‘Letters to my 16 year old self’ project) said: “I feel the project has encouraged the young people on the Felixstowe Team Programme to develop their confidence and self-belief. We know self-esteem is important and we have all suffered a lack of this at some point in our lives, which has sometimes even prevented us from doing things we want to.”

All the young people who participated have built their teambuilding and communication skills and are now either in work or taking positive steps towards education and employment.

The NatWest Enterprise winner is... Kayleigh Taylor

“When I was in school, The Prince’s Trust came in to do a talk and I vividly remember switching off. I thought there is no point in me listening to this, because I’ll never own my own business. I remind myself of that every time I give talks about my successful food business now, and it makes me so proud!”

Kayleigh Taylor, 27, from Wallsend, left home during her final year of school and moved around a lot, living at friends’ homes and in supported housing.

“ADHD is one of the biggest struggles I’ve faced. I was academically intelligent at school, but everyone thought I had behavioural issues because I couldn’t focus on lessons like others could. It wasn’t until I left school that I was diagnosed with ADHD – as a child, I was just told I was naughty. “I’ve had some amazing jobs since I left school, but I found it hard to stay at any of them for long. That’s when I decided I should start my own business.

“I’ve only been cooking for the past four years, but quickly found out that I had a talent for it. I use food to show my love to my partner, friends and family, and it became like therapy for me after a long day at work.”

Kayleigh set up Klee’s Kitchen in 2020, a healthy meal prep delivery service which takes away the hassle of cooking, food shopping and washing up for people with busy lives. She got to a point where wanted to leave her job and concentrate on the business full-time, so she turned to The Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise program for support.

“Because of my ADHD, I’m not always good at planning ahead, so I needed the course to give me some structure. My Prince’s Trust business mentor, Brian, helped me massively with tax, registering my business, and accounting. It was massive to me to have people believe in me. I’d never done anything like this before, and in the past people hadn’t been taking me seriously and didn’t think I could make a proper business from my meal prep.”

Now, Kayleigh has moved Klee’s Kitchen into a permanent premise in Gateshead and employs four delivery drivers, two full-time apprentices and one full-time member of staff. Klee’s kitchen has launched a Sunday Lunch service, and Kayleigh is also currently looking at opening a takeaway that serves Afro-Caribbean soul food.

“My ADHD makes it hard for me to stay focused on one thing, so I always have two or three things on the go at the same time.

Being my own boss lets me come up with new ideas while keeping to my focus of making tasty and health food. This business is definitely the longest I've stuck at anything.

Kayleigh also volunteers her time to the Prince’s Trust Enterprise courses as a speaker. “I completely love giving the motivational speeches on the courses. Self-employment isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’ll help you become more organised and grow as a person.”

The Marvel Rising Star winner is... Tania Makwana

“When I was little, I would watch shows and saw how the ambulance service rescued people, and I wished that someone would rescue and save me. But I grew up and became an ambulance worker and I rescued myself”.  

Tania Makwana, 31, from London, was subject to physical and emotional abuse from a young age. After leaving her family home at 17, Tania was homeless and had no support network around her. At 22, Tania had a son with her then-partner. When her relationship with him broke down, she struggled to maintain a stable job as a single parent. A year later, she began a new relationship and fell pregnant with her second son. Around this time, Tania started to notice controlling behaviours in her relationship.  

“Domestic violence can happen to anyone – it doesn’t matter if you’re a police officer, a lawyer, or an ambulance crew member like I am now.” When her youngest son was four months old, Tania’s partner threw bleach at her. With the support of police, victim support and social services, Tania left everything she had built over 12 years behind, fled the area and was placed in a women’s refuge. 

Tania and her children remained in the refuge for 20 months while the trial against her ex-partner took place. “One thing I’ve learnt is that there isn’t as much help for domestic violence survivors as you’d expect. We were moved around a few times before being placed in accommodation far from anyone we knew, where I felt depressed and isolated.”  

“Thankfully, I made my way back to London. I was sitting at home one day in lockdown when the kids were at school, and I saw an advert on Instagram for The Prince’s Trust’s Get Started with the Ambulance Service programme. It felt like a sign, because I’ve always wanted to work for the ambulance service. I thought to myself, I don’t want to sit here doing nothing with my life – I need to start taking opportunities.”  

Tania thrived on the programme, despite how anxious she felt about starting work as a single mum. “I was close to giving up so many times. Even just on the second day, I thought ‘I can’t do this’. But my Prince’s Trust mentor was always there to support me and tell me that we’ll cross any bridge when it comes to it.”  

Upon completing the programme, Tania was told she had been successful in her interview with London Ambulance Service and was offered the position of Assistant Ambulance Practitioner in January 2021.  

“Before, I struggled to get out of bed, and now I go into a busy job where I work with different people every day. The people we help look up to us, and it makes me feel that I’m not just someone that’s been abused, I’m someone that is respected for what I do. I can connect with people we help who are going through the same things I once was, like domestic violence, homelessness and poor mental health. 

Having a career is just amazing. I’m 31 now and this is the only time I’ve ever been happy - my life has only just begun.

"I can do things I’ve always wanted to do, like save for a house and treat my kids to things. My kids are my motivation - I’m trying to make a better life for them. 

“I know how hard it is when you’re in an abusive relationship, you feel you can’t live without them. The best thing you can do is take yourself out of situation, especially if you have kids. My life didn’t improve until I left, spoke to people about what was going on and leant on support around me.” 

The Ascential Educational Achiever winner is... Ella Williams

There were a number of reasons why Ella Williams, 16, from Hertfordshire, used to struggle to feel positive about going to school.  

“I was bullied in Year 7 and I was assaulted, which had a huge impact on me. I had to move school and I didn’t settle in well there at all.  

“My confidence was really low after what had happened at my last school, and I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. I wasn’t comfortable going in on my own, so my mum had to take me every day, and my attendance ended up being low because of my confidence. I also have dyslexia, which makes school a lot harder for me.”  

Ella joined the Prince’s Trust Achieve club at the Dacorum Education Support Centre (Desc), which gave her the opportunity to relate more positively to her school environment. 

“Achieve is still like school, but you get to do activities, trips and socialising that you wouldn’t normally. It helped me gain confidence and make friends with the people that were in my class.

Talking to people who had similar struggles to me helped me to open up properly. I didn’t really talk to anybody before and Achieve helped me to come out of my shell. 

“One of my friends from Achieve also struggled with attendance, so we would motivate each other to both go in so that we could talk to each other.”  

In Year 11, Ella’s attendance jumped up to 90% and she gained her Level 1 Achieve Award, a recognised Prince's Trust qualification that you can put on your CV or UCAS form. “I was more focused on learning and actually wanted to go to school. I even started helping other people on the Achieve course who needed support.”  

Ella is now studying Level 1 Health and Social Care at College. “I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be studying at College and enjoying it because of the experiences I’d had before. I’m learning about all different aspects of health and social care, and I’m working hard to get the grades I need to go onto the Level 2 course. I’ve also realised that I want to work with children in nurseries, so it’s great having that to work towards.” 

The HSBC UK Breakthrough winner is... Shula Jenkins

Twenty-five year old Shula faced health complications from a young age and received a liver transplant when she was just six years old. As an adult, she struggled with low self-esteem and, after being out of work for nearly four years, her anxiety reached an all-time high.

Shula was determined to make a positive change in her life and joined the Prince’s Trust Explore course hoping to build the confidence and skills she needed to move forward.  
“The course really helped me to get out of my comfort zone and I got involved with activities that I would have never tried before, like canoeing. Everyone at The Trust was really supportive and I became more confident in myself every day. I proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.”

Shula went on to secure a place on The Trust’s Get into Retail programme with Marks & Spencer. “I used to doubt that I could ever work in retail, and in particular was really nervous about the idea of working on the till, but the programme taught me lots. It wasn’t long before I felt more confident and I soon knew the store like the back of my hand. I couldn’t have been prouder of myself when M&S offered me a paid contract at the end of my work experience with them!”

Shula’s re-entry to the world of work in February 2020 was abruptly cut short the following month. “I’m considered high risk because of my liver transplant and was instructed to shield for six months. I felt as if I were back at square one and I really wasn’t sure what to do next. I knew I could count on The Prince’s Trust for support and it turned out they were running virtual coffee mornings and personal development sessions, which I found really helpful.”

Shula also used her time in lockdown to create digital images for her own brand, called Diddla Designs, and even learned how to grow her business with support from The Trust. “Lots of people pursued their passions during lockdown, and my outlet is definitely drawing. I used to say my artwork wasn’t good enough for other people, but now I sell it on Etsy!”  

Shula is now on a permanent contract with M&S as a Customer Assistant.

I feel really lucky that I got another opportunity to work at a good company like M&S. You hear a lot about how people struggled to find work last year, and I was lucky enough to have this job and my art on the side.

“My family say even now that you can tell how much I’ve grown and how I’m more confident talking to people that I don’t know. I hope someone reads my story and takes that first step to actually hand in a CV, or even just talk to someone who can help them get a job.” 
 

The Homesense Young Achiever winner is... Natalie Taylor

“My job has changed me as a person. I feel like I’m not just a mum now, I’ve got my own career too which I’m proud of myself for.”  

Before she became a Healthcare Assistant, Natalie Taylor, 30, from Lancashire, was a stay-at-home Mum to her five young children, her youngest of whom was born with a chronic lung condition and required 24-hour care.  

“I really struggled finding work when I was looking after my children, and I hadn’t had a job for five years by the time I reached out to The Prince’s Trust. Especially with my little girl being poorly, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to work.

“I’d always wanted to work for the NHS and become a nurse though, even more so when I had my daughter and became her full-time carer. It gave me a lot of get up and go to start my career in healthcare.  

“I found out about Get into Hospital Services with The Prince’s Trust and East Lancashire Hospital Trust in the summer of 2020. Being at home with five children and not seeing many people especially during lockdown, my confidence and self-belief was really low. On the course, I realised that I could work in a hospital, and I just needed to believe in myself.  

“It helped to always have somebody to talk to when I was feeling overwhelmed or unsure of myself, and it was important to be in an environment where I could meet new people every day. I started coming out of the shell that I’d been in.” The East Lancashire Hospital Trust saw Natalie’s potential on the programme and shortly after offered her a Healthcare Assistant placement.  

For four weeks, Natalie got her five children ready and out of the house by 7:30am and arrived at her placement on time every day with a smile on her face. “Even though it was stressful working during a busy period of the pandemic for Lancashire, I just wanted to do my bit and make a difference.”  

Natalie now works as a full time Health Care Assistant role in the Accident and Emergency department. “No matter how hard and tiring work can be, I just love looking after my patients and I wouldn’t change my job for the world. I’ve spent so much time in hospital because of my daughter, so I understand how my patients and their families feel and I can communicate with them.  

My job has changed me as a person. I’m happier at home and around the kids now.

"I was able to take the kids on our first holiday abroad last year to Spain, it made me so happy to see them smiling.”