Celebrity Ambassador Alesha Dixon recently made a surprise visit to a local community centre - to mark the 25th anniversary of the Team programme.
"I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I know what it feels like to live in a workless household, I don’t. I’ve never had to make big life decisions without a family to support me, and have never had to leave a job I love through illness – but I do know what it’s like to grow up in a dysfunctional home.
"I look back on my childhood and can remember witnessing domestic violence like it was yesterday. I know all too well how the effects of this, along with many other issues, can be far reaching and destructive.
"I’m lucky, I’ve had many roles throughout my career and know how rewarding doing a job you love can be. I always wanted to do well, and I worked hard to get to where I am today but it’s the support I get from my amazing family that keeps me going. They’re there to pick me up when I’m having a bad day. They’re there when I make the wrong decisions, when I’m trying to balance my home life with work or when I need to overcome a setback. With their support, I learn new things about myself and others every day, and over the years have built up the knowledge I can use to help others achieve their dreams. I know not everyone is as fortunate as me.
"Now, I’m known for my music career and for being a judge on TV talent shows. When I’m judging, I look for the hidden talent, the thing other people have failed to notice, and am always honest with people. The contestants on Britain’s Got Talent know they are entering a contest and will be subject to scrutiny, but for many young people across the UK, being judged isn’t something they choose. It’s something that happens to them, and they often feel powerless to change it.
"If someone is unemployed, it’s all too easy to assume they don’t want to work, when in reality they don’t have a job because they’ve been looking after siblings or caring for an ill parent.
"The Prince’s Trust understands the challenges facing disadvantaged young people, providing practical support that helps them realise their potential and get their lives on track.
"One of those young people is Claudia Konda, who I met recently while she was taking part in The Prince’s Trust Team programme – a 12 week personal development course supported by Barclays that helps young people gain the skills and confidence they need to move into work, education or training.
"Claudia’s world was turned upside down when she lost her Mum ten years ago. She soon found herself looking after her two younger siblings, having to stay strong for their sake no matter what happened. Claudia cared for her brother and sister through thick and thin, looking after her sister when she was ill with tuberculosis. All the while, she’d been suffering with clinical depression, which was only recently diagnosed.
"The pressures of daily life were a lot for Claudia to handle and her studies fell by the wayside as she struggled to keep her family afloat. She was frustrated because she knew she wasn’t reaching her full potential, and knew that if she wanted to keep supporting her siblings and be a good role model for them she had to get her life back on track.
"Just like many of the contestants I’ve seen at auditions, all Claudia needed was a chance to shine, and The Prince’s Trust Team programme gave her that opportunity. Despite having to move into a refuge just a few days before the programme started, Claudia stuck with it and the transformation in her is amazing. While learning new skills and getting the emotional support she so desperately needed, Claudia became even more determined to succeed. She was soon able to demonstrate all of her abilities and discovered a passion for working with young people who have autism while completing her work experience at The Aurora Centre.
"Claudia continues to bring smiles to the faces of the people she cares for at The Aurora Centre by volunteering there. She’s also going to study for a higher education diploma in social work in September to build on the skills she’s learned so far, and ultimately wants to help other people by working in educational psychology.
"Claudia is a truly inspirational young woman and just one example of someone who has the ability and desire to work, but just lacked the confidence and skills to get her foot in the door. How many other young people are there out there in the same situation? With support and encouragement of organisations like The Prince’s Trust, all young people can have a brighter future.