International Youth Day 2018 is celebrating safe spaces for youth; highlighting the importance of providing safe spaces for young people to find support for their diverse, and often complex needs, as well as a place to be free to express themselves.

At The Prince’s Trust, we are dedicated to ensuring that our centres across the country are indeed spaces in which young people feel safe. In London, we work closely with our partner, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust to deliver programmes in our Poplar and Kennington centres that not only develop young people’s skills and confidence, but also create spaces where they also feel valued and understood.

This year, through the Fairbridge programme funded by City Bridge Trust, Bradley, 24, from South London, found a safe space that took him from feeling trapped in his house, to becoming a team leader and into an apprenticeship.

Three years before engaging with The Prince’s Trust, and just before leaving Sixth Form, Bradley fell seriously ill with pneumonia, was hospitalised, and then put on extended bed rest to recover. During this period he developed severe depression which he continued to experience for a further three years. Describing this time as feeling ‘shut in’ and like a ‘nervous wreck’, he would barely speak to anyone and had panic attacks when trying to leave his house.

“I was referred to The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme through my aunt. She thought it would help bring some routine into my life and give me a reason to get out of the house.”

However it took Bradley a year after hearing about Fairbridge to build the confidence to come to an induction. After two inductions Bradley felt ready to begin the programme at The Prince’s Trust Kennington Centre.

At first, I was very nervous and found it difficult to socialise with the others. But as the programme went on, I began to feel more confident and my panic attacks subsided.

Bradley started excelling on the course and got stuck in to all the challenges of his Access week, an adventurous activities course entirely funded by City Bridge Trust. By being welcomed into a safe space, Bradley began to feel positive and proactive; interacting well with everyone and was even being called a team leader!

Bradley graduated onto Follow On sessions and showed fantastic commitment; always being the first person in the Kennington centre, always offering a helping hand, and always being ready and eager to try new things.

“I really connected with my team leader’s ‘comfort, stretch, panic’ model and was determined to not let my comfort zone become so small and limiting again. I really focused on stretching myself continuously.”

Bradley came to a huge variety of sessions including: facing his fears of water head on by taking part in a canoeing session; building confidence to voice his opinions in a philosophy session; and receiving an insight into employability by sitting in on interviews for prospective staff.

After the programme, although coming so far, Bradley still felt as though he lacked some direction, not knowing what he wanted to do next. However, instead of letting this paralyse him as before, Bradley continued to keep trying new things.

“I thought about the caving activity we did on the Fairbridge Access week. When I was in the dark cave, I could not see where I was going, but with determination and a bit of bravery, I began to trust myself and those supporting me, to move through the darkness and persevere to safety!”

Bradley worked up the courage to begin volunteering with Vauxhall City Farm, assisting them in everything from the shop to the kitchen. He made such an impression with his reliability and enthusiasm that he was offered an apprenticeship in Business Support, which is where he continues to work today.

I can’t believe how far I’ve come from the Fairbridge programme. I now leave the house every day and feel confident in talking to people of all ages. My life really has changed for the better.