Chris Bowers, 24, Belfast, had led a fairly standard life. But in 2012, when Chris was 21, his best friend unexpectedly died. He was shattered.   

“I started drinking and taking drugs. I have a younger brother who’s severely disabled and I’d always helped look after him, but then I became the problem.  My parents kicked me out because I was disruptive. I moved into a flat and all I did was wake up, smoke joints, sleep in, wake up, smoke joints and sleep in.”

Lost in a cycle of despair, Chris felt life wasn’t worth anything.

I felt let down. My best mate was so important in my life and I didn’t know the point of anything anymore. I couldn’t have imagined the life I have today.

It was his own strength that pulled Chris out of the cycle of despair. After four or five months, he woke up one morning with the realization that self-destruction was not the way to mark the death of someone precious.

I thought about my best friend and how he’d not had time to live his dream, and I knew that I had to start giving something back and build my own dream.  I’d gone into construction on my father’s recommendation, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. I wanted to care for people.

“My brother’s deaf so I knew about the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). I rang them up and said I wanted to volunteer.”

Having taken the first step, Chris gave up drink and drugs, and threw himself into helping others. He did so well with the Northern Ireland branch of NDCS that he was sent to Wales for a week of specialist training.

“The training was about autism awareness, and I loved that. I came back and started looking for paid jobs working with young people with disabilities, and it was during that search I came across The Prince’s Trust Get into Health and Social Care course. It was four weeks of specialist training that covered everything from the protection of vulnerable adults to the management of confidential information.

One of the high spots was the placement, which I spent in a day centre for the elderly. I used to do the bingo calling, and I’d make it up and make them laugh – number 65, bus pass.

Having passed the course, Chris was confident that he’d found his vocation.  He soon found a job working with adults who have learning disabilities and in 2014 he became a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador, a voluntary position which enables young people who have completed a course to share their story to encourage others to get involved.

During that time he applied to work with children at a camp in the US and spent a few months working abroad before returning to Northern Ireland.

“I came back from the US and was offered an opportunity to work with The Prince’s Trust as a Job Ambassador and it’s brilliant! I go out and engage with young people and I’m their first point of contact.

It’s been an incredible couple of years. The Prince’s Trust has helped me to change my life. I’m following my own dreams and I’ve got so much more to give.

“My ambition is to work with the learning disabled, to be a public speaker –changing attitudes, outcomes, and making lives better. I couldn’t have imagined how much I’d get from life a couple of years back. The Prince’s Trust has given me the self-belief and the motivation to achieve greatness.”