At the beginning of 2020, Cleo, a care leaver from Cardiff, was living in a hostel. She had recently dropped out of college due to her anxiety and was smoking cannabis daily. As a result, Cleo’s relationship with her support workers began to deteriorate and her behaviour towards them at the hostel was becoming increasingly disruptive. 

“After dropping out of college I felt defeated, bored, lost, and I had absolutely no motivation. I didn't want to leave the house, and I’d spend days at a time in my room without leaving. The hostel became a very negative place for me.” 

After three months of daily cannabis use and persistent struggles with her mental health, a youth mentor told Cleo about The Prince’s Trust Get Started with Cooking programme. Cleo knew she was eventually going to have to live independently, so she thought it might be useful to take part and gain some valuable cooking skills.  

Cleo attended the taster day for the programme in February with her support worker. “I was so nervous on the first day, that I begged my support worker to take me home! She encouraged me to stick it out, and I am so glad she did now because by the end of the day I’d met other young people like me on the course. We became friends and still talk most days!”  

The Get Started course gave Cleo a real sense of purpose. It was a reason to get out of the hostel each day, and the course helped Cleo to improve her confidence, self-belief, and eventually helped her to stop taking cannabis. After Cleo completed the course, she joined The Trust’s Explore programme to further her development. Cleo’s confidence was reaching an all-time high, just as the country went into the first lockdown.  

“I was back spending all my time in the four walls my hostel bedroom again, and it was a real struggle. I felt very cut off from the world and the loss of freedom made it hard to adjust. Some days it felt like I was back to square one, but on others the Explore programme and the variety of topics kept me going.” 

In July, Cleo got the news that she had been offered her own flat. It took a while to adjust, but Cleo is now living independently and feels supported by the network around her. Additionally, Cleo has also returned to education, studying Maths, English, Digital Literacy and Employability Skills as part of a vocational access course at Cardiff and Vale College. This is all part of a bigger plan for Cleo; she has a desire to learn how to help others and is hoping to soon be on a placement to help children in a care home, where she can lean on some of her own experiences.  

“I’ve been in care since I was a baby and have lost a lot of people close to me in that time. Young people shouldn’t be ashamed to be in care, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t go far in life.

I want to help others to be proud of who they are. I’ve been knocked down loads, and I’ve had my bad days, but I’ve a fire in my belly to use my story to make a real difference.  

With a clear set of goals and fresh confidence, Cleo is more motivated than ever to achieve and feels excited about her future. 

"Never stop believing in your dream, big or small, good things happen to those who wait.”