Excluded for not speaking the language, and bullied because of her alopecia, Soraia Soames, 21, from Portadown, Co. Armagh, felt friendless and alone.

She was 12 when her family relocated to Northern Ireland, but the constant torments Soraia endured saw her family move areas and schools three times to escape. By 16, she had had enough; she left school with no qualifications and no self confidence, but then became trapped in a violent relationship.

Her partner was arrested for physically attacking her when Soraia was 19 and pregnant with their daughter. Somehow, she held it together and, after the birth of her daughter, moved into a Women’s Aid Hostel. She later moved to a Parental Assessment Unit before securing a council house; but it was there that everything became too much. Unable to cope, she started drinking to escape.

I had no friends except for my family. I was in a pretty bad place. My dad got me to meet a charity called Breakthru to help me stop drinking. My mentor there knew I loved photography and told me about The Prince’s Trust’s film-making course and I knew straight away that I wanted to do it.

The course was Get Started with Film, and despite that fact that it took place 80 miles away from her home, Soraia saw it as an opportunity that was too good to miss and commuted there every day by bus just to be a part of it.

“I love photography and I didn’t really care how long it took to get to there; I just wanted to do it. I didn’t mind that I didn’t know anyone else there, and it didn’t matter anyway because after a couple of hours we all just got along and felt like we already knew each other. And because we were all into film and photography it made me feel like I could be myself. It was fun.”

Tasked with scripting and producing their own film within one week, Soraia and her group had to work together to get the end result: their own short film, shot, edited and ready to screen.

That was a big thing for me – seeing my film being put on at the cinema in Belfast. It made me feel happier; the whole course made me feel happier.

The end of the programme marked a new beginning for Soraia. She was assigned a progression mentor who referred her to the Team programme. This proved instrumental in changing Soraia’s outlook on life for good.

“Get Started was good. But Team was brilliant. It was five minutes on the bus and it ran for 12 weeks. I think the friends I made there made such a difference to me. Everyone got along, especially our community project – it was so much fun and we all got really close. We’re still in touch now.”

The friendships Soraia made on Team and Get Started have impacted enormously on her confidence, and she credits this as changing her demeanour and overall happiness.

I started noticing that I was getting better between doing the two programmes. I think it was the friends I was making. I had no friends before The Prince’s Trust, so when I started forming friendships, my confidence followed.

“Before The Prince’s Trust I was on a four; now I’m on a nine. That’s a big difference – even my little girl’s noticed.”

Soraia firmly believes that she now has the confidence and self esteem she needs to get on in life and stay happy. She hopes to find work in retail and make a good life for herself and her daughter.