"When I was younger, I saw things no child should have to witness. I was hurt mentally and physically by people who were supposed to protect me. It is no exaggeration to say that there were times when I feared for my life."
The above words are not mine. They belong to a young man called Shaun who I had the privilege to meet at the recent Prince's Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards. There is no denying that Shaun's description of his childhood is distressing. As a father, I found it haunting.
Thanks to my parents I have fond memories of my childhood and have tried my best to ensure that my children can say the same about theirs. No matter how busy my schedule, my family will always take priority.
I am in no way professing to be a perfect parent. None of us were born knowing how to raise a child and there are still times when I struggle. However, I remember when I first held my baby daughter Molly in my arms. I promised her there and then that I would do everything in my power to protect her and I made the same promise when my second daughter Ruby was born a few years later.
I know that many parents have a hell of a lot on their plates. However, there is no denying that children need adults around them that they can depend upon. They also need experiences that will help boost their confidence and self-esteem. Parents don't need to spend lots of money on expensive activities or holidays to create great memories. What children and young people benefit from most is love, support and guidance.
As a child, Shaun was regularly told that he would amount to nothing. With this, and everything else he was dealing with, it is perhaps of little surprise that he went on to develop severe behavioural problems. By the time he was 15, Shaun had been in and out of several schools and excluded three times. He found it impossible to engage with education because he felt like no one cared. Desperate to escape his unhappiness, he turned to drugs and ended up dealing to pay for his addiction.
Shaun's life was spiralling out of control. Luckily, his grandfather took the time to teach him to weld and Shaun managed to put himself through college. However, things were still not plain sailing as Shaun struggled to find and keep work.
At this point, it could have been easy for Shaun to slip back into criminal activity. Instead he held firm and looked for other options. When he heard about The Prince's Trust Enterprise programme - which helps unemployed young people set up in business - Shaun grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
To have people believe in him and his abilities was a huge deal for Shaun and he describes meeting people from The Trust as a turning point. He had support and guidance from adults that he could depend upon and these positive experiences went on to become the fond memories that Shaun so desperately deserved.
With The Trust's support, Shaun gained the skills, knowledge and confidence to set up his own business making bespoke pond covers. He went on to become a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador, sharing his story to inspire others.
Shaun has done an outstanding job of inspiring other young people in similar positions to the one he was once in. I was therefore delighted to see him crowned the Mappin and Webb Young Ambassador of the Year at The Prince's Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards last week.
Shaun's story is a reminder that the foundations we lay for our children and young people are of utmost importance. Over the 20 years that I have been an ambassador for The Prince's Trust, I have met so many young people left with deep emotional scars as a result of traumatic childhood experiences.
I therefore strongly believe that, whether we are parents or not, we should try our best to be the kind of adults that children and young people can depend upon. Charities like The Prince's Trust - that put young people at the heart of what they do - also very much deserve our support.
I started with Shaun's words and will end with them too. This time it is not his childhood that Shaun describes, but his experience of The Prince's Trust. This time it is not distressing but inspiring. This time, I did not find it haunting but instead, utterly heart-warming...
"I was stuck in a very dark place before I came to The Trust but they were like a flashlight or a torch. I feel like they helped me to get my own torch and now, through my work as a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador, I hope I am able to shine that light for other people."
The Huffington Post backs The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards, recognising young people who have turned their lives around with help from the charity. The Mappin & Webb Young Ambassador of the Year Award in association with the Huffington Post recognises young people who volunteer their time, share their personal experiences and inspire others. #PTCelebrate
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