They say charity begins at home. Well In 2011 I was lucky enough to be invited to a charity auction in Stoke-on-Trent - which is where I was bought up.
It was to be hosted by charity founder Dawn Deaville. At that point I had no idea Dawn would have had such a huge influence on my life and be one of the most inspirational women I've ever met. Her unrivalled passion for young people is extra ordinary.
I didn't know too much about the charity but I liked there ethos. RubyGirl UK focus's on self value and recreating your life story, thus not allowing your past define your future.
I liked the sound of it, so I went along and watched Dawn in action talking about the the work that they do and the programmes they run in the City - which is really quite remarkable.
Something resonated with me that night, maybe because my life hasn't always been plain sailing. So as well as bidding and winning a barge trip for four (that I didn't really want), I started working with RubyGirl UK from then on.
That night at the auction I also met a young girl called Roxanne - she was in care and had been badly let down by the people in her life. I talked to her for a while and I remember she had a pretty bleak view of the world for someone so young. It broke my heart. I kept in touch with her for a while after that. Then Dawn told me not long ago that she'd tried to kill herself for a second time. She was 18. That should be uncommon, but it's not.
Rubygirl UK works with a wide spectrum of vulnerable young people who are from challenging backgrounds & struggle with issues such as deprivation, self harm, abuse, addiction, mental health, bullying and low self esteem. Their focus is on moving forward and making good choices.
They run many programmes including 1-1 life coaching and mentoring, they also visit high schools and diverse youth establishments around Stoke on trent delivering innovative sessions to groups of young people. One course sticks in my mind, its called the 'love me' course.
Delivered to groups of girls on body image and self esteem. It's all done in good spirits and isn't designed to be 'heavy'.
In one exercise Dawn asks the girls to write on a mirror in lipstick what they see when they look at themselves. The results were staggering. Out of 647 students do you know how many girls wrote something positive? Two girls.
Now, for the record I don't believe this lack of self love is confined to those 14 year old girls in that school in Stoke. In fact, right now I'm filming Switched At Birth in Los Angeles - the town of beautiful, toned, tanned, people. It's interesting because some of the most beautiful women I've met have also been the most insecure, so I think we could all use a little Rubygirl sparkle.
Two years ago Rubygirl UK turned into Ruby girl 'featuring Ruff Diamonds' extending their support to young men as well as women and In September last year Rubygirl opened their first social enterprise 'The Ruff and Ruby Rooms' In the Intu Potteries shopping Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. This place is no ordinary charity shop, it's special. A lot of the clothes are from local designers who sell from the shop. They have; a hairdressers, a nail bar, life coaching rooms, an enterprise system where young people can gain real employment. A sewing section where you can take an item and up cycle it in the shop, literacy mornings taken by local teachers for young parents with children, a brand new up-cycling project called 'PUSH' taking old and unwanted bikes to be customised and re-invested back in the community AND they offer free tea and coffee all day!
In Dawns words "if you've done wrong or been wronged, come in and let us love you".