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Pillar gave Ben strength to change his life

Teenager Ben Powis felt down and out, suffering anxiety and depression with no hopes, drive, dreams or aspirations for the future. He was fast heading down a slippery slope to nowhere.

Turn the clock forward and the 19-year-old now tells a completely different story. He has a job, money in his pocket, is brimming with confidence and is looking forward to his future with a great deal of optimism.

Ben’s life transformed thanks to the support of the Prince’s Trust’s Personal Development Programme and he is a glowing example of the type of person who could benefit from a 12-week course covering things like CV writing, improving life skills, team building exercises and fundraising activities.

It made such an impact that Ben’s even found the time to volunteer for them, helping other young people who need support.

And he now wants anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to sign up for future courses, which are part of Severnside Housing’s Learning Programme, with the next one starting on July 3.

Before his life-changing experience, the teenager was studying for a career in agriculture and admits he brought a lot of his problems on himself.

“I admit I was a bit mouthy, I didn’t make life easy for myself so people started to give it back,” explained Ben, a Severnside Housing tenant, who lives with his family in Shrewsbury. “I then had a few issues with bullying which brought on anxiety and depression. I couldn’t even walk into a club, café or any other public place without twitching or shaking – I was a right bag of nerves.

“So I was my own worst enemy but it really hit my self-esteem. I wouldn’t get out of bed until 4pm, claimed Employment Support Allowance and then I was signed off sick too. I wasn’t doing anything with my life – I felt like a down and out.

“It was terrible but I almost started to think it was normal – this was what life had to offer me.

“I wanted to change my life. I didn’t want to wake up every day and think this was it. I just wanted to feel like someone who could get back into work.”

Then there was hope when Severnside Housing’s tenant magazine Pillar landed on his doorstep. In it he read about the Prince’s Trust 12-week course, run by City of Wolverhampton College, which inspired him into action.

“I thought yes, a chance to change my life so I enrolled,” said the former pupil of The Corbet School in Baschurch. “After a week of ice-breaking activities I just all of a sudden started feeling better. I felt like all of a sudden my life was changing for the better – a purpose for me at last.

“Then after a week I was told to pack for a residential week of challenges like rafting, river cross and archery with 13 other people. Now I could walk straight into the team room and not feel a thing – I just felt normal again.”

Fundraising activities followed including a carwash at Percy Thrower’s garden centre and refurbishment of a kitchen at a community centre.

After this, Ben decided to do his work experience for the Prince’s Trust because it had made such a profound impact on his life, supporting staff during a second residential away week.

His course came to an end in January this year and, by the time it had finished, he didn’t recognise himself.

“I was a completely different person who was fit for work,” he said. “I could have acted differently in the past and I would have knowing what I do now. But everyone deserves a second chance and I will definitely make the most of mine now.”

Equipped with his new skills, Ben already has a part time job as assistant manager at Roden Nurseries near Shrewsbury but he still wanted to do more.

After a catch up with Kevin Faulkner, team leader at the Prince’s Trust, they offered him a five-week traineeship, helping other young people get into employment as well as doing admin work and improving his own maths and English skills.

“Now I know I don’t want a job in agriculture,” he said. “I want a career in helping other people get out of similar circumstances to mine. Everyone needs that helping hand or a chance to see how they can live their lives better. It often takes just being given the opportunity and I’m lucky to have had that.

“I also feel lucky to be a Severnside tenant because if I wasn’t I may have never seen that magazine and I may still be getting up in the afternoon. Who knows? It’s been life-changing. I can’t thank the Prince’s Trust enough and Severnside has had a big part to play in turning my life around too.”

Kevin Faulkner, team leader at the Prince’s Trust, said Ben was a great example of how support can be life-changing.

To find out more about how to enrol on the Prince’s Trust programme and Severnside Housing’s new Learning Programme visit www.severnsidehousing.co.uk or phone 0300 300 0059.