“I was around a lot of negativity and illegality — drugs and theft—at school growing up. You’d wear the wrong colour bandana into the wrong area and you’d get attacked. It’s ridiculous, but at the time it seemed normal.
Two guys from another area came into my school one day. There was a fight. One ended up on life support and one passed away. That’s when I realised how easy it is for that level of craziness to happen. There’s still that person inside me that has the reflex I learned from those days: that’s always on edge, that’s ready to go after someone right away.
The world felt hostile. Nothing good could have come out of the environment I was in then. But Switchback has surrounded me with people who are doing good stuff and they’re inspiring me to do the same. I’ve raised my ambitions. I have a target. Something to focus on.
Now I know there’s a whole world out there: it’s full of people from different walks of life, different backgrounds and careers — there’s a world beyond the people in my area. All these people around me here are the ones that are making the most difference for sure, keeping me on the right road.
”I’ve never had the level of trust or bond you get with a Switchback Mentor before.
The support you get from Switchback is so different to what you get on normal training programmes. I’ve got qualifications in painting and decorating and in photography from other organisations, but they’re just sitting there because I don’t know what do next, who to reach out to. For training to work, you need connections, progress and routine: that’s what Switchback gives.
A big difference about Switchback is that they are still by you even after you’ve finished your training. They’ll make sure you continue to get the support you need. Other companies you do your training and you’re out the door. End of. But I can come into Switchback at the drop of the hat and say, ‘Look, I’m in a situation and need help.’ It doesn’t need to be about work: it can be behavioural issues or mental stability, it could be financial.
I’ve had anger management mentors and general support mentors before but I’ve never had the level of trust or bond you get with a Switchback Mentor before. Here I can talk about anything, any problem I’m having. I know nobody’s going to say, ‘Ah that’s your fault, you caused it.’ Nobody’s going to explode. Getting things off my chest and helping me unravel situations like that makes me less stressed and more open. Your mind is a lot healthier that way.
I really struggled to set up a bank account. I spoke to my Switchback Mentor and she said ‘You can’t just give in like that, just because one or two places said no. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself’—and that’s what I did. Since then I’ve managed to sort out my doctors, my bank, started to sort out my driving, got into work, and now all these other opportunities are coming. I never would have got those opportunities if I hadn’t stuck with Switchback.
My new job is perfect. I’m working four days a week, I’m happy: I’m in a good place. I don’t want to lose that. It took me a long time to get here. So I’m going to hold on to it for sure.”
Raihan, Oct 2020