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Hope is always there

Hope is always there

Matthew's Story

At five, Matthew’s parents split up and he was forced to move across the country with his mum. He was lonely and life felt uncertain. When he turned thirteen, he was criminally exploited. He became lost in a world of drugs and crime. After leaving this behind him he remained deeply traumatised. We supported him to rebuild his life and break free of his past. Today Matthew has his life back. He is a different person. He wants to help others. He wants them to know there is always a way out.

Matthew was criminally exploted

Teenage boy lying on bed looking up at the ceiling

Needing to belong 

Moving away from his dad and home at such a young age wasn’t easy. Matthew couldn't make sense of it. He didn’t feel safe.

Matthew didn't like his stepdad and the feeling seemed to be mutual. He didn't want to be at home.

School should have been a safe place to escape. But teachers gave him a hard time. His undiagnosed ADHD meant he couldn’t keep up.

Feeling scared to leave

He finally found the sense of belonging he had been craving through a group of ‘friends’. He started to depend on them. They gave him drugs, which numbed the pain. 

The group started breaking into houses and robbing people. They were selling drugs. Matthew did what he was told. He knew it was wrong, but he didn’t want to be alone again. 

I would be scared. But you can't show it. I would be scared. But you can't show it.

Drugs and violence

A lot of it came from not having any direction. It is why I got involved in all the gangs, drugs and violence.

‘But finding people who are from the same situation as me, that I could actually relate to, I felt like that's where I belonged. I fit in a lot better.’ 

‘At the very start, I was 13 or 14. When a lot of the violence and things started, I was about 15 years old, and it went on until I was nearly 19.’ 

Matthew quote about mandy

Boy sitting in an alley back to wall looking up

Matthew made the difficult decision to leave the group. He realised if he stayed he was either 'going to end up in prison or dead.’ His drug use had got a lot worse. He was becoming really paranoid and wasn’t eating properly.

‘I was using drugs and I just didn't want to eat at all. I had huge anxieties and panic attacks every day.’ 

‘I was suicidal. I didn't feel like I was good for anything. I even tried to overdose twice. I just didn't want to be here anymore.’ 

Matthew was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. All the trauma he had faced and all the years of bottling up his emotions had taken their toll. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital out of fear that if he didn’t get help for his eating problem he could die.

Teenage boy at the park wearing a beanie and jacket

I could tell Mandy cared. It made all the difference. I could tell Mandy cared. It made all the difference.

– Matthew

Learning to trust

That’s when Matthew was introduced to Mandy, one of our specialist substance misuse practitioners. He began to meet with her at home each week. Slowly he learnt to trust again. He began to open up. 

Mandy saw Matthew for the person he is, not his past. Step-by-step they worked on rebuilding his life. It meant so much to him to know there was someone out there that wanted to help. 

breaking free

Boy grey woolly hat brown jumper looking at camera

Today, just two years later, everything is different. Matthew wants to tell his story to help anyone else that feels they are stuck and on their own. He knows that the road ahead may not always be easy. But now he has his whole life ahead of him. He is beginning to imagine what the future holds. 

‘Carrying on with the stuff I was doing, there's no doubt about it, I'd be in prison, possibly be homeless with extreme mental health issues, or I'd be dead.’  

‘Compared to that time, I’m a completely different person. I'm so much more open. I know I've come far. I'm more positive.’ 

Hopeful for the future

He wants to work in Psychology so that he can help people who need it too. Matthew knows he can’t change his past, but he can change his future. He feels lucky to have met Mandy and hopes others can get the same support. 

‘Mandy knows how much she has done for me. I've told her enough times.’

She saved my life. That's all I can really say.

Boy in grey woolly hat and brown leather coat staring at camera

Donate today

Donate today to help our project workers reach a young person who is being exploited.

Together we can help them break free from their abusers and begin to recover.


This is a true story but names and identifying details have been changed to protect the young person and the photographs are posed by a model.