We have listed below a very small selection of our case studies, in all cases the real names of the students have been substituted to protect confidentiality and identity.
Jake joined us as an 18-year-old college dropout. While his single mother worked three jobs to support him and his three siblings, Jake stayed up all night playing video games and slept until late in the afternoon. He had no plans for his future, felt no responsibility to contribute to his family’s welfare, and had no drive to do anything but play.
It was his grandfather, Derek, who saw Jake’s potential and introduced him to us. Jake was quickly partnered with his student buddy, Robin. His first task with Hand2Hand was to spend time in workshops with his mother. In doing so, he began to understand the sacrifice she was making for him and his siblings.
With Hand2Hand’s support and encouragement, Jake began training as an apprentice in a carpentry mentorship programme. His grandfather’s faith in him was quickly validated: Jake applied himself to learning as much as he could, and he proved himself a natural at building cabinetry and furniture. His hard work and the support of the foundation opened the doors from there, landing him a spot in a more advanced programme with a prestigious, 200-year-old cabinet-making firm.
Jake’s skill and dedication so impressed his supervisors that they offered him full-time work as a junior cabinet-maker. Today, in addition to working with them, he gives back to his family, helping his mother with her shifts at her third job, giving her the opportunity to spend more time with his younger siblings.
We (and his grandfather!) are delighted to see the change that this young man made in his drive and dedication, and look forward to seeing what he can accomplish in the future.
Mary had already tried to strike out on her own, against enormous odds, before she came to us. Her mother was seriously ill, and it fell to Mary to provide most of her day-to-day care. All through her school years and into the first year of college, she bravely shouldered the burden. But the weight was overwhelming, and when she’d only just begun her post-secondary education, she succumbed to depression.
When she first joined us, Mary had been living on the streets for a year and a half and was struggling with a substance abuse problem. She started the induction programme, but she remained deeply guarded, unable or unwilling to believe that anyone could help her. She didn’t make it through the induction. Mary dropped out and returned to living on the streets.
Some three months later, again facing a struggle with substance abuse, Mary came back to us in a different state of mind. This time, she made a personal commitment to positive change. The results were staggering. With the support of a truly tireless mentor, she graduated step by step through the programme, becoming ever more dedicated and willing to believe in her own ability.
Mary completed her A-levels and recently started a foundation degree course in nursing. Today she is excelling, and her success story grows ever more fulfilling every day, for her and the mentors of Hand2Hand alike.
The son of a hardworking single mother who refused to take government income support, Mohammed was raised with a strong sense of independence and an appreciation for self-motivated success. When we met him, he was living up to this ethic, working two jobs to help his mother support him and his siblings – but his spirit was broken. Intelligent and hardworking though he was, Mohammed didn’t have the financial means to pursue his dream of an IT degree. Even if he’d had the money, the class schedules conflicted with the jobs he needed to make ends meet for his family. He thought he would be stuck forever, his dreams growing ever farther from reality.
Our academic mentors went to work on their connections with the college Mohammed wanted to attend. Their passion and dedication prevailed, and the college agreed to alter their course offerings for the program from two full days a week to five evening sessions, making it possible for Mohammed to pursue the dream he’d come so close to abandoning. Then they did one better: they agreed to waive all of his fees and provide for additional tuition!
Mohammed justified all our faith in him when he completed his two-year college course with distinctions, continuing to work and support his family all the while. In October 2013, he will take the next step to achieving his goal when he embarks on a three-year IT BSC Hon at a top London University.
We at Hand2Hand are blessed to have been able to clear some of the obstacles from Mohammed’s path. We are grateful to our partners, whose support was vital in achieving that goal. And we are momentously proud of Mohammed, who proved through his hard work that he has embraced his mother’s priceless lesson: that you can only succeed when you take charge of your own future, and stand on your own two feet.
“Forgive and forget” was not a principle Steven believed in before we met him. Life had handed him an unfair situation: as a teen he was in foster care, bounced from home to home throughout his youth. The experience had left him fractured and scared, and made him easy prey for the tough crowd he’d fallen in with. The peer pressure was overwhelming, and the bad behaviour it encouraged felt right in line with the anger that churned up from his broken upbringing.
It was his sister who intervened and introduced Steven to us. At the time, he wanted nothing to do with the family he felt had abandoned him. She was determined to help him, though, and got Steven through our front door.
Our first challenge was to encourage Steven to trust, both in the people reaching out to him and in his ability to create his own future. His participation in the giving-back programme was a huge step in that direction. Through working with graduated students who turned their lives around with Hand2Hand, Steven saw the reality of positive change these young people had created, and how they used their success to uplift and support others.
Buoyed up by these new positive influences, Steven made his own choice for a positive change and moved on to a two-year training programme in engineering provided by one of our partners. Our personal mentors are still there with him every step of the way, and through their support and his own dedication, Steven is beginning to see how much he has to gain by breaking away from the people who wanted to drag him down and trusting in those who want to lift him up.
Steven’s success has been and continues to be a slow and gradual process, but our partners, his sister and we firmly believe that he has the heart and the talent to continue his success.
The story of the beginning of Julius’s new life is also the story of Hand2Hand’s founding – you can learn about his change of direction here.
Julius’s progress is proof that Suhail’s favourite saying is true: that the candle that lights another candle shines the brightest. The printing company that Hand2Hand helped to establish is growing every day, and Julius hopes to move to a larger location and expand the business’s work in design. Grateful for the help he received from Hand2Hand, Julius uses his business to encourage others by employing three current Hand2Hand students. When he expands, he hopes to employ even more.
The good Julius has done by fuelling change in his employees is nothing compared to what he has done for his son, Peter,who now has an incredible role model guiding his steps. In July of 2009, the pair took a trip to their ancestors’ village in Africa, and Peter, touched by the extreme poverty there, now dreams of giving back to that community as Julius gives back to their own. Peter wants to become a doctor and serve in Africa, and he is following his father’s example of pride and determination in working hard toward that goal. In the meantime, he focuses on his most important community: his family. Peter is indispensable to his grandmother, whom he helps with shopping and housekeeping on a daily basis. Every Sunday, the pair can be found side by side as he accompanies her to church.
Out of a situation so desperate he nearly slipped into a life of crime just to make ends meet, Julius has made a thriving life of positive contributions. He has brought three generations together in his family, and his daily work uplifts young people struggling against the same issues that he himself faced. We could not be prouder of him.
Unlike many of our students, James had no history of serious behavioural problems. He was described by everyone who knew him as a quiet, respectful young man – but perhaps a little listless. He spent all of his time at home and seemed to have little interest in being involved with the community of Greater London.
A priest at his local church saw that James was struggling to find his place and introduced him to us. In our first conversation he confessed that he really had no ambition. He would love to be more involved, but he was unsure of what he wanted to do.
Working with James, we noticed that he loved to be on the road; he loved driving. We went to work finding a way to turn this hobby into a fulfilling full-time job. Our coordinators sat down with the CEO of a large retail company in the London area and found a win-win situation that would give James his shot. If he would work at a slight discount from the price of the store’s usual contracts, the company would give James a portion of their delivery routes.
The only thing left was to pull together the resources. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, we managed to purchase a second-hand van for £2,000. Under the guidance of a mentor who owns his own small business, James took the opportunity and ran with it. His courier company will be purchasing its third van within the year, and it has grown large enough to support his family’s needs. James not only makes his own profits but also hires his mother to take calls and schedule deliveries!
James and his courier company are proof of the impact of a little encouragement on a young life, but also – perhaps more strikingly – of the way a big-hearted company can support its community without going to any expense. All James needed was a push in the right direction and a chance to prove himself. We think he did so with flying colours.
Peter is an outstanding example of the power of believing in someone – especially when it helps him to believe in himself.
Everyone at Peter’s school had given up on him when he came to us. He hated school, and anyway, he thought it was more fun to cut class and shoplift. When he did show up, the teachers saw, he caused trouble and distracted the other students. The final straw came when he was caught selling drugs at school. His teachers and administrators were ready to throw him out.
When we got to know Peter through the pre-selection process, we saw something more than a troublemaker; we saw a young man with intelligence and potential, but one who had no goals or aspirations to work towards. School was hard, and his view of the future was so hazy and undeveloped that he couldn’t see the many ways the work was worthwhile.
We paired him with a mentor who firmly believed he had a bright future ahead of him, and his unwavering faith was contagious. As Peter made his way through our community- and team-building workshops, he started to develop a picture of the future he wanted for himself. Sponsored by one of our partners and supported all the while by his mentor, he soon started to see something else, too: he had the ability to get it.
Armed with these two crucial realisations, Peter returned to full-time education with a totally different attitude.
“I used to think my teachers were wicked and hated them,” Peter says. “Now I have respect for them, and I think my teacher is really cool.”
Today, two years later, Peter is studying to be a paramedic, and continues to work hard to create the future he wants for himself. The faith his mentor showed in him also continues to be contagious; Peter passes it on through peer-mentoring the next generation of Hand2Hand students.
What a turn-around!
When I gave birth to my son, George, there wasn’t a prouder mother in the community. For a while, things seemed perfect. He was healthy, I had full-time work as a cashier, and while we might not have been rich, we had enough to take care of our needs.
Shortly after my son came into our family, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. With government assistance falling short of covering the cost, the only way to give her the care she so deserved was for me to provide it. I was ready and willing to commit to caring for her and my newborn son. But there were more challenges ahead.
We had barely gotten her settled in my home when my partner dropped some devastating news: he was leaving me for a younger woman.
To have any hope of single-handedly caring for both mother and son, I had to drop from full-time to part-time work. It was the beginning of a steep decline that affected all of us. For years we struggled on under the weight of our situation and the judgment society heaps on single mothers and their children.
George fell behind in school, and his school responded by giving up on him. They put him in the lower sets and said he was headed for the unemployment line.
I wasn’t ready to give up that easily. Thankfully, neither was Hand2Hand.
A close friend introduced me to the foundation, and though they usually work with older youth, they saw our situation and immediately agreed to help. They met with the head teacher and governors of our local grammar school (a much better institution than the failing public school George had been attending). Hand2Hand spoke with them, and they agreed to open their doors to my son if he could do the work to pass the entrance exams.
George was matched with a mentor, with whom he instantly bonded. George’s mentor encouraged him every step of the way while he studied for those exams – more than 13 of them. Meanwhile, the foundation was an indispensable resource for me, a mother overwhelmed by the day-to-day challenges of parenting and providing for my child.
To our delight, he passed the exams, and today George is doing wonderfully at the grammar school. For the first time since my partner left, I really have hope for the future of my family.
Thank you, Hand2Hand, for giving that to us.
Kathy was raised in West London and came up in the public education system there. She was a slow starter, and falling behind early made it difficult to believe she had what it took to succeed. Until, that is, one teacher reached out to her.
“He touched me with his personal care and attention and always believed in me,” Kathy said. “He said I should always believe in myself.”
His encouragement made a huge difference for Kathy, who grew more confident and began to believe she had the power to change her future. She never forgot it. To this day, Kathy gives credit for many of her achievements to this remarkable man who took the time to make her feel special.
When she finished University, Kathy looked for ways to pass on the gift that teacher had given her. She continues to do so to this day, and she has worked with youth through schools and community groups for over 20 years.
Hand2Hand mentoring was a natural fit for such a giving individual. She takes pride in seeing the numerous lives she has helped to change. The work is tremendously fulfilling, and she says she hopes to have the strength and the good health to continue it for many years to come.
Dawn had a difficult start in a large family with five brothers and sisters. Her family was often violent, and Dawn suffered bullying from outside the family from a very early age.
At 10 years old, Dawn resisted the abuse with the only tool she had been given: fighting. At first it was one scuffle with another girl her age. Over time, though, she fell in with a group of bullies who spent their time picking on other children – better to bully than be bullied, Dawn thought. The bullying and the bad influences led to worse behaviour, and she was soon arrested for burglary.
No charges were brought because she was just a child. At the time, Dawn thought this was a stroke of luck. Now she wonders if she might not have been better off if she’d been punished. At least then, she says, she might have gotten help.
Instead, her troubles grew as she entered secondary school. Her bullying and fighting worsened. She skipped school. She had more run-ins with the law for petty crimes. Yet everyone could see that her intelligence was not to blame. Even with two temporary exclusions from school, she managed to achieve five GCSEs. Her habits were holding her back.
At 16, Dawn made her first attempt at attending college, but her conduct continued to worsen until she was expelled for poor attendance and anti-social behaviour. Then, she got a job at a local shop, but again she was dismissed, this time on suspicion of theft.
Dawn still held on to her dream of turning her life around and made another attempt at attending college. Unable to let go of her destructive behaviour, she was again expelled. She was losing hope faster by the day. Dawn slipped deeper into a life of crime and began selling hard drugs to get by.
Finally, the inevitable happened: Dawn was incarcerated for her drug-related offenses. Even in prison, though, her natural intelligence shone through, and when she had completed her three-year sentence, her probation officer nominated her for an opportunity that would change her life: the InReach Project, an intensive, month-long counselling programme. In InReach, Dawn was able to take a hard look at how she had been coping with her pain, and slowly but surely, she began to change her attitude and her behaviour.
Her next step was joining the Dream Project, where Dawn was part of a team of young people who worked together to produce films about the issues facing them and kids like them. Finally, she had a chance to be heard without needing to fight for it … and realised she had moving and valuable things to say.
Working on the Dream Project, Dawn started to blossom into a mature and articulate young woman. Since then, she has made and continues to make huge strides in positive change for her life. She has found part-time work and continues to work with the Dream Project, where she is a natural fit for the role of a facilitator, encouraging other young people to express themselves and share their stories. She also applied to be a Hand2Hand mentor. We are so excited to see how she uses her own experience of hardship to “light another candle” and lift up her community, one young person at a time.
Leo is another survivor of a broken home, placed in foster care at the age of nine. After being bounced from family to family for years, Leo was fed up. He decided to strike out on his own.
Abandoning that last source of support left him vulnerable to every bad influence. Before long he was led into crime, and then into drug use. Hehad tried every drug under the sun by his 16th birthday, and within the year he was badly addicted to cocaine. By 17, he was robbing and dealing full time just to keep up with his habit.
Disowned by everyone who had cared about him, Leo hit rock bottom when he was remanded to a young-offenders’ institution.
But with nowhere farther to fall, he was finally ready to make the long climb back. Hand2Hand was there to help him through the InReach rehabilitation programme. Working through it step by step, Leo finally came to realise the pain he had put his family through, and he started to hunger for a chance to make it up to them.
We promised to support him every step of the way. Recognising his love for cars (in part because of his former love of stealing them!), we found him a work placement as a mechanic. When he was released, he was paired with a mentor who could give him one-on-one support studying for his apprenticeship exams and staying on the right track.
Leo passed those exams, and stuck to his commitment to a better life. Today he is a fully qualified mechanic working for a large national motor dealer. He also recently became a father; this year, he and his partner welcomed into the world a baby girl they named Sasha.
Leo is committed to giving Sasha a better childhood than he had.
“I have decided that I will give her the best opportunities in life so she is safeguarded from the parasites that took advantage of me at an early and vulnerable age,” Leo said. “We have already started saving for a new flat in a safer community where my daughter can have a safe upbringing.I just hope that I can one day help someone in my position”.
Good news, Leo: through Hand2Hand, we are sure you can.
Andrew’s story is among the most painful we have ever encountered – but also one of the most inspiring.
At nine years old, Andrew endured horrific sexual and physical abuse at the hands of his uncle. He was removed from his childhood home and placed in foster care for his own protection. When he was just beginning to re-establish a sense of security, he was dealt another blow: his elderly caregiver, the very person to whom he had looked to help him cope with the wrongs he had suffered, also became abusive. He was moved to yet another home, where he desperately reached out again for love and support; but for the third time in his short life, his innocent love was met with abuse.
Andrew could not bear to describe yet another nightmare and be moved to yet another home, especially when he had no faith that it would be any better. He ran away from his foster family. For the next few years, Andrew drifted, living on the streets, unable to trust anyone enough to reach out for help.
When it finally came, it came from an unexpected place: he was imprisoned for the host of small shoplifting offenses that had kept him alive on the streets. When he entered the prison system, Andrew and his situation were brought to Hand2Hand’s attention, and founder Suhail Hanif heard this young man’s story. He was so moved that he decided to step in and become Andrew’s personal mentor and guardian.
It was no easy task to trust anyone after the countless betrayals of his childhood, but Andrew and Suhail worked hard together, and things began to change. Andrew proved, slowly but surely, that the horrific experiences of his past could not subdue his loving heart. He opened up to Suhail and the Hand2Hand team. He learned to live in hope rather than in fear.
“I owe my life to Suhail,” Andrew said. “When others didn’t believe in me, he stood by me.”
His support did not go unrewarded. Today, Andrew is devoting his newly re-built life to working with the elderly, providing care and protection to those most vulnerable in his community. He is also intimately involved with running Hand2Hand, using his insights on the struggles of disadvantaged youth to make our outreach ever more effective.
We at Hand2Hand feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to help this remarkable young man. To see him lead a fulfilling life after so much hardship has been tremendously fulfilling, and to be a part of his success story is an honour.
“Sometimes when I used to walk to school, my mum would be sitting on the park bench, drinking. I would look at her and look away like I didn’t know her,” Stephen said. “It used to embarrass me.”
Like many children of alcoholics, Stephen felt somehow responsible for his mother’s drinking. His guilt and the day-to-day stress of coping with her addiction had driven Stephen into a deep depression when he was introduced to us at the age of 19.
Stephen is a resilient young man, however, and once he was paired with a mentor he quickly began to break out of his depression and hope for a better future. With his vivaciousness fast returning, he seized on his love of children and bent his effort to making it his life’s mission. Hand2Hand did what we could to help him achieve that ambition; we helped him to find a work placement, and later, to earn his certification as a teacher for young nursery children.
Very shortly, Stephen had taken a dark and hopeless life and made it into one of passion. But he wasn’t about to stop there. He took the light Hand2Hand extended to him and reached out to another darkened candle: his mother.
Stephen recently bought a home outside of the city and brought his mother to live with him, away from the destructive influences that encouraged her addiction. The two of themare busy building a new life, and with the help of our professional counsellors, they are working through her rehabilitation together.
Stephen’s success story is a beautiful example of the power of the younger generation to motivate positive change in their families, and we at Hand2Hand are grateful to have been a part of it.
Salman had done all the right things. He came to the UK with two Master’s degrees and all the drive and work ethic a company could ask for. All he needed was a foot in the door.
Salman searched tirelessly for half a year, living on less than £100 a month and spending hours every day customizing his CV to every job advertisement he could find. He applied to over 200 companies. Twenty or so replied. Only one offered him an interview. Not a single company had a position for him.
Salman fought on, but his health began to deteriorate under the depression and anxiety. He felt he had failed to live up to his family’s expectations and those of his young fiancée, to whom he had hoped to be married within the year. His debt was rising, and he was reaching his breaking point. Then he was introduced to Hand2Hand.
Our mentors and coordinators stepped in, supporting and encouraging him in his struggle. We found him an entry-level opportunity in a retail company. It was exactly the breakthrough he needed – the first step of what is sure to be a long and illustrious career.
Where before he was stuck at a standstill, Salman suddenly found himself taking huge strides every day, and his confidence came back by leaps and bounds. He still remembers the day he met our founder and heard the message that “a candle that lights another candle shines the brightest.” Salman has certainly brought light into our lives, and we are glad to have been able to bring some light back into his.