'If it wasn't for this project I'd be dead or in prison'
Wayne Clarke, 23, from Abergavenny, is amongst the young people who have made positive changes to their lives thanks to the support offered at the 7 Corners Centre based in the heart of the town. Established in 2002 by the Bridge to Cross Charitable Trust, the 7 Corners Centre provides a place where young people can meet in safety, find help for personal development and receive support if in crisis.
The project was awarded a grant of £5,560 from Gwent PCC Ian Johnston's Partnership Fund which awards cash seized from criminals and from the sale of unclaimed found property to groups involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities. The project has spent the money on purchasing a second hand caravan as part of a new outreach programme in partnership with the Salvation Army. Once kitted out, the caravan, called the Hot Spot, will visit locations around Abergavenny where young people are known to be causing trouble.
The aim of the project is to encourage disengaged and disaffected young people to come to the 7 Corners Centre for help and support and to try and lure them away from potential acts of criminality and anti-social behaviour. Due to be launched in the New Year, the caravan will be kitted out with a games console, drinks machine and a mini music studio so the project can provide DJ workshops. It will also act as an essential information hub for young people.
Wayne Clarke is amongst those who have turned their lives around thanks to the support, guidance and encouragement he received when he walked through the doors of the 7 Corners project as a teenager.
"If it wasn't for this project I'd probably be dead or in prison and that's not even an understatement," said Wayne.
"It's thanks to this project that I've got my life back on track. I grew up with drugs and drink around me after my Dad left which eventually led me to being homeless. I went heavy on the drugs and I was drinking and selling drugs as well. I was into every drug except for heroin. You name it and I've taken it. I'd be on two week binges sometimes and I probably wouldn't sleep for those two weeks.
With the support of a few family members and friends I started moving from place to place and sofa surfing. All my life, violence had been drilled into me and I became a thug and a bully really and got into lots of fights. I was arrested by the police quite a few times."
Caught in a vicious cycle of substance abuse and violence and with no apparent way out, Wayne was eventually introduced to the 7 Corners project run by Angie Sampson. Finally, he had got the help he needed and started to turn his life around.
"It was just here and it was a place to hang out," said Wayne.
"There are always people here to talk to you and help you. And then Angela came along. If someone tries to talk to you about your problems and you know they haven't got a clue what you've been through, then you tend not to listen to them. Angela obviously knew what she was talking about and we would speak late into the evening some days about absolutely everything and anything. I'd laugh, I'd cry and I'd just talk. It was somewhere I could come and offload.
The change didn't happen overnight and there were times when I'd come here and get into a fight. But fair play, they had the patience to help me out. They never gave up on me and they never pushed me away. They really show you love here and they have faith and hope in you. We also do lots of workshops here and teach people new skills which helps take their minds off their problems."
Wayne now volunteers his spare time at the centre to try and help other young people who are going through the same as he experienced.
"I've come full circle and I'm now helping kids that are going through the same as me," says Wayne.
"I try and show young people that you can change and you can get out of the vicious cycle. Life doesn't have to be doom and gloom. It's also a chance for me to give back what I got from this project. I got shown love, patience and support and now I'm giving it back."
According to Wayne, the support from Ian Johnston's Partnership Fund will make a big difference.
"It's important that the Commissioner funds projects such as this one because if it wasn't for funding like this, there wouldn't be young people like me coming here asking for help," he explains.
A video of Wayne's story is available to watch here