This story is part of the Peer Power series – a photographic collaboration between professional photographer Jeff Hubbard and Peer Advisors. Earlier this year (2022) they worked together to portray their stories in photographic and written form. Each one is unique but all highlight the true value of harnessing people’s lived experience of adversity to become a force for good.
My name is Kaz. I had a life of trauma and abuse and became addicted to cocaine and alcohol and led a chaotic lifestyle due to this, I was a self harmer, struggled with my mental health and felt alone in the world, this was once the only life I knew and I was just surviving and not living. Before I came into contact with St Giles in 2019, I was homeless staying in a hostel, recovering from a 16 year cocaine addiction, I was self harming and had attempted suicide on numerous occasions, I was also trying to come to terms with all the trauma and abuse I suffered through my life past and present and was trying to sort my chaotic lifestyle out. I was in a dark place and didn’t know what my future looked like, I was a lost soul in a dark hole I couldn’t get out of and I was just surviving not living and I was very close to relapsing.
St Giles came to another hostel and I went and spoke to the Peer Coordinator Kristina, she told me about the learning to advise and NVQ qualification, I was a bit anxious at first but once I was told about St Giles and what they did, I knew this is what I would like to do and I knew St Giles was the place for me and for the first time in my life someone was willing to give me a chance which I’d never had before.
I started training as a Peer in August 2019 and I remember being very quiet and anxious and nervous as I didn’t know what to expect but I felt motivated and as time went on I felt my self esteem and confidence building and I dug deep and put my all into it. I was being given a chance and it felt incredible! I volunteered with a homeless Organisation for my placement and learned new skills and knowledge. Because of Covid restrictions I completed my NVQ in April 2021 and I felt amazing as this was my first proper achievement in life. I then became a paid employee at St Giles in August 2021.
I have had and continue to have, an incredible journey with St Giles, I’m not “surviving” anymore, I’m living the best life I can. I’m in my second job role, my goal is to progress in St Giles and I’m currently being mentored to help me with this, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.
If it wasn’t for St Giles I’d still be a lost soul without any hope or future and I’d either be dead or back on drugs, I’ve come from a lost traumatised soul to a survivor living her best life and St Giles will always have a place in my heart as after all St Giles saved me and helped me use my past to propel me into my future.