Leonel’s story

LeonelLeonel heard about Galvin’s Chance when he was volunteering at a charity event hosted by Switchback at The Skylight Café. He was being mentored by Switchback after meeting with one of their representatives while he was at a young offenders unit, after being convicted of possession with intent to supply a class A drug. Leonel wanted to change his lifestyle and was on licence with probation.

Leonel was born in Congo and for a brief period lived in France, before moving to East London as a child. He found it difficult going to school in Walthamstow as he didn’t know English very well and felt that he could not keep up with the work, which led to extreme frustration and anger. As Leonel said:

“I learned to speak with my fists before I could speak with my mouth”.

He was expelled from school at the age of 14. The people he was looking up to were older boys on his estate who taught him English, but they were also influencing what he did with his time. An easy option for getting money was being on the street and selling drugs. One motivating factor for this was the knowledge that his mother had two jobs and a large family to support; Leonel wanted to be “man of the house”. However, after two convictions Leonel wanted to prove that he was “good enough to make it” and had been very reflective about the issues that led to his incarceration. He admitted that he gets easily frustrated with “people that claim to help you then expect you to do everything on your own – it says to me that they don’t really care”.

Starting Galvin’s Chance training was really good for Leonel as he felt people really were there to help him. He admits that he has always had a problem with authority but it was inspiring being on the programme and also feeling that he was listened to. He said the course boosted his motivation and confidence levels and he became much more trusting of authority and able to feel more confident about his future away from life on the streets.

Leonel likes to be kept busy and to be given time to get to grips with things that are all new to him. It’s only now that he feels comfortable opening up to people more. He still occasionally asks himself questions like “do I deserve this?“ and “do I belong?” but through his time on the work placement provided for him via Galvin’s Chance he realises that he has been shown a lot of respect throughout the whole process, and that helps to keep him engaged and feel appreciated.

Since starting his placement at The Royal Automobile Club, Leonel admits he enjoys coming to work. He knows that he will not bump into anyone who could tempt him into criminal activity and he always has someone he can go to at the club. He now has more trust in himself and his own reactions; the way he has been treated means he has less anger inside and is less likely to be reckless. Interestingly he also realises that he has pre-conceptions of his own and has actually become close with a member of his team of a similar age with a completely different background to him. Leonel said:

“My Mum can now talk about me to her friends and let them know what I am doing plus when she knows that I am at work she feels she doesn’t have to worry about me.”