Meet Heather…

Heather's start in life is helping to make leaving care a positive experience for her young person...

Teenage years under social services and a six month respite foster care placement age 14, Heather found herself homeless at only age 16, right before her GCSE exams. Whilst living in hostels and B&B’s, she took her exams before moving into a council flat aged 18 and then studying at college.

Fast forward to 2021 and Heather moved into her first proper home, on her own aged 33.

She decided to share this achievement on Twitter so that her followers could celebrate this amazing news with her…3,585 retweets and 137.8k likes later and Heather’s amazing story had gone viral!

Heather is one of our amazing Befriending volunteers and currently supports two young people, one of whom she is supporting through the transition into leaving care.  We met with her to hear about her story as a Care Leaver and how her start in life has helped her to make leaving care a more positive experience for her young person, than it was for her…

Tell us a bit about yourself Heather...

“Foster care, homeless at 16, living in B&B’s, hostels, council flat at 18, working bottom of the barrel jobs (before finding a pretty decent job) and now aged 33 I completed the move into my first proper home on my own! It is an amazing feeling and I am so proud of myself. I didn’t think I would ever get here and I have had to overcome lots of obstacles along the way. I wanted to share my achievement on my social media but I never expected it to go viral! Now I have people asking me for advice on twitter – how crazy!”

How did you come to be a volunteer at YLF?

“In 2018, I came across the Young Lives Foundation online and thought if I had something like that when I was younger my life could have been so different.

The thought that I could make someone else’s life better, someone who was going through tough times just like I did, that was an opportunity I could not pass up on.

Simple things like teaching young people how to budget, cook a meal – these were things that could have made the transition from leaving care that little bit better.”

Tell us more about your volunteer experiences...

“I am a befriender to two girls who I meet with once a month. We might meet for a coffee and catch up or an activity day out. I have really seen the girls grow in confidence, step out their comfort zone and be able to have fun. One of these young people is going through the transition of leaving care, which I am going to support her through. It can be a scary time but I hope to be able to make it a little bit easier.

Being a volunteer has also made a difference in my life too. It has allowed me to do fun things with my young people that I wouldn’t get to do otherwise, has helped me to tackle new situations, develop good relationships and has pushed me to be more of a leader and take charge.

Volunteering doesn’t just have an impact on the lives of the young people we support, it also has an impact on your own life. I thought that by doing this role I could use my experience to help others going through tough times, but they have also helped me too.”

Do you have any advice to new volunteers who may be about to start their journey with YLF?

“1. Be patient and take charge.

2. Try different things – some young people may love sitting and chatting, others may prefer activities.

3. Just be their friend. In their life they will have so many questions thrown their way, people asking things of them so that they can work out the next steps for their life – be it foster care placements, independent living etc. By just being their friend you can give them that outlet they need. That safe space where they can just be themselves.”

Finally, do you have any advice to Care Leavers who may be facing that care cliff?

“Things will get better, it might not be easy but believe in yourself. You can achieve so much more than your circumstances allow. Your situation does not define you. There have been some really tough moments for me in my life but look at where I am at now, a place I never thought I could reach. You have got this and you can do this!”

Thank you to Heather for sharing her story with us, for choosing to volunteer with YLF, and for being a fantastic Befriender to both young girls she supports.

For more information about volunteering, visit our Volunteer pages.