Life can be a very hard road that we travel it does not come with a manual of instructions ‘ how to do’ our very first lessons come from those who raise us.

By the time we reach the age of accountability, which arguably is ten, humanity knows what is right from wrong it comes as second nature.

Young children come from all different kind of backgrounds some live sheltered lives, where their parents try their best to protect their young innocent minds and other children are left to their own devices and exposed to the corruption of society whether it be through media or other people.

I came from a home where I was sheltered from the bad influences of society but I also was brought up to be honest, moral, clean, respectful and independent. It’s not that I was ignorant of what evil deeds people did out there but my parents protected me from getting involved with the unsavoury characters.

I was very careful who I made friends with as the saying ‘birds of a feather flock together was a common phrase, basically who you hang out with says a lot about you. I was brought up to keep a clean reputation which became useful when I was interviewed at my parents home for the Police Force.

I appreciate most of what my parents taught me as I know they were protective of me and wanted me to do well and not end up a statistic.

There was a lot of stereotypes. being a black girl the common one was that I would become a single parent on benefits, the funny thing about that generalisation is that I never had any interest in guys or sex that was not my story.

My opinions back then was far from who I have become today. “I walked around like I was a cut above the rest because I kept my virginity and I was 19 and worked in the Police Force. I looked down on any criminal or any one I saw who had a bad reputation.” I never had a bad thing to say about young girls who got pregnant I blamed the guys for being irresponsible as they never had anything to offer these children.

In the past 15 years I began to see things in totally different ways. I still kept my standards, but I no longer condemned anyone who made life-changing mistakes. I love to listen to their stories and it goes deeper than that I see the emotional and mental thoughts behind it all.

I have worked with young offenders around East London, fresh out of prison or the care system and they inspire me.

When I worked night shifts I would invite them into my office to listen to them sharing their life stories. Isn’t that what rehabilitation is about?

They have a story to tell just like anyone else. How I see it is that they are no less a person than the next man that ‘never got caught’

There are many reasons why people take a wrong turn in life there are many traumas behind it.

If we constantly make life-changing mistakes we cannot always play the blame game we have to own it, learn from it, accept it. We either move on from it or we use it as a positive tool.

All our life-learned experiences can be shared to encourage others who are going through similar situations it helps the story teller as well as the audience as to really understand the problem sometimes you need to go through it.

I have met Category A ex- offenders who have served long-term sentences, they played up but they also woke up and while they have been in prison they have educated themselves and when they have been released they have made a complete transformation to their lives.

Some are coaching young people to give up on a life of crime, some are encouraging young men to become responsible adults and to respect women.

People have written books, made videos and volunteered for the positive things that matter most in this world.

There is life after a life – changing mistake because where there is life there is hope.

Personally I believe that we do not always have control of our lives and sometimes we have to make mistakes to, not only learn from them, but to encourage and help others.

If you had to give advice and speak to a group of young people about life what would your story be???

In everything there has to be a balance.


Natalie M Bleau

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