A person with lived experience (PWLE) was invited to my social work MSC class to give his lived experience as part of the Developing Social Work Skills for Practice module. He asked us to draw three hearts on our paper and on the first heart to draw or write an object close to our hearts; on the second heart, he asked us to draw or write a place close to our hearts, and on the third heart, he asked us to draw or write the name of the person close to our heart. Some of us shared the contents of our hearts with the class.

He shared his three hearts with us. The first object was a box; he puts tickets of places he has been, his pictures and cut-out of when he has done something positive or medals. The second heart was his flat because he serves the world, but it serves him at home. His third heart is his mum that he adopted; she is the foster carer that showed him, unconditional love. He mentioned that you lose all your hearts when you get into care.

His journey began as a four-year-old; his mother was on heroin, alcohol and weed. She was very neglectful because she was more concerned about her needs. PWLE said he set fire on his bed, and Bridget’s fire was called, and they were seen as children at risk. His first trauma was when he watched his mum being rapped, and he couldn’t stop it. He watched the person jump on his mum, rapped her and stab her on the eyebrow. The next day in the nursery, he was told that his mother was sick; he had to go somewhere else and return to his mother when she felt better. They got to carer A; everything was clean in this house; it was different. PWLE mentioned that he and his brother get beaten over a tiny thing; they get locked in sellers. When they get back from school, carerA will make them stand in corners for hours; the family will eat cooked food but give them jam sandwiches etc. Carer A will beat them so much that blood comes out of their nose. They were not accepted as family. They felt worthless and less confident. They were with carer A for five years, and as mixed-race kids, they were not culturally matched. They were moved into carer B a Trinidad lady’s house. She gave them a sense of control; they chose to paint their room orange; it was a whole experience of giving them ownership.


Carer B doesn’t hit them. They felt safe, and emotions start to kick in. They began to cry for no reason.  Carer B took them to Tobago, which was a lovely experience for them; PWLE mentioned that the beach is one of the best places you can truly heal. Carer B developed bells palsy, and as a result, his brother and sister were taken away, but he insisted on staying with carer B so he could take care of her. 

He got moved in with carer C at the age of 15 because he was told that he wasn’t safe due to an incident involving carer B’s son and friends. His sister was with him. He mentioned that he wasn’t needed; he overhead carer C on the phone, saying she wanted only his sister. He went into a hostel. His mother had a near-death experience when she jumped off the four-story building and landed on her feet. The ambulance asked him to leave her head backwards and kept its steel. He kept telling her he loved her. Her heart stopped and then started to beat again. This experience made him feel the fragility of life. She made a recovery. He never knew his father was growing up. His father was into drugs, but now he looks after his dad and creates memories. His father is on his healing journey at the moment. The PWLE said he had a close death experience; he was stabbed seven times and was driven to the hospital by his stepmother.

He has been in care and gone through the system, but he has also worked for the system as an advocate and participation officer. He also has experience changing the system, changing in-laws, knowing child protection and safeguarding in its natural form. He was in care with his brother and sister; he is healing. He also had 40 social workers, but he only connected with one.

He created a project and named it after his friend that had died. The project is to help young people feel connected and loved on Christmas day. It has no plan to help provide space for lonely kids and young people to feel connected. He has been doing it for ten years.


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