Inspirational: Naima Swaleh’s presentations have reduced gang members to tears
04 December 2012
A woman who used to be homeless and with a history of self-harming told today how Prince Charles’s charity transformed her life.
Naima Swaleh, 21, who suffered from depression and made suicide attempts as a teenager, now has a full-time job and works to inspire other young people with her story.
She has been nominated for a Prince’s Trust award, which is supported by the Evening Standard, to recognise young people who have turned their lives around against the odds and become role models for teenagers in London.
Ms Swaleh, from Stratford, is now a Young Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, and travels the country helping to raise money and awareness of the charity. She said: “Without the Prince’s Trust I would be on the dole somewhere, sitting around sleeping all day. It changed my life in so many ways and gave me so much confidence.”
Naima was born in Somalia and moved to Britain at the age of four. Her home life was strict and she began self-harming. At the age of 15 she took an overdose. She became depressed and made a second suicide attempt.
At 16 she ran away from home and ended up sleeping on the streets. At her lowest ebb she almost attempted suicide again, but was persuaded to get in touch with the Prince’s Trust by a youth advice service.
She said: “I was feeling very depressed and hopeless. I couldn’t see a future for myself. I was sitting there just crying and thought, ‘I need to change my life’. ” Ms Swaleh enrolled in a personal development course run by the charity which was the turning point she needed. She was so successful she was asked to be an ambassador and the presentations she gives have reduced hardened gang members to tears. Ms Swaleh, who now works in a clothes shop, said: “I don’t want people thinking they are the only ones going through something. They can always change their lives.
“I was born in a tent in Somalia. My mum had to do everything for us. I thought I would never be anything.”
Dermot Finch, regional director for the Trust in London and the South-East, said: “The Standard shares our ambition to tackle youth unemployment, helping disadvantaged young Londoners into work.
“We are thrilled that the Standard is supporting the Young Ambassador Award at this year’s Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards. All of our incredible finalists prove that it is possible to achieve great things, no matter what background you’ve had.”
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Southampton today and will go on to a national final.