Leaving school as a young teenager with no qualifications, Shauna Kaleta has now turned her life around for the better.
The Bangor woman, was in residential care from the age of 14 and left school at the same age without qualifications. She had her first child during her teenage years and now, at 23, is mother to a seven, six and three-year-old.
As her children began to start school, she wanted to do something for herself but, with no work experience, was unsure where to begin and found the prospect of re-entering education daunting without financial support.
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She joined the Prince’s Trust "Team" programme in May 2022 and hasn't looked back. She is now training to be youth worker with hopes of starting a youth work degree at university next year.
"Everything I do is for my kids," she said.
"I want them to see how far they can come and that you can always start again and climb even further. The Prince’s Trust taught me so many new skills that helped me become a better parent and a better person.
"I applied for Team on Facebook after hearing about The Trust from a friend. Starting the course was terrifying. I didn’t cope in a proper school and hadn’t worked with people my own age since then. However, as soon as I walked in the door on the first day, the fear vanished.
"It felt like I was meant to be there. The team leaders were so supportive and there was no judgement so I felt confident to be myself. Team helped push me out of my comfort zone, improved my self-confidence and gave me a sense of independence. Support I gained from my peers and team leaders made me realise what I was capable of.
"The programme flipped my life on its head and allowed me to believe in myself. It gave me the chance to start my career with support around me. It made me look at the skills and qualities I have, and identify what I needed to work on."
As part of Team, Shauna carried out work experience at the local YMCA where she still volunteers two days a week.
“She added: "I’m a care leaver and, growing up, had a lot of support workers. I now want to give back and want to be the person I wish I’d had during that time. My hope is that by becoming a youth worker one day, I can give my family the security and stability I always craved.
"Since going on Team, the opportunities haven’t stopped and now, as a Young Ambassador, I hope there will be even more opportunities to inspire others. My biggest goal in life is having a stable household for my children – it’s something I didn’t have. I want to work, show them a strong work ethic and have them come home to stability and food on the table."
Shauna opened up about how the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is affecting her young family. She says it "feels like things are spiralling out of control" and has watched costs continue to climb and she tried her best to feed three young children.
"It’s scary to see the prices increasing and increasing. It’s changed from having a little bit left at the end of the week to barely getting by. I’ve tried to source food packages from support services only to discover they have run out because demand is so high.
"I have friends who are terrified. It feels so uncertain for my generation. I know people who are cancelling holidays, putting off having kids or are worried about having a roof over their heads because they’re so unsure about money. Relationships are suffering because people can’t just have a fun day out to blow off steam if finances are tight."
This week, the Prince’s Trust NatWest Youth Index 2023, released findings that over half (55%) of young people in Northern Ireland think the cost of living will have a worse impact on their life than the pandemic. Their report reveals the overall wellbeing of 16 to 25-year-olds in the UK has flatlined, "remaining at the lowest point in its fourteen-year history, with young people least happy and confident in their money and mental health".
It shows that in Northern Ireland the cost of living crisis (63%) and coming recession (35%) are young people’s biggest worries for the future, and how these concerns impact young people’s life goals and career aspirations. Almost half (48%) state that economic uncertainty makes them feel hopeless about the future.
The Youth Index is based on YouGov research with 2,025 16 to 25-year-olds across the UK, gauging young people’s confidence and happiness across a range of areas, from their physical and mental health to money and working life.
Young people’s happiness and confidence with money is now lower than when polling began in 2008 during the Global Financial Crisis, and more than a third (34%) in Northern Ireland agreed that thinking about money depresses or stresses them.
In Northern Ireland, 61 per cent of young people say they always or often feel anxious and almost half (48%) report ever experiencing a mental health problem. Additionally, more than a fifth (23%) of those surveyed feel like they will fail in life.
Mark Dougan, Director of Delivery at The Prince’s Trust in Northern Ireland said: "Having already lived through one of the most turbulent times to be young, this year’s Prince’s Trust NatWest Youth Index is a warning sign that, post pandemic, in Northern Ireland young people’s wellbeing has not recovered. It reveals that for this generation – the Class of coronavirus>Covid – economic uncertainty is having a profound impact on their wellbeing and confidence in achieving their aspirations in the future.
"Most concerningly, the report also suggests that these challenges are hitting young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds hardest, with those who received free school meals or who are unemployed reporting consistently worse wellbeing in all aspects of life."
65% of young people in Northern Ireland report financial security as their biggest goal in life, followed by having a family (50%) and good mental health (43%). Seventy-two per cent state that having a job gives them the financial stability they need and 68 per cent state being in work is good for their mental health.
However, 45% of young people in Northern Ireland are worried about the impact of a recession on their job security and almost half (49%) worry they will never earn enough to support a family.
Alison Rose DBE, Chief Executive of NatWest Group said: "Young people’s confidence and happiness with money is now lower than during the Global Financial Crisis – which is something that should concern us all.
"This report provides a stark warning about the debilitating impact of economic pressures on young people's lives, and emphasises the importance of providing the tools and support necessary to build their financial capability and confidence. As a bank, we are resolute in supporting young people to fulfil their potential, and will continue to work closely with the Prince’s Trust to ensure no one is left behind as they navigate the challenges ahead."
Despite the challenges facing young people, the research found that 81%of young people in Northern Ireland said they feel determined to achieve their goals in life. 69% agreed they can overcome the challenges they face, but need practical support to fulfil their potential, with similar numbers agreeing they can overcome challenges, but need help to build their confidence and skills so that they can achieve their goals.
The Prince’s Trust helps thousands of young people in Northern Ireland each year to build the confidence and skills they need to realise their potential. Three in four young people on Prince’s Trust programmes move into work, education or training.
NatWest have worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust for over 20 years, helping thousands of young people to start their own businesses, develop skills for employment and supported hundreds of staff to volunteer with young people across the UK.
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