When Bristol drug addict Natalie Smith found out she was 8 months pregnant after being admitted unconscious to BRI, she changed her life
A 23-YEAR-OLD woman from Lawrence Weston has spoken about how she turned her life around thanks to The Prince's Trust.
In August 2008, Natalie Smith was admitted unconscious to the BRI suffering from drug and alcohol abuse.
To her shock, when she came round she was told she was eight months pregnant.
This moment changed her life and forced her rethink the path her life was taking.
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Five years later Ms Smith is now a full-time job ambassador with the Prince's Trust.
She recently gave a talk at Bristol's Marriott Royal Hotel to 200 guests about how the charity had helped change her life.
Ms Smith, of Long Cross, told how her single parent mum had struggled to raise her and her three younger brothers in their Horfield home and how at the age of 12 she had gone to senior school wearing a second hand uniform and had soon became a target for bullying.
"I was sniggered at and pushed and jostled which did absolutely nothing for my self confidence," she said.
"But added to that my mum became really poorly so I just left after a year and that was when I was given my first chance by The Prince's Trust Fairbridge Programme.
"I went every day for about a year to the project's Stokes Croft Centre where I took part in confidence building exercises, learned life skills and was given a lot of one-to-one attention.
"I made a lot of new friends there, many of whom I am still in touch with today, and because I was happy I used to sing a lot and as a result of that funding was found for me to enrol on a BTEC first diploma in dance and drama at Filton College."
Ms Smith said everything had gone well for the first term until her situation began deteriorating at home and she left, gradually becoming drawn into a life of alcohol and drugs. She was eventually taken into care and placed with foster parents.
She said: "There was a two year respite when I went to live with a friend and her family and enjoyed a more normal life.
"But then I was back home again and drifted back into my old ways until that fateful day in August 2008 when I passed out and woke up in the BRI only to be told I was expecting.
"It was a huge shock because of the state I was in – I honestly did not know I was pregnant so this was a real wake-up call.
"To make matters worse at around the same time I was having my beautiful baby daughter Lexie, who weighed just 5ibs 2ozs, we had to leave our council home because we had not been paying the rent.
"But after I had Lexie I knew that I had to kick all my old habits.
"I still don't know quite how I managed it but somehow I did with the help of friends and again thanks to the Prince's Trust who gave me a much needed second chance."
In July 2009 she joined the trust's team programme based at the City of Bristol College where she was given work experience opportunities, took part in confidence building exercises, taught how to prepare a CV and was generally empowered to win back control of her life.
She volunteered to be an ambassador for the Prince's Trust, going out into schools and the wider social and business community explaining the organisation's work and helping to raise funds.
Ms Smith was so successful that she was named the South West's Young Ambassador for 2010 and only four months ago was taken on as a full-time paid job ambassador for the charity.
Besides giving talks in schools and to local businesses and counselling individual youngsters at risk, Ms Smith spends two days a week at the Horfield Job Centre where she is on hand to offer help and advice to other young people.
"While I would never have wished to have had all the troubled experiences in my life, without them I would never have had the ability to truly empathise with other young people and to show them what wonderful opportunities the Prince's Trust has to offer," she said.
Last year, more than 3,700 young people were supported by the trust in the South West with three in four progressing into work, training or education.
People interested in supporting the Prince's Trust or who would like to find out more should call 0800 842 842 or visit the website at www. princes-trust.org.uk.