Wayne Potts – “No one wanted to know me”

Wayne Potts came to Youth Focus North East in February 2018. At the time, Wayne had been looking for employment, education and training for a number of years, and was currently engaged in the justice system. This is Wayne’s account of how his life has changed through volunteering.

I started at here by meeting Simone and Callum (another Talent Match Leader) in the Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland, who introduced me to Youth Focus North East and the Talent Match programme.

Before I started volunteering, I made arrangements to meet Simone but my planning wasn’t as good as it is now and I left her in the cold – I can honestly tell you that if anyone does it once, they will not do it again!

The Jobcentre wouldn’t let me join Youth Focus at first, but after staff spoke to my Probation Officer and Jobcentre Plus advisor I got signed up as a volunteer. I came along to the office the following week with my friend David and I really liked what I saw and heard.

I started to come every week and since then I have met loads of new people and made a lot of new friends unlike before when no one wanted to know me and didn’t give me a proper chance. I thought it was all my fault and that I wasn’t a good person but I’ve since then realised and learned that everyone has their own problems in life and if they don’t want to give me a chance it’s their loss – I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will be happy to be my friend.

At first I was really low and on the bottom. I didn’t see the world as a good place to live and didn’t see any point of living. I was really depressed and had bad anxiety, but I’ve learned that the key to success is confidence and the key to confidence is talking. You also have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as people’s around you otherwise you will become selfish, not care about what anyone else thinks (which is wrong and can land you in all sorts of trouble) and you will also have no friends or support as people won’t want to be around you.

I have been bullied through my past because of my looks and disabilities. I never ever used to ask for help as I thought it was a weakness and people used to pick on me because of my speech. I have to say now, looking back, I would clip myself around the ear and tell myself “it’s not a weakness – it’s a strength to ask for help, but make sure it’s from the right people and if they give you negative feedback use that constructively, make yourself reasonable targets and goals that you know you can do and use them as stepping stone to get to where you want to be and the person you want to become in the future or in the present”.

The most important thing is before I came here I had pre-judgements of people with different backgrounds and sexuality, and tarred them all with same brush. I didn’t talk to anyone who was gay or bi-sexual but now, since coming to Youth Focus, they have opened my eyes completely, and I realise that I have more in common with them people than I ever thought I did. I see them with a totally different set of eyes and a have completely different perspective.

The best thing I’ve done in my life is to become part of Youth Focus. I’ll tell you why, it’s because I mix in with a lot of different people and I have a good support network where I can be myself and no one will judge me, which is a feeling I have never had before and I can’t describe. The people here are amazing and wonderful they are always open and honest to me and we always have a good time and a laugh but we are always there for each other if anyone is having a hard time and are very supportive.

I would say to anyone, if they are thinking about joining up or having problems and are struggling in confidence or opening up, “don’t sleep on this decision, join up straight away as it will be a really positive experience for you, you won’t regret it and the benefits you get from it now and in long run are incredible”.