A young Portadown woman who turned her life around with help from the Prince’s Trust has collected an award at the charity’s annual ceremony.
Gillian Walker (26) was runner–up in the Samsung Young Achiever of the Year Award, held at the MAC in Belfast.
The award recognises young people who have struggled through unimaginable difficulties to transform their lives and who are now inspiring others.
Years of sustained bullying had left Gillian feeling insignificant and worthless. She developed an eating disorder and became involved in an abusive relationship, which made her illness even worse. She eventually ended up in hospital and lost her job.
She felt she had lost control of her life, resulting in depression, anxiety and the eating disorder becoming steadily worse.
The next few years were marked by a series of abusive relationships, leaving her confidence at rock bottom. It was then her father suggested she join the Team programme, a 12-week personal development programme designed by The Prince’s Trust.
She said, “The support I received made such a difference to my confidence. It was like a fresh start. I was never judged and was accepted as an important member of the Team from day one.”
Gillian became a positive influence in the group, with many considering her to be their mentor, and ended up taking on many of the assistant team leader’s responsibilities when illness saw one of the Team staff leave.
“Supporting the others actually helped me be able to deal with my own problems better and boosted my self-esteem and confidence,” she said.
When Gillian completed the Team programme she knew her future lay in youth work. She began volunteering at a local youth centre and enrolled to study a Level 1 course in Effective Youth Work. She then trained to become a Prince’s Trust Team Leader and a Young Ambassador.
As a Young Ambassador, Gillian spoke at many events trying to help The Trust extend its work in Northern Ireland, and met Barack Obama on his recent visit to Belfast and HRH Prince Charles at the official opening of the new Prince’s Trust office in Belfast.
Gillian continues to volunteer with The Prince’s Trust and hopes to develop a career in youth work. She said, “I would be dead if it wasn’t for The Prince’s Trust. I couldn’t see anything positive on the horizon, whereas now, I have so much happening in my life; I now have new targets to achieve.”